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Monday, February 17, 2014

Knitting Terminology

I had a collection of fascinating conversations on twitter and facebook earlier today about the use of certain knitting terms. Specifically these were yfwd, yrn and yo.

Traditionally in the UK, the terms yfwd and yrn were used to describe particular actions, which tend to now be replaced with yo or even wyif.

Having grown up using vintage patterns and being taught to knit by two grandmothers who both only ever knitted from a narrow selection of UK patterns I began my knitting life familiar and comfortable with the terms yfwd and yrn. As terminology has changed these two terms seem to have become less familiar and sometimes confusing to knitters not brought up on these types of patterns.

In fact to add further confusion to the whole terminology complications, what has become known as yo was previously also known by M1. M1 now means make 1 by picking up the loop between stitches and knitting into it to create an additional stitch. In the 1930s and 1940s when it was used it actually meant to perform a yfwd, a yrn or a yo as was appropriate. Like 'inc' 1 it was a way of using a generic instruction without having to be precise.

The main reason for this is that yfwd was used when the stitch just worked and the stitch to be worked next was a knit stitch and a yrn was used either if the stitch just worked was a purl and was to be followed by a purl OR if working a knit stitch followed by another knit stitch but a bigger loop was required between them than what a yfwd would create, the yarn would be wrapped around the needle - from the back, over the top of the needle, then back round to the back. By avoiding saying which to use, by simply saying M1, it left the interpretation to the knitter.

If you try using a 'modern' M1 on lacy knitting patterns from the 1940s however, you'll find your lace has no holes! But by using M1 back then it didn't matter whether knit or purl sts where preceding or following, one term would fit all. I guess this is what YO does now?

So back to yfwd and yrn. I am currently using a stitch pattern that I have reworked from a 'vintage' book. This 6 stitch, 10 row, lace pattern uses both yfwd and yrn in its instruction. Yfwd between two knit stitches and yrn between purl stitches.  My interpretation of these is as follows:

yfwd - bring yarn to the front of the needle. As you prepare to knit the next stitch you will lift the yarn over the top of the needle to the back of the work then knit the next stitch. Also known as YO or possibly, wyif.

yrn - wrap yarn around the needle from position at front of needle, over the top of the needle and back round to the front again before purling the next stitch.

Obviously within the pattern, a distinction between the two types of yarn 'movement' is needed - or is it? What are your thoughts? I would love to hear from both vintage knitters, who I would imagine know exactly where I'm coming from, but also from knitters who use more contemporary patterns and let me know what these terms mean to you.

And one last little gem. What do you think 'N' means in a lace pattern instruction?

for now
Ruby xx

5 comments :

Susan Halstead said...

In old patterns that I have,"N" stands for a decrease. Either Ssk or k2tog.

Helena said...

Thank you for this useful article. I would have thought that an abbreviation meant the same now as then, so it's good to find out now that it doesn't!

Chris Laning said...

The reason "N" means to decrease is that it stands for "Narrow".

pdxknitterati/MicheleLB said...

Interesting. To me, it's all just YO. Do you think they introduced at as YO when we began charting patterns? A YO needs to be able to be shown as something on a chart. In written directions, yrn or yfwd makes sense, but maybe not so much on a chart.

N as a decrease? I think N in that case stands for "narrow" as in make it narrower here.

Hélène Magnùsson said...

I do my yos or whatever they are called many different ways and work them according to how they come, twisted or not, on the next row. I never really paid attention to it really, I just do it automatically.
I have no idea what N stands for!