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Is It Yarn Over, Yarn Forward, Yarn Over Needle, or Yarn Around Needle?

If you, like many of us, have a collection of knitting patterns that span several decades and come from different publishers, some of which may be American while others are British, you've undoubtedly come up against contradictions in terms and abbreviations. One technique that goes by several names is the yarn over, which is used either to increase stitch count or add a decorative opening in the fabric -- or both. No matter which of the above terms is used, the goal is the same: You need to make an extra stitch by wrapping the yarn over the needle. Here we use "yarn over" as a verb meaning the action of putting the yarn over the needle and as a noun to identify the stitch that's created by this action. Let's examine the basics.

Yarn Over Between Knit Stitches

When working a yarn over between two knit stitches, knit the first stitch, bring the yarn to the front, and then bring it up over the top of the right needle to the back so you can knit the next stitch (Photo 1). Most instructions will read, "k1, yo, k1."

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Photo 1

This stitch is referred to in some British publications as "yarn forward" and the instructions would read, "k1, yrn fwd, k1." The reasoning here is that you do, indeed, bring the yarn forward; then, in order to knit the next stitch you'd have no choice but to bring the yarn over the needle to get it back into position to knit the next stitch.

Yarn Over Between Purl Stitches

When working a yarn over between two purl stitches, purl the first stitch, bring the yarn up over the top of the right needle to the back, and then bring the yarn forward under the needle so you can purl the next stitch (Photo 2). Most instructions will read, "p1, yo, p1."

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Photo 2

This stitch is referred to in some British publications as "yarn round needle" and the instructions would read, "p1, yrn, p1." Indeed, you need to wrap the yarn around the needle to form a yarn over between two purl stitches.

Yarn Over Between a Knit & a Purl Stitch

If you want to place a yarn over after a knit stitch and before a purl stitch, this could be accomplished two ways. One way is to knit the first stitch, and then simply bring the yarn from back to front over the right needle and purl the next stitch (Photo 3). Instructions may read "k1, yo, p1." This stitch could be referred to as "yarn over needle" and the instructions would read, "k1, yon, p1."

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Photo 3

You could also work a yarn over between a knit and a purl stitch by knitting the first stitch, and then bringing the yarn forward between the needles, up over the top of the right needle, and then forward again under the needle to be in position to purl the next stitch (Photo 4). This may be referred to as "yarn round needle" with the instruction "k1, yrn, p1."

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Photo 4

Yarn Over Between a Purl & a Knit Stitch

The last scenario would be to place a yarn over after a purl stitch and before a knit stitch, with the instruction "p1, yo, k1." Purl the first stitch, bring the yarn up over the top of the right needle to the back and knit the next stitch (Photo 5). This may also be referred to as "yarn over needle" with the instruction "p1, yon, k1."

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Photo 5

Most contemporary American knitting patterns simply use the abbreviation "yo" for all of the above, and the knitter must determine exactly how to accomplish that. Try your hand with the Bobble Lace Beanie, which is featured as the free pattern in this issue.