A Knitting Dictionary—The Letter A is the first in a series of posts that will eventually make up the Complete Knitting Dictionary. Right now, it’s part of the “Incomplete Knitting’s Dictionary”, but stay tuned . . ..

Knitting Dictionary Letter A over b/w knitting on a table

To get to the other posts of this series, go to the main Knitting Dictionary Post.


Short forms of knitting terms used in patterns for brevity and conciseness.


Work the established pattern all the way across the row or round to the end.


A synthetic fibre made from polymers of acrylic acid or acrylates. It is usually derived from petroleum products.  Acrylic yarns are generally hypo-allergenic, durable, colourfast, washable, easily available and affordable. They also are flammable, don’t breathe, absorb water and freeze (so they are not ideal for cold weather wear).

active stitchesred knititng on a fuzzy background with the Activie stitches and arrows to the active stitches

Stitches that are on a needle and ready to work. They have not been secured by another row of knitting.

(aka live stitches)


Placement of an element (heel, thumb, buttonhole, pocket, etc.) after knitting is complete. Traditionally, remove a row of knitting and pick up stitches on either side of the removed row. Then continue knitting in a new direction.

Just to make things more complex, as often as not, forethought versions of this are also called afterthought. These are versions where placement is determined while knitting and a waste yarn is knitted in where the element will be added. This waste yarn holds the stitches from which the new element will be worked.

alpacaAlpaca in a valley

South American member of the camelid family. Alpaca is also the name of the fibre that the animals produce. Alpacas are sheared twice a year, producing sleek, glossy and drapey fibre, resistant to felting and pilling and warmer than wool. The fibre naturally comes in 15 basic shades.


Make changes to a pattern to accommodate knitting a different size or shape, or to use a different yarn or technique.

Also, to make changes to a completed garment.

alternate (Alt.)

Typically refers to an action occurring on every other (every second) row or round of a pattern.

For example: Kbf at the beginning of this and every alternate row would mean increase one stitch using a kfb increase at the beginning of this row, then work one row with no increase. Then increase at the beginning of the next row. If this is row 1, you increase at the beginning of this row and at the beginning of rows 3, 5 and so on.

alternating cast on

A cast on that gives the appearance of alternating knit and purl stitches. Many cast ons can be adapted to be alternating and some are naturally so (e.g. Italian).


The fur of an Angora rabbit, a fine, smooth and inelastic fibre that produces a fuzzy, warm yarn that tends to felt easily and blooms beautifully.

Angora Goatangora goat in a field

A goat that that produces mohair fibers. Not to be confused with the angora rabbit.

(also see “mohair”)

Angora rabbit

A rabbit that produces angora fibre. There are several breeds of Angora rabbit, that can yield from 280g to 2 kg (10 to 72 oz) of fibre per year.

Applied edging (i-cord, lace, etc.)

lace knitting on the needles

An edge finish (Edging, i-cord, lace or other) attached to the finished fabric or knit perpendicular to live stitches. When working an applied edging perpendicular to live stitches (one’s that are still on a needle, like the body stitches in the image above), the applied edging serves as an extended bind off. For every two rows of edging that you work, you bind off one body stitch.

(aka attached or knitted-on)

Aranphotos of Aran knitting and the Aran Islands

Aran has multiple meanings in the knitting world:

Aran Islands—Three islands off the West coast of Ireland.

Knitting tradition—Named after the Aran Islands in Ireland, this style of knitting combines panels of cable patterns. Often used in sweaters (Aran sweater) and accessories.

Yarn weight—Aran weight yarn is slightly heavier than worsted weight and is lighter than chunky weight. The gauge stated on the label is usually around 18 sts per 4”/10 cm

Yarn colour—Many yarns that are a natural colour have the colour name Aran.

arm knitting

Using your arms as knitting needles for very thick yarns or combinations of yarn. The technique uses a combination of knitting and mirror (backwards) knitting as the “needles” (your arms) cannot be moved into the other hand.

Armenian knitting

A stranded knitting technique that allows for intarsia like motifs but where the entire project is stranded, including solid colour rows. Because of the all-over stranding, the technique produces a slightly marled fabric.

It is unlikely that it originated in Armenia, but is named by Elsa Schiaparelli, after the Armenian knitter who worked this technique for Schiaparelli’s designs in Paris in the 1920s.

Meg Swanson, Joyce Williams, Lizbeth Upitis wrote the only book that seems to be available on the topic and aptly called it “Armenian Knitting”.


The opening in a top through which the wearer puts his or her arms. This is where the sleeve is attached or where the opening is finished for a sleeveless garment (aka arm scythe)

as established

Continue to work the same pattern as you have worked it before this instruction, but with the modification that comes with the instruction. When enough stitches have been added, incorporate the new stitches into the existing pattern.

as if to

Usually used when slipping a stitch, this instruction tells you how to enter the stitch with the working needle. If the instruction says “as if to knit”, the right needle tip goes into the next stitch on the left needle from front to back, left to right. If the instruction says “as if to purl”, the right needle tip goes into the next stitch on the left needle from back to front and from right to left.


Put together pieces of a knitted project by sewing, knitting or crocheting together


When two sides of something are not a mirror image. For example, the neckline or hem of a garment or the edges of a shawl are not the same shape on either side of the centre line.

at the same time

Work more than one set of instructions at the same time. Often this involves following different shaping instructions at different places on the piece. For example, use one set of instructions to shape armholes at either end of the knitting and another set of instructions to shape a neck opening in the middle of the piece. Read the instructions thoroughly before starting so you understand what you will do and where.

attached edging (i-cord, lace, etc.)

See applied edgings

(aka applied or knitted-on)

axis cable

A cable where the centre stitch does not move, only the stitches on either side of the centre stitch are repositioned.

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