• tink – To undo your knitting stitch by stitch, typically to correct a glaring error. This can be tedious and frustrating, especially if the project is large, complex, or you’ve set yourself a deadline. However, there is a certain rhythm to it and if you know you gotta do it in order to get the job done, then it helps to think of it as just another part of the process. “Tink” is “knit” backwards … clever!
  • frog – To rip knitting apart wholesale. Since knitting is more or less a single strand of yarn with no knots, one should be able to undo a knitted piece and retrieve the yarn for another use. Some knitters are known to lurk around thrift shops looking for wool sweaters … you can frog these for a cheap batch of yarn! Usually, frogging is done on an incomplete project. Either to go back to a distant and hideous error that can’t be ignored, or to spare the human race from having to deal with such a project entirely. If you want to make like a frog, then of course you “rip it! rip it!”.
  • steek – To (gasp, faint!) take a pair of scissors and cut right up the middle of some finished knitting. As far as I can tell, people from northern European countries do this all the time without suffering mental damage. I can’t bear to think about it, much less write about it. Fortunately, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (the Yarn Harlot) has written very humorously about her experience with steeking more than once. Here’s one of her posts. And I love how Elizabeth Zimmerman refers to the technique in her book “Knitting Without Tears”. She give matter-of-fact instructions for knitting a Scandinavian-style sweater and after giving the instruction to cut, she finishes the sentence: “… then lie down in a darkened room for fifteen minutes to recover. You will never fear to cut again. (But always be sure to cut at the right place.)”
  • WIP – A “Work in Progress”. This is what’s currently on the needles and active. That is, there is a detectable bit of progress being made and there is a feeling in your heart that this project will reach a successful conclusion someday. Lots of knitters, including me, have several WIPs going at once. This gives one the lattitude to keep on knitting in varied circumstances (small projects for travel, simple projects for when there are distractions, fancy stuff to bring out when you’ve got a nice stretch of “quality time” for knitting).
  • UFO – An “Unfinished Object”. From what I can tell, UFOs are projects that have a sense of ambivalence associated with them. There isn’t sufficient motivation to work on the project, but the knitter isn’t convinced that it should be frogged. So it sits in limbo. I have one UFO at present. It’s a sweater with size issues and a big mistake. Do I like it enough to press onward? Or do I want to just bag it and retrieve the (cheap, discount) yarn? Hard to say. Presumably, a hint from the Universe will one day arrive and free my UFO!
  • FO – Ummm, duh? The “Finished Object” is proudly modeled and photographed and displayed. A knitter needs little prompting to go on and on about it … sharing technical difficulties, design decisions, emotional ups and downs. Bear with your knitter, even a pair of socks involves at least 1/4 mile of yarn and something like 8-10 thousand stitches!
  • DPN – A “Double-Pointed Needle”. These are even more dangerous than they sound! The classic knitting needle has a knob on the end, and this helps keep the knitting from sliding off the needle. You can scrunch your work down toward the knob end when setting your knitting down and there’s a chance it will still be on the needle when you come back with your hot cuppa. Well, the cat will have to work harder and faster … but anyway, double-pointed needles don’t offer such protection. Your knitting can slide off either end if you’re not careful! But that’s the point. DPNs allow you to keep knitting right off the end of one needle and onto another needle. If you have three needles end-to-end, you can knit in a spiral … and that’s how socks and mittens and the fingers of gloves are made. And it’s also another reason they’re so dangerous, you not only have points at both ends, but you’re working with 4 or 5 needles at a time! I was wowed when I saw this cool picture, painted around 1410, of Mary using DPNs to knit a nice pullover for Jesus …
  • Circular Needle – Well, it’s a pair of straight needles, actually. They’re connected by a cord at the end where the knobs would be. This allows you to knit very, very, very wide things (say, a blanket for your California King?) because you can have a very, very, very long cord between your needles. Also, if you slide your knitting off the needles and bunch it in the middle of the cord, your cat would have to be fiendishly clever to get it off (perhaps he could learn to use a phone and call someone with opposable thumbs to come over and do it for him). Like DPNs, circular needles can be used to knit in a spiral, and recently several brilliant knitting topologists have found ways to use two circular needles or one needle with a twist in the cord such that they can completely replace DPNs. Most knitters find them easier to use. (It’s true that you will never drop one needle into an irretrievable spot between airplane seats and be left with too few needles to keep knitting!) But, some of us like the connection with knitters of the past, not to mention the fun of wielding lots of pointy needles at once, so I don’t think DPNs will ever go away entirely.

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