YO, you’re going to want to read this. What does YO mean to you? Well, YO reminds me:
- It’s how my dad used to answer the phone. I thought it was weird until I heard other men his age talking and using it in casual conversation.
- It’s what someone says when they can’t remember your name. “Hey, yo, good to see you, it’s been a long time.”
- It’s something that is said when someone is doing something they shouldn’t be. “yo, what the heck dude?”
- In knitting however, it’s a Yarn Over. Not called a “yo” that’s just the accepted abbreviation, but said all the way, “yarn over”.
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Which do you think we’ll be discussing in this post?
YO = Yarn Over in knitter language, found in knitting patterns. But what does Yarn Over actually mean in knitting? It is a literal direction for the knitter to put the yarn over the needle. It’s probably the most common way to make a mistake in knitting as a beginner. We’ll chat more about that later.
I consider it to be the third kind of stitch in knitting. There’s the KNIT stitch, the PURL stitch and finally the Yarn Over (from here on out I’ll try to use the YO abbreviation consistently, no promises).
I’m sure there will be debate about this, there are soooo many different kinds of stitches in knitting, but to me, all of them are created off of the idea/technique of the K, P and YO.
*Remember this little stitch pattern called the Stockinette Stitch? Nice and smooth, no holes! Keep it in mind as we go along…
Now, to create a YO, nothing is done to or with the yarn like the knit or purl stitches. The yarn is placed over the right needle (see * note below) in a specific way (that we’ll get into later) and that’s all. No diving in with a needle, pulling loops through or tugging on it in any weird way. I consider it a stitch because it changes the pattern in a really obvious way. Some may not consider it a stitch because it doesn’t have to be manipulated in any way to get that extra loop or no mantras needed to remember how to make it.
This is what a YO looks like after knitting on a few more rows. Just a hole.
What does the YO do?
The YO adds another loop onto the needle and results in a small hole. This addition of a another loop is called an increase. You are increasing the number of stitches – number of loops – in that row/round. An increase makes the knit fabric wider.
Another way to put it: By adding another loop, you are adding one more ‘stitch’ to the stitch count for that row (2 YO spaced out in a row would be an two extra stitches in that row, 3 YO spaced out in a row would be three extra stitches in that row, etc).
What does the YO mean to me?
As a beginner knitter, does the idea of knitting lace intimidate you? I know how beautiful it is, but it looks like a lot of memorization and details and better suited to a more experienced knitter. I know, I’ve tried and personally find it too demanding of my brain power. The key to lace is the YO. A YO creates a little hole. Holes are good for lace.
Holes are not good for beginner knitters. Beginner knitters are at an advantage if they learn the knit stitch well at the beginning of their knitting journey. Knitting every stitch makes a very thick ‘fabric’ and makes up a stitch pattern called the Garter Stitch. You don’t want holes in the fabric created by the Garter Stitch. However, everyone who starts knitting ends up with a hole here and there and sometimes everywhere. This is caused by the YO. So, as a beginner, you are using a more advanced stitch… Ironic right?
How to YO?
Knitting patterns use YO’s in a few different ways. They can be placed between knit stitches, or purl stitches, or knit/purl or purl/knit combos to create variety and interest in the stitch pattern.
I will show you how to approach each situation but in the end, you technically only need to remember what the YO should look like when done correctly. Let’s look at the individual situations first so you can really understand how to master the YO. And then I’ll tell you about the ‘short cut’. That sounds like many high school teacher’s MO, huh… These following situations are based on the prior stitch because of where the working yarn ends. You’ll see shortly.
When following a pattern and approaching a YO, work the pattern up until the stitch right before the YO. Then continue with the YO, using the following instructions for different scenarios:
**This site teaches knitting in the typical European way of holding and moving the needles and yarn. So knitting in the English/Continental method where stiches are moved and worked from the left needle to the right needle, YO stitches always end up being created on the right needle.
Following a completed K stitch, the working yarn will be in the back of the needles as seen here:
Bring the working yarn around the needle by going first between the needle tips and then up and over the right needle. This forms a loop that has the front leg of the stitch slanting to the right, just like all of the other knit and purl stitches that are formed properly. I know it is a little blurry, but all these photos take time and I was rushing…😬
By bringing the working yarn to the back of the work again, the yarn is ready for the next K stitch that comes after the YO.
Insert needle into the next stitch knit wise (as if to knit, front to back) keeping the YO in place with the yarn held securely to the back of the needle.
Wrap yarn in usual manner around tip of right needle.
As usual, draw the right needle out through the front of the stitch while keeping the working yarn wrapped around the right needle.
Make sure the YO is still there when you pull the working yarn through the front to form the knit stitch after the YO. It can slip off if you are not paying attention or not tensioning the yarn enough.
Pull the right needle to drop the stitch off the right needle in the usual manner. The last stitch on the right needle is that K stitch you just created, the yarn to the right is the YO.
Working yarn placement is one of the most important and easiest ways to prevent accidental YOs and YOs are one of the more common mistakes beginners make so logically, paying close attention to working yarn placement will reduce many mistakes.
After making a P stitch, the working yarn naturally wants to be at the front of the work and in front of the needles.
That is a very convenient place to create a YO, just bring the working yarn up and over to the back of the work for a K stitch. But, if the next stitch is a P, the working yarn needs to come back to the front, otherwise it will result in a mistake if the P is completed with the yarn in the back of the work.
So after moving the yarn from the front of the work to the back, over the right needle to create a loop, bring the yarn forward in between the needle tips, avoiding wrapping it around a needle an extra time. We only want one loop for a YO. Here are some close up photos of the process of P – YO – P.
After the YO, the yarn is in front again, signaling that you wrapped it completely and correctly.
Hold the working yarn snuggly off to the side so it does not slip off the end of the right needle.
Make your P stitch the usual way, entering it from the back to the front. The only difference between making a P stitch after a regular stitch (P or K) and a YO stitch is the yarn pulled over the needle just hangs out, nothing is worked into it or done with it.
The working yarn goes over just the right needle, the image above looks like it wants to go around both needles. This is very important, you are only wrapping the working yarn around the right needle, nothing should come between the working yarn and the right needle. OOOoooooh…. that sounds kind of steamy 🤣
Just a refresher below… for the P, you are wrapping the yarn counter clockwise around the right hand needle with the working yarn. If you forget how to do the purl stitch, look here. It is really the only thing between the two needles, even though having the YO there makes if feel a little awkward like a third wheel.
This is where I forgot to take a process photo of scooping the yarn back and down to the back of the work keep the newly worked P on the right needle. So… pretend I did that and below is the result.
And then you would normally see me dropping off the stitch originally worked into on the left needle, but I was in a rush and forgot to document it. I can’t win them all… The working yarn ends up in the front of the work as usual after a P.
Following a K stitch, as usual the working yarn will be in the back of the needles. Bring the working yarn around the needle by going first between the needles and then up and over the right needle. This forms a loop that has the front leg of the stitch slanting to the right, just like all of the other knit and purl stitches that are formed properly. Since the next stitch is a P this time, the yarn needs to again be brought to the front between the tips of the needles. When the working yarn is brought forward and only one new loop was created by the wrapping, the P stitch can be formed.
This is what that looks like step by step:
Using the same image as above, we can create the K – YO – P. Yarn starts in the back, that’s where it ends up after a K stitch.
Then we need to make the YO by bringing the working yarn through to the front of the work, directly in between the needle tips. Same image as above, same movement to make the YO. Going anywhere other than between the tips will create an extra loop that doesn’t belong there.
Blurry again, my apologies!
Just like a YO between purl stitches, we are again wrapping the yarn over the right needle from font to back.
Making a purl stitch requires the yarn to be in the front of the work, so proceed with the loop bringing the working yarn to the front. Again, making sure the working yarn goes between the needle tips from the back to front and only creates one YO. Then proceed with purling the next stitch, holding the yarn in place so the YO doesn’t go anywhere.
I’ll let you pick it up from here, otherwise there will be way too many photos in this post. Purl as usual!
After making a P stitch, the working yarn naturally wants to be at the front of the work and in front of the needles. That is a very convenient place to create a YO, just bring the working yarn up and over to the back of the work. Since the following stitch is a K, the yarn is ready to go since it’s in the back. Not much else needed…
Since the yarn is in the back, it is ready to K. Just make sure that YO stays put. It’s not wrapped as much as other times for this situation, making it feel less secure. I’ve placed the right needle into the stitch knit wise (knit wise means as though to knit) and wrapped it with the working yarn starting in the back, but you can see the YO is still there, it’s that more slanted loop to the right of the stitch being worked.
The ‘Short Cut’
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to memorize even more knitting techniques… I just don’t have the bandwidth in my brain. If you can memorize/remember these, please do! But if you don’t want to, here is the easy way to do a regular YO.
No matter where the working yarn ends up before the YO (K – back and P – front) the goal is to get the loop of the YO on the right needle in the right orientation. And then in the right position for the next stitch (K – back and P – front). And only one loop for a standard YO which is what we’re talking about here.
So, just do whatever you need to do to get the loop to look the right way! It is literally that easy. It might take a little while to get used to doing it, but if you are doing multiple kinds of transitions in the same pattern, knowing what the end result should look like is a good way to check your work as you go.
Checking the work after YOs
Looking at the right knitting needle after completing your YO and at least the stitch after will tell you if your YOs are done and in the right place. Each YO is one stitch added to the total count for a row.
This is what it looks like to have a YO on your needle. Look at the yellow/diagonal/crooked loop, next to last on the right needle, that’s the YO. The white lines show how the regular stitches (either K or P, doesn’t matter) lay perpendicular on the needles.
The K and P loops lay perpendicular because they are ‘worked’ and they pull through the old stitch. That loop ‘scarf’ from the previous row pulls the stitch perpendicular to the needle. The YO however stays slanted because the YO has nothing to anchor it down to the rest of the fabric.
How to treat a YO on the next row
When you approach a YO from the previous row, make sure it says on the needle. If it drops, it will look just like the space between regular stitches (see below) but maybe a little longer/wider/looser. Since the legs of the YO loop are oriented the same as a regular stitch, treat it like a regular stitch. Since so many patterns utilize the stockinette stitch with all K stitches on the front/Right Side and all P on the back/Wrong Side. YOs typically enter from the front to the back for a knit or back to front for a purl. It will want to fall off the needles because its just hanging out until it’s worked. It’s not tight or formed around the needle like other stitches.
Approaching a YO while Knitting in the round
Knitting in the round is another situation where you will likely encounter a YO. When knitting flat, you will need to approach the YO after you’ve turned your work and probably need to purl the YO on the way back since Stockinette Stitch is the basis of so many patterns. But while knitting in the round, you will be approaching the YO from the front/right side everytime instead of the back/wrong side. It still looks just like the yarn was accidentally caught on the needle, but don’t forget to check how the loop’s ‘legs’ are positioned so you can make the stitch into it correctly. To see what stitches are supposed to look like, check out this post.
Since there is nothing to loop through, the bottom of the YO is non existent, it’s just a loose loop. That’s what creates the hole. The hole is also called an eyelet, which just sounds fancier, plus looks like eyelets found on fabrics.
Some additional Tips and Tricks:
What happens if I drop a YO?
The YO is just a loop added to the row of knitting as you follow the pattern… BUT if you drop a YO before you can work it in the following row or it accidentally drops off the right needle without you noticing, it’s just extra yarn between stitches. It is not nearly as obvious as a dropped K or P stitch.
How to fix a dropped YO in the same row
Fix the dropped YO by dipping the left needle down in front of the extra length of yarn that was the original YO. Scoop it up going from the front to the back so that the bottom of the front leg of the loop is slanted towards the right.
We’re dipping, we’re dipping, we’re dipping…
Ah HA! We’ve dipped… and scooped it up. Notice how the right ‘leg’ of the loop is ‘forward’? That’s what we want in this instance.
If troubleshooting a project that doesn’t have the right number of stitches when you reach the end of the row, look back and see if your YO’s stayed put. Do this by counting and checking where the hole was supposed to land, if it isn’t there you’ve dropped or missed it.
How to fix a dropped YO one row or many rows back
One of my favorite things about knitting is the ability to undo a few stitches from a column and fix mistakes. I’m always in la la land so I often have little mistakes (another reason I check my stitches at the end of every row or every 20 stitches or so on really long rows). As you just saw in the images above, a YO is just the yarn between two stitches picked up to look the same orientation as regular stitches.
They can be inserted after the fact if necessary or they can just be dropped if they were inserted accidentally. The only thing this would affect is the tension on the local stitches of the same row. Inserting a YO after the fact would make the stitches tighter than usual. Dropping the accidental YO after would make the stitches next to it looser.
Wondering how to get back down to a mistake many rows below? I will do an in-depth post at a later date, but the gist of it is…
A dropped stitch is when a stitch on the last row that was knit pops out. The yarn goes straight across instead of formed as a loop. That dropped stitch is contained in that column as long as the stitches on either side are secure. Just keep unhooking the loops until you get down to where the mistake/issue/faux pas/brainfart happened.
What happens if I don’t like how the YO looks?
If you’re working along and you don’t like how big the YO holes are turning out, instead of knitting it with the loops ‘legs’ in the right orientation, you can always add in a little twist to the loop created with the YO when you go to knit it on the following row/round. It will close the hole up but still leave a little decorative design on the pattern. The way it slants depends on which way it is twisted. Twisting counterclockwise will result in a right slant and vice versa. This will allow you to keep the stitch count accurate because the extra stitch added by the YO will still be there.
Can you do a YO at the beginning of a pattern row?
Yes, it is worked the same way but it might feel weird because up until now we have had stitches on either side to anchor it in place. It is approached in the same way as stated above, just pay attention to the stitch that comes after it.
For a K, start the row with the working yarn in the front of the work, insert the needle front to back in the following stitch (for the K stitch) and the bring the working yarn over the top of the needle to the back because your next stitch is a K and the working yarn needs to be there to get the K stitch right. Make the K in the normal way and you’ll have two loops on the right needle. Make sure that the YO stayed in place and if you happen to drop it, you’ll have to pick it up again. Counting at the end of rows is super helpful to make sure little increases like this stay in the work.
For a P, start the row with the working yarn and then around to the front by going between the needle tips so that the working yarn is in the front of the work again. This is the YO. Now P into the next stitch, making sure the YO stayed put. if you happen to drop it, you’ll have to pick it up again. Counting at the end of rows is super helpful to make sure little increases like this stay in the work.
It’s a YO-YO!!! HAHAHA. Couldn’t help myself.
Written as yoyo or YOYO on a knitting pattern (love this, love it when there is just some humor injected into projects – as this is a knitting blog and not about grammar, I had to look up to see if there was a hyphen involved) it is made exactly how it is said/written. Use the same approaches as above regarding P or K stitches before or after the YO. When you get to the YOYO you will simply wrap the yarn around the right loop two times instead of one. It just makes that loop longer but in a controlled way. That longer loop will create a bigger eyelet/hole. This is a very easy way to make a button hole, of course checking to make sure your button will fit through the hole properly after it is worked and you’ve moved onto the next row/round. Also good for different size decorative holes and drawstring holes.
Working the YOYO on the way back
HA, working the YOYO sounds like you’re going to trick someone… Have to get my game face on, no more joking around.
Anyway, when you approach the YOYO on the next row or round, you will need to work the stitches. They cannot be worked using the same kind of stitch. So NO K then K or P then P. Needs to be P then K or K then P. If you try to do them both the same kind of stitch, you will end up with a sad looking elongated stitch that is rather goofy and weak, looking like a stretched out oval instead of a nicely formed ‘circle’.
You can do either order – P, K or K, P – depending on the look you are going for. There will be a purl bump there, hard to get around that. The biggest issue is keeping that second YO on the left needle as you work the first YO. It’s like playing knitting needle and finger Twister for sure. This is a pain, hence it’s at the bottom of the post. If you are beginner, you will likely have learned more tricks and techniques before having to use this one and likely you will have learned how the knitting language works with regard to techniques, and therefore be able to handle just about anything that comes your way!!! Run on sentences are my kind of writing….