Clear up any confusion with this handy guide to UK vs. US knitting terms, yarn weights and knitting needle sizes!
You know these days it feels like no one can agree on anything. You know what I mean? But can we discuss WHY in the world the knitting world can’t get it together to use standard terms and measurements? The differences between the United States and the the United Kingdom go beyond lorry vs. truck or loo. vs bathroom, there are several knitting terms and measurements that are completely different in a confusing way.
I suspect this is one of those things that will never ever change (since it’s been this way for hundreds of years and you know, tradition, etc.) so the best strategy for us is to just learn the differences so we’re not confused.
Oh and hey, just to keep you on your toes even more, there are some situations where Australia has a third set of different names for things! (Canada seems to lean towards the UK terminology, but correct me if I’m wrong, Canadian friends!)
So let’s talk about the differences, that way if you purchase a pattern written by a designer from another country, you’ll be ready to decipher what they mean without stress!
I’ve made a handy free printable download comparing yarn weights and needle sizes, scroll on down to get those! (Psst! I threw in crochet hook information on the printable too!)
UK vs. US Knitting Terms
There are some regular knitting terms and abbreviations that are simple yet different between the US and the UK. Let’s take a look!
Cast off vs. Bind off
In the US we call the process of ending your knitting to finish off live stitches binding off. In the UK/Canada it’s called casting off. I wrote an entire article on the difference between cast off and bind off, but the short answer is…they’re the same thing!
Gauge vs. Tension
In the US we use the term gauge to refer to the measurement of the number of stitches and/or rows of knitting per inch (usually measured over a distance of 4 inches). In the UK, they use the term tension and they often measure the number of stitches and/or rows over 10 centimeters.
In the US we abbreviate a slipped stitch with the abbreviation “sl st” or “sl” so to slip one stitch in a US pattern, it would say, “sl1.” In the Canada slipped stitches are abbreviated as “ss”, while in the UK they use “sl1k”. Clear as mud, right?
Stockinette vs. Stocking
In the US we call flat knitting with alternating rows of knit and purl stitches “stockinette stitch” while in the UK it’s called “stocking stitch”. At least this one is pretty similar, right?
Yarn Over vs. Yarn Over Needle
US knitting patterns will call it a “yarn over” while in the UK a pattern will say, “yarn over needle”. Same thing, the British version just sounds a little bit fancier!
Seed Stitch vs. Moss Stitch
This one drives me bonkers, friends. In the US “seed stitch” is a pattern of alternating knit and purl stitches. They alternate both along the row and between each row so you get a pattern of single knit and purl stitches in a checkerboard. In the UK this is called “moss stitch” BUT in the US, if you were to repeat each row of seed stitch twice you’d get a new elongated seed stitch that we, here in America, call “moss stitch” meanwhile in the UK, this doubled seed stitch/American moss stitch is now “double moss stitch”.
So US seed stitch = UK moss stitch but US moss stitch = UK double moss stitch. Does that make any sense? No! Basically, if a designer tells you to knit moss stitch, you’d better find out if they’re American or British before you start!
UK vs. US Knitting Needle Sizes
(scroll down for the free printable version of these charts!)
As an American, let me tell you that I can be the first to admit that the English system of measurement is confusing. We all recognize that it is, we just don’t talk about it. So I am happy that at least, at some point, someone decided we should measure knitting needles and crochet hooks in metric millimeters.
We may STILL have our own American names for those sizes, dangit, but at least we use metric measurements! (please read preceding sentence with sarcasm)
When I read supply lists for most knitting patterns, the knitting needle size is usually preceded by either “US” or “UK” so you know which size they’re talking about. So for example, “size US 6 knitting needles” are 4 mm needles.
But just to really keep you on your toes, I should point out that Americans do measure the LENGTH of knitting needles in inches, not millimeters. So that’s fun.
I whipped up this conversion chart for you, it also includes crochet hooks because a lot of crafters knit and crochet. If you want a free downloadable/printable version of this chart, scroll all the way down and enter your email in the box!
UK vs. Australian vs. US Yarn Weights
If you aren’t confused enough at this point, buckle up, we’re not finished yet! Not only do the US and UK have their own names for yarn weights, so does Australia!
(Canada seems to most often use the standard yarn weights put out by the Craft Yarn Council.)
Please keep in mind, that not only do yarn weight names differ between countries, the actual weight of the yarns can be slightly different as well due to general differences in traditions and manufacturing in the different places. So in terms of yarn weight, these conversions are a little more general than, for example needle sizes.
Again, here’s a handy chart, if you’d like the free printable/downloadable version, scroll on down to the bottom of the post and add your email!
Free Printable UK vs. US Needles, Hooks & Yarn Weight Conversion Chart
If you’d like a copy of these charts in a handy printable version, I’ve got you covered. I put them all on one page. Just enter your email to sign up for my weekly newsletter and you’ll get a welcome email in your inbox that contains the download link!
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