Did you know that the seed stitch in American English is the moss stitch in British English?

By Mollie Johanson
February 19, 2020
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Credit: Tatyana_Mu / Getty Images

Even though the United States and the United Kingdom share a common language, it can sometimes feel like you need a translator—and that's especially true when it comes to knitting and crochet terms. You may have looked at a knitting pattern and seen instructions that look familiar, but not exactly the same as what you're used to. Or worse, you started a crochet project and it just isn't coming out as expected. There's a good chance that the issue is related to American and British terminology. The good news is that it's easy to learn the differences and work with patterns from either side of the pond.

The first thing to do is check if the pattern says says it uses either U.S. or U.K. terms. If it doesn't state this on the pattern, Ravelry is a good source to find this information; another option is to look for where the pattern was published. You can also check for spelling clues (color, for example, signifies a U.S. pattern while colour is a good sign it's from the U.K.). For crochet patterns, if it includes single crochet stitches, you'll know that it's American. Just to confuse things a little more, Canadian patterns use a mix of American and British terms. For example, they use U.S. crochet stitch terminology, but the U.K.'s tension instead of gauge. Once again, always check which system a pattern uses before you begin.

Knitting

With knitting, the most glaring differences are with a few stitch patterns that have similar names, but that are not the same. But the terms that are potentially the most confusing are related to moving the yarn for different reasons; because the names are so similar, pay close attention so you don't end up with large holes caused by the wrong technique. American (U.S.) terms translate to the following British (U.K.) terms: gauge is tension; bind off (BO) is cast off; yarn over (YO) is yarn forward (YF); yarn/wool over needle (YON/WON); yarn/wool round needle (YRN/WRN). The term yarn forward, both in American and British terms, can sometimes simply mean to move the yarn to the front as you would when working a purl after a knit.

Most patterns tell you exactly what stitches to work, rather than simply telling you to work a particular stitch pattern, however, it's good to know what knitted design you're making. In U.S. patterns, working alternating rows of knit and purl stitch produces stockinette stitch, which is the same as stocking stitch in U.K. terms. If you work alternating knit and purl stitches across a row, and continue that to make a reversible design with a small bumpy texture, that's called seed stitch in American patterns and moss stitch in British patterns. There's also a U.S. stitch pattern called moss stitch, known as double moss stitch in the U.K., which forms an elongated version of seed stitch or moss stitch.

Crochet

The biggest and potentially most confusing terminology difference is in crochet. That's because the basic crochet stitches use the same names but for different stitches. As you look at the list of stitches, you'll see that the progression is the same, but the American version starts with single crochet where the British version starts with double crochet. American (U.S.) terms translate to the following British (U.K.) terms: single crochet (SC) is double crochet (DC); half double crochet (HDC) is half treble crochet (HTR); double crochet (DC) is treble crochet (TC); treble crochet (TC) is double treble crochet (DTR); double treble (DTR) is triple treble crochet (TTR); triple treble crochet (TTR) is quadruple crochet (QTR); gauge is tension; skip (SK) is miss (MS); yarn over (YO) is yarn over hook (YOH); fasten off or bind off is cast off.

Yarn, Hooks, and Needles

In addition to differences in terminology for crochet and knitting stitches and techniques, you may also find that yarn types have alternate labeling. Just as you want to use the correct methods while working, you also need to ensure that you have the right yarn to begin with. American (U.S.) terms translate to the following British (U.K.) terms: cobweb is one-ply; laceweight is two-ply; fingering and sock is three-ply and four-ply; sport is five-ply; light worsted or DK is double knitting (DK); worsted is aran; bulky is chunky; super bulky is super chunky.

The numbering system for crochet hooks and knitting needles also require some translation. U.S. hooks and needles have numbers that go from small to large as the size goes from small to large. In the U.K. system, the numbers go from large to small as the size goes from small to large. Most new patterns, hooks, and needles also give the metric size, which is standard.

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