Yarn-Overs

lace sample

Patterns including all laces and eyelets are made with yarn-over stitches. Making a yarn-over (yo) is the least complicated action in knitting. It consists of taking the yarn over the top of the right hand needle between stitches. Making a yarn-over is actually an increase, and beginners often perform it by accident, creating unintended holes in their work. Although making a yo is simple, moving the yarn in the right direction can be confusing, particularly when instructions ask you to make a yo at the beginning of a row. Let’s look at yarn-overs in more detail.

How to make yarn-overs

Yo (yarn-over) 

This is often used as the general term for making a yarn-over on knit or purl rows to indicate an increase, by winding the yarn around the right needle. Many pattern instructions use this abbreviation no matter which direction the yarn is moved over the needle. It’s important that the yarn is in the correct position to work the next stitch. Note: Sometimes the abbreviation, yf (yfwd) increase is used for a yo between knit or purl stitches.

Between two purl stitches – with yarn in front, move yarn over top right needle, underneath and return to the front again. Purl the next stitch.

making yo between 2 p sts

Between two knit stitches – move yarn from behind right needle to the front over top right needle, then towards the back. Knit the next stitch.

yo between 2 k sts

The following abbreviations are more specific as to the way the yarn is moved over the right needle.

Yfrn (yarn forward and round needle)

Used to make a stitch between a knit and purl stitch. Take the yarn from back to front right around the needle, finishing at the front. The yarn is in the correct position to purl the next stitch.

yo between k and p st

Yon (yarn over needle)

This is used to make a stitch between a purl and knit stitch.

yo between p and k st

Yrn (yarn round needle)

Used to make a stitch between two purl stitches. Leave the yarn at the front, then move the yarn to the back over the right needle, and to the front. Purl the next stitch. (This is the same as  for a yo between two purl stitches).

Yfon (yarn forward and over needle)

This is making a yo at the beginning of a row. When I first came across instructions asking me to make a yo at the beginning of a row, I thought it was a mistake. But no, it is necessary to make one in some lace patterns. 

Beginning of a purl row – with yarn in front of needle, take yarn over right needle and towards front again. Purl next stitch, holding the yarn with your thumb if necessary.

yo at beg of p row

Beginning of a knit row – place yarn under right needle at the back, then move the yarn over top of needle to the front and behind the needle. Knit the next stitch.

yo at beg of k row

Multiple Yarn-overs

The yarn is wrapped around the needle as for a single yarn-over, then the yarn is wrapped around the needle as many times as required. Multiple yarn-overs are used for drop stitch patterns, or making extra large holes. Usually on the following row of yarn-overs in drop stitch patterns as in the Seafoam pattern below, all the yarn-overs are dropped off the needle. For other patterns with extra large holes, on the following row of yarn-overs, alternating knit and purl stitches are worked into the multiple yarn-overs.

drop stitch pattern
Seafoam Pattern
Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns by Barbara G. Walker

I hope this alleviates confusion that can happen when working yarn-overs between stitches, and at the beginning of rows. The most important point to remember is to make sure that the yarn is in the correct position to work the next stitch.