Yarnovers: Fun facts and technique tips!

Let's chat about the central element of all knitted lace patterns: the yarnover! Eyelets are created by a technique that today's knitting patterns almost always call a yo, for "yarn over". But if you've knitted vintage or British patterns before, you may be familiar with other abbreviations that also result in an eyelet: yon (yarn over needle), yfwd (yarn forward), and yrn (yarn 'round needle). Did you know that these different terms are all because of where the yarn needs to go when knitting English style (a.k.a. picking) based on whether the preceding and following stitches are knits or purls?

For example, a knit-eyelet-knit sequence is written as k-yfwd-k, because after you've brought the yarn forward between the needles, it has to go back over the needle to knit the next stitch - which creates the open loop! In comparison, if you're doing a purl-eyelet-purl sequence, it's a p-yrn-p, because the yarn's in front already and it has to stay in front for the next purl stitch - so wrap the yarn 'round the needle and it's back in front, ready for the next purl stitch! Isn't that a fun fact? We sure think so! But we also like the term yo - it's so simple! Check out Donna Druchunas' great article on this subject for more detail.

On the same topic, have you ever noticed how yarnovers before purl stitches often end up bigger than yarnovers before knit stitches? You can see it a bit in my Traveling Woman shawl here (knitted in Schoppelwolle Zauberball). The yarnover before the column of purl stitches in this pattern is bigger because the yarn has to travel farther around the needle to reach the front side of the work, which is where it needs to be to make the purl stitch. This can lead to non-uniform lacework. But there's a solution! You can work a "reverse yarnover" or a "backwards yarnover" instead - the yarn gets wrapped around the needle from back to front before a purl stitch, rather than front to back like normal. Then you knit it through the back loop on the following row, and boom! Symmetrical yarnovers! Want to learn more? Have a look at this post on Ysolda's blog for pretty pictures and more yarnover technique tips!