Ask Amanda: What does wyif mean?
Some knitting abbreviations seem pretty straightforward, like how K stands for “knit” and P stands for “purl,” but when multiple letters get involved, sometimes things get murky. Some of the leading offenders? Knitting terms like wyif and its equally sneaky cousin, wyib. To make matters worse, even after a knitter has deciphered what these terms stand for, putting them into practice can be confusing. We are here to help!
Let’s start with what they stand for:
wyif = with yarn in front
wyib = with yarn in back
At their most basic level, both of these terms are actually pretty easy to decipher – all they really refer to is the position of your working yarn in relation to your knitting. When you’re getting ready to work a purl stitch, you make sure that you’re holding the yarn in front, and when you’re going to knit a stitch, you make sure that the yarn is being held to the back. With these instructions, you’re being directed to put your yarn in front (as if to knit) or back (as if to purl), but you’re not necessarily going to be working a knit or purl stitch at that point. It only refers to the position of the yarn, not the next action.
What often leads to confusion is what happens in your pattern directly before or after you’re asked to move your yarn to the front or back. In our patterns, we often pair wyif with slipped stitches, which is often abbreviated along the lines of “slip wyif.” With a direction like this, you would hold the yarn to the front of the work and slip the next stitch (see my post about slipped stitches for a refresher). The result would be a slipped stitch with the yarn strand running across the front of it (see below), which can be a nice decorative element or part of a fancy pattern stitch.
For an example in a pattern, take a look at the unusual textural stripes on Laplante, a tank top from our spring collection:
That stitch pattern uses a combination of stitches slipped both wyif and wyib, alternated with normal knit and purl stitches. The result is an interesting textured stripe that almost resembles embroidery. It’s a perfect project for practicing your wyif and wyib skills!