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by Laura Chau March 09, 2021 4 min read

A lace swatch in cream laying flat on a white wooden surface.

Do you want to learn how to knit pretty lace patterns, brioche stitch, and other fun knitting stitches? You’ll need to learn how to knit a yarn over! A yarn over is a simple increase stitch creates an eyelet in your knit fabric, but it can be so much more. Paired with other increases and decreases, learning how to yarn over can vastly expand your knitting repertoire.

What is a Yarn Over?

A young white woman wearing a black t-shirt holds up a grey lace shawl, spreading it out to the left side of the image.

A yarn over (yo) is a type of increase in which the working yarn is wrapped over the right needle between two stitches, creating a new stitch on the needle. They can be used for shaping, such as on a top-down shawl, or for working decorative stitches.

A small grey piece of knitting, showing a yarn over spine of increases lined up in the centre.

Since yarn overs create stitches, they are usually paired with decreases to maintain a constant stitch count. The combination of yarn overs and decreases are the basis of the vast majority of knitted lace patterns, as well as brioche stitches.

A pale blue swatch with a single yarn over formed in the centre, appearing as a small hole in the fabric. The swatch is held up and being stretched out by a hand on either side.

Unlike many other increases which incorporate previously worked stitches (like knit front and back, or lifted increases), yarn overs are created with the working yarn independently of the stitches on your needle.

Knitting patterns, especially vintage patterns, may use any of the following terms to refer to a yarn over - make sure to read any abbreviation lists included with your pattern.

yo: yarn over

yf (yfwd): yarn forward

yfon: yarn forward and over needle

yfrn: yarn forward and round needle

yon: yarn over needle

yrn: yarn round needle

For charts, a yarn over is usually shown as an open circle symbol.

a knitting chart showing an open circle symbol, labelled as a yarn over.

How to Yarn Over

A yarn over being worked on a small grey swatch. The working yarn has been brought to the front of the work between the needles.
A small blue swatch with a yarn over being created. The working yarn is being held away from the knitted piece, at the front of the work.

Working a yarn over is very simple. Generally, you will bring the yarn to the front between the needles, then over the right needle to the back.

A small blue swatch showing a yarn over that's been created on the right needle, and the first stitch on the left needle is being knitted into.

Work the next stitch. This creates a new, open stitch on your right needle. Working the following stitch is NOT included as part of a yarn over.

A small grey swatch is on the needles, with purl stitches showing to the left and knit stitches to the right. The working yarn has been brought to the front between the needles.
A small grey swatch with purl stitches to the left and column of knit stitches to the right. The yarn has been wrapped around the right needle to form a yarn over.

To make a yarn over between a knit and purl stitch, bring the yarn to the front between your needles. Wrap it over the right needle towards the back, and then bring it back between your needles towards the front, ready to purl the next stitch.

A small grey swatch with the working yarn being held up away from the swatch, in front of the work.
A small grey swatch where the working yarn between the needles has been wrapped around the right needle, from the front to the back. The yarn is now being held between the needles, at the front of the work.

If your yarn is already in the front because you are purling, simply bring the yarn over the right needle. If the next stitch will be purled, the yarn should wrap completely around the right needle and back to the front of the work.

A small grey swatch where a yarn over has been formed on the right needle, and the next stitch is now being purled.

You can then purl the next stitch on the left needle. If the next stitch is a knit stitch the working yarn should stay in the back of the work.

A small grey swatch of knit stitches, still on the needles. In the middle of the row a yarn over has been formed with the right leg of the yarn over mounted at the front.

This is a standard yarn over, where the leading leg of the stitch on the right. Reverse yarn overs, in which the leading leg of the stitch is on the left, are also used in some circumstances (see Deep Dive below).

A small grey swatch with a yarn over being worked, the working yarn is held at the front and wrapped around the index finger of the knitter's right hand.
A yarn over that has been formed on a previous row of a pale grey swatch is being worked by purling into it.

When you work into the yarn over on the next row, simply knit or purl the yarn over in the standard manner. Working into the stitch stabilizes it, creating an eyelet.

Multiple yarn overs

A small grey swatch being worked. Mid row the yarn has been wrapped around the right needle twice.
A small grey swatch with a double yarn over on the right needle. The next stitch on the left needle is being knitted.

Double yarn overs (yo2, yo twice) are used to create a larger eyelet or elongated strands of yarn for patterns. Wrap the yarn around the right needle in the same direction as above, as many times as needed. Double yarn overs are usually worked as (k1, p1) or (p1, k1) on the following row to maintain the stitch count, or one wrap may be dropped off the needle to create an elongated stitch.

Deep Dive: Closed and Reversed Yarn Overs

A small blue swatch showing a yarn over created on the previous row about to be worked. The yarn is held at the back.
A small blue swatch showing a yarn over that was made in the previous row being worked into, through the back loop of the stitch.

We’ve mostly been discussing open yarn overs, which create eyelets, but yarn overs can also be worked so that they are closed, and do not create as much of an eyelet. The yarn over is worked in the same manner as above, but when working the following row, you work into the BACK of the yarn over, as for a twisted stitch. This twists the yarn over, closing the hole. 

A swatch of pale blue knitting showing a closed yarn over in the centre of the fabric. The yarn over has been tightened to close the gap.

This closed yarn over is a good alternative for knitters who knit tightly and find make 1 increases (picking up the strand between stitches) difficult, and creates a similar look.

A hat in progress knitted in a brioche stitch, showing the yarn overs created nestled beside their corresponding stitches on the needle.

When working brioche stitch, yarn overs are used to introduce more yarn to the fabric, creating its signature fluffy, squishy quality. These yarn overs don’t create eyelets, but are instead knit or purled together with the following stitch. Shown here is our free brioche beanie pattern Daniel's hat - a perfect project for new knitters looking to try out brioche stitches for the first time.

Different Yarn Overs

There are subtle differences in how yarn overs can be worked between knit and purl stitches. Since the yarn is already in the front of the work when purling, the yarn over created between two purl stitches is generally shorter and less open than between two knit stitches. This can be tweaked by working yarn overs in the opposite direction, depending on the circumstances. Check out our post on troubleshooting asymmetrically sized yarn overs to learn more. 

Laura Chau
Laura Chau



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