How to Use Yarn Overs for Different Situations

Hook and Yarn

Renate Frost / EyeEm / Getty Images

Making a yarn over is a simple way to increase stitches and make a hole in your knitting. It can also follow a decrease, such as knit two together to keep the number of stitches the same across the row. It can even be used to make garments bigger or to add shape to your knitting. Some patterns use yarn over techniques to intentionally add holes as a design element. Strategically used, they can make your knitting seem light and airy.


Watch Now: Easy Ways to Yarn Over

Yarn Over Between Two Knits

While there are several variations, the most common situation in which you will be asked to do a yarn over is between two knit stitches. If you're learning yarn overs for the first time, start with this technique. 

To make a yarn over between knit stitches:

  • Bring the yarn around the right-hand needle from back to front.
  • Wrap the yarn counter-clockwise around the needle.
  • Take the yarn to the back before knitting the next stitch.
yarn over knit stitches
The Spruce / Sarah E. White

Yarn Over Between Two Purls

Creating a yarn over between two purl stitches isn't any harder than yarning over between two knits, but you won't see it called for as frequently in patterns. It's the same necessary steps as yarning over between to knits—only the yarn will end up in the front to complete a finishing purl stitch. 

To perform the yarn over between two purls:

  • Take the yarn from front to back over the right-hand needle.
  • Continue wrapping counter-clockwise until the yarn is in the front again.
  • Purl the next stitch.
Yarn over purl stitches
The Spruce / Sarah E. White

Yarn Over Between a Knit and Purl

This one is a little strange feeling because you're wrapping the yarn all the way around the needle, but it will feel less awkward with practice. 

Follow these steps to stitch a yarn over between a knit and a purl: 

  • Bring the yarn from the back to the front between the needles and wrap it around the right-hand needle.
  • Bring the yarn back to the front between the two needles.
  • Make the finishing purl stitch.
yarn over a knit stitch and a purl stitch
The Spruce / Sarah E. White

Yarn Over Between a Purl and a Knit

Yarning over between a purl stitch and a knit stitch may be the simplest in theory, but it can sometimes feel like a challenging maneuver. 

Take the yarn from the front to the back of the right-hand needle, rather than between the two needles as you normally would to switch from purl to knit.

A yarn over between a purl and a knit stitch
The Spruce / Sarah E. White

Yarn Over at the Beginning of a Row

Some knitters get confused when asked to yarn over at the beginning of a row. It can be difficult to wrap the yarn around the needle when there's nothing to hold it in place.

All you have to do is drape the yarn over the right-hand needle and immediately make the next stitch. The way you do this will depend on whether you're starting with a knit stitch or a purl stitch, but it's pretty intuitive once you try it.

A yarn over at the beginning of a purl row
The Spruce / Sarah E. White