Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

AKC: Ravelry’s Impact on the Language of Knitters

AKC: Ravelry’s Impact on the Language of Knitters

Katherine Korth

Knitters have specialized language to communicate with each other about knitting.  Using concepts by Asif Agha and M. A. K. Halliday, I explore how the internet, especially, has transmitted and changed knitting language.  Knitters have long been using the internet to communicate, but Ravelry, founded in 2007, has provided a central database for knitters to share their projects, research yarns and patterns, and communicate on discussion boards.  Ravelry has over three million users who generate tens of thousands of discussion board posts daily.  In my study, I divided knitting terminology into two categories: technical knitting terms and jargon.  Technical knitting terms tend to be transmitted through pattern instructions in books and magazines or as single patterns on a webpage or in PDF form.  These terms are generally abbreviated (k2tog means “knit two together”).  Other language related to knitting, what I call jargon, appears to be transmitted and created through online interactions.  In order to test this, I researched the etymology of knitting jargon and technical terms, and I tracked discussion board posts on Ravelry to see how frequently knitting vocabulary is used.  I also created an anonymous survey for Ravelry users and asked them how long they have been knitting, how they learned to knit, from where they learned knitting vocabulary, and to list any words learned on Ravelry.  I received 351 responses from knitters who have been knitting from a range of six months to 75 years.  A few knitters mentioned displeasure at the exclusivity of what they perceive to be new knitting vocabulary on Ravelry, but my results suggest that almost all of these words have been used for decades at least.  While Ravelry is responsible for greater transmission and enregisterment of knitting jargon, it is not a place where new knitting vocabulary is coined.

Read full essay (PDF)

April 15, 2013 - Posted by | abstract


  1. I am really interested in this, as I have just started knitting in earnest in the past year and recently joined ravelry!

    Comment by C.A. Donnelly | April 15, 2013 | Reply

  2. As a knitter who finds language fascinating, I would love to read this paper!

    Comment by Hazel Hatch | April 15, 2013 | Reply

  3. Wow, I’m so glad someone has studied this! I’ve definitely noticed the increase in the amount of jargon used by Ravelry users (and been annoyed by it), but I wasn’t clear on where it was all coming from. It completely makes sense that it would be due to spread of existing terms.

    Comment by Jinian | April 15, 2013 | Reply

  4. This is very interesting and I would also be very keen to read it. i would be interested to know if there are any differences in the use or perceptions of jargon that are distinct to any particular subgroups of Ravelry, as it is such a large and diverse community of knitters.

    Comment by H. (Heather) Hatch | April 15, 2013 | Reply

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