When is it a Knit or a Purl?

February 14, 2017

Purl and knit stitches are practically twins. When first learning how to knit it can be very confusing to recognize the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch. The back of a knit stitch looks just like the front of a purl stitch and the back of a purl looks just like the front of a knit stitch. That’s just a tiny bit confusing to a beginner knitter. **Updated Post – New up close photos of the knit and purl stitches.

To give a better visual aid, I like to think of the worked stitches as scarves (as in something that you wrap around your neck when cold and has two ends). Stick with me, might seem a little bonkers but it really helps. Meet my friend, Little Bear Pierre in the following photos:

*Knit Stitch*

When looking at the right side of a knit stitch, up super close while spreading the stitches wide, it generally looks like a ‘V’ shape as seen below on Pierre with his bright pink scarf.

little bear sitting on a ball of yarn
Knit Stitch Front – “V” Shape Scarf
See the “V”?

While the front looks like a ‘V’ when turned around, the back of the knit stitch looks like a ‘bump’. Remember that ‘bump’.

back of a little bear sitting on a ball of yarn
The Back of a Knit Stitch – “The Bump”
Up close of the front of a purl stitch
The “Bump”

*Purl Stitch*

When looking at the front side of a purl stitch, it looks like a ‘bump’.  To relate it to the scarf again, this time put the scarf around your neck like a choker necklace but with the ends over your shoulders and down your back so that they meet behind you at your waist. The part of the scarf around the front of your neck looks like a ‘bump’. 

Little bear sitting next to some yarn
The Front of the Purl Stitch – “The Bump” AGAIN!

And now the back looks like a ‘V’. This is one of the hardest concepts to a beginner knitter.  The fact that you do two different techniques to create essentially the same stitch is very confusing.

Little bear sitting backwards on a ball of yarn
The Back of the Purl Stitch = The Same “V” as the Front of the Knit Stitch!

Knowing what each stitch looks like is crucial to knitting something as simple as stockinette fabric and forget about going upward and onward to cables and lace unless you master this skill. Now another time we will talk about how the purl stitch is the evil twin to knit.

If you would like to see the pattern for Little Bear Pierre, here is the link. He was designed by Rachel Borello Carroll.

Want to save this information for later? Save this pin to your favorite Pinterest board!

Little knit bear sitting on a ball of yarn

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1 Comment

  • Reply Michael Catuccio February 14, 2017 at 10:26 pm

    i love this explanation!

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