The Purl Stitch

Two Ways of Purling It

Last Updated 05-08-2023

The PURL STITCH is one of the two major stitches in knitting. There are a few different ways of purling this stitch.   The first thing you will notice in the photo below is that the purl stitch looks very similar to the knit stitch or garter stitch.  Because of this similarity, if you want this sort of look you would be using the garter stitch.  

Purl stitches are generally used with knit stitches to create interesting textures which we will explore below.

Let's consider two major of them:

  1. Variant #1. Should be used for the knit stitch knitted through the front loop This combination of the purl and knit stitch is a classical and the most often used way of knitting.

  2. Variant #2 (or Granny's PURL STITCH) should be combined with a knit stitch knitted through the back loop . This variant is recommended for knitting of the stockinette fabric since it comes out more dense and better quality to compare to Variant # 1. But it is not recommended for the lacy patterns.

What will happen if you blend the methods you knit and purl not the way recommended above? Nothing terrible actually. It will still be knitting/purling, but the quality of the knitted fabric will be slightly different. It is still not a bad idea to follow recommendations given above, if you really care about good quality of fabric for your project.

Let's compare these two pictures below, to understand difference between them. The position of the loops on the left needles for both Variants is the same: Front loop is ON THE TOP of needle while back loop is BEHIND the needle. Completely different picture is on the right needles.

Variant # 1. Front loop is ON THE TOP of the needle while back loop is BEHIND the needle. Nothing has being changed when we moved stitches from the  left needle to the right one.

Variant # 2. Front loop is BEHIND the  needle while back loop is ON THE TOP the needle. The way we knitted stitches in this case change position of the loops to  opposite.

Methods to knit purl stitch.

 Variant # 1. (knit stitch through the front loop)

1. Yarn is on the front side of the left needle.

2. Insert the right needle from right to left in the first loop on the left needle behind the working yarn.

3. Wrap the yarn counterclockwise, and draw the new loop in through to the back.

4. Drop off the old loop.

Variant # 2. (knit stitch through the back loop)

1. Yarn is on the front side of the left needle.

2. Insert the right needle from right to left in the first loop on the left needle on the working yarn.

3. By the end of the right needle pool the working yarn through the loop.

4. Drop off the old loop.

Here is a video which demonstrates Variant #1 of purling a stitch. In this case a knit stitch is knitted through the front loop.  A knitter uses continental style of knitting. For the American / English style of knitting everything will EXACTLY be the same, but a working yarn has to be supplied by the right hand.

As usual, the  very same result can be achieved in a few different ways. Here is another video (not the greatest quality unfortunately) which  also demonstrates Continental knitting with knit stitch  worked through the front loop and for Variant # 1 purling. 

I prefer this method since it is much more ergonomic to compare to the previous video. Besides that it is much faster because you are making fewer movements per  each stitch.

The more knitting experience you gain, the more methods of making a purl and a knit stitch you will learn. But two Variants described here is a good start. Sometimes blending both these variants creates very interesting decorative effects.

Stockinette Stitch

The most common way that the purl stitch is combined with the knit stitch is to create the stockinette stitch.  This stitch pattern is created by working one row of knit stitches and then working one row of purl stitches.  These two rows are then worked alternately creating a solid soft textured fabric that is good for a wide variety of projects.  Here is an example of the stockinette stitch.

The yellow stitches are the rows of purl stitches.  The blue portion is both knit and purl.  (One row knit, one row purl and then repeated.)

Learn more about the stockinette stitch.

Stockinette stitch vs purl stitch

More Ideas

There are more variations for the purl stitch than I have room to show on this page.  Please check on my knit stitches for more ideas.

I'll just mention one more,  a twisted stitch produced by blending these two Variants is a way to avoid the holes along the raglan lines while knitting a top-down seamless sweater.

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About Janice

Hi, I’m Janice, the voice behind Smart-Knit-Crocheting. I love to knit and crochet and even more, I love teaching others what I know.

Though I learned to knit and crochet as a child, I didn’t get serious about these amazing hobbies until I retired. I’m a certified knit and crochet instructor through the Craft Yarn Council and am working on becoming a Master Hand Knitter through The Knitting Guild Association.

I’m currently living with my husband of over 50 years and our 7 Shih Tzu dogs.

I love hearing from you, so please drop me a line and let me know what you’re working on, whether you love knitting or crocheting more, and if you have any questions. Please visit my about me page for more information.

Happy Crocheting