Learn to Knit – The Purl Stitch

The purl stitch is usually the second stitch learned by beginning knitters. When paired with the knit stitch, it can be used to create all sorts of beautiful textures. For this tutorial, you’ll need some yarn and a pair of knitting needles.

Without further ado – let’s get started!

Setting Up

We start with a set of stitches cast on one of the needles. If you need help with this step, check out our tutorial on ‘casting on’.

To set up for the purl stitch, position your needle so the stitches are all on one needle – it can be on the left-hand needle or right-hand needle, depending on your preference. For this article, we will use all of the stitches on one needle held in the left hand and in the right hand, holding the other needle and the working yarn. Remember that the working yarn is the strand connected to your ball of yarn.

Now, one big difference in setting up for the purl stitch, compared to the knit stitch, is that the working yarn needs to come in front of the right-hand needle. For the knit stitch we start with the working yarn behind the right-hand needle, and for the purl stitch we start with the working yarn in front. So we’ll set up with the working yarn in front of the right-hand needle.

The Purl Stitch

To work the purl stitch:

Insert the right-hand needle into the front of the first stitch on the left-hand needle, from back to front. You might remember that for the knit stitch, we inserted the needle from front to back. For the purl stitch, it’s from back to front.

We wrap the working yarn around the right-hand needle, from front to back over top, and from back to front underneath. You can see that we now have a loop of the working yarn around the right-hand needle.

Holding a little tension in the working yarn, we pull this through to the back and gently release the first stitch off the left-hand needle. Now we have our first purl stitch on the right-hand needle.

Purl vs Knit Stitches

As you’re working along the set of stitches, if you look at the right-hand needle, you can see that a series of bumps are forming on the side of the knitting that’s facing you. These are your purl stitches.

As you finish the row, you’ll see that you have a full row of bumps on the side facing you. If you turn the knitting around, you’ll have a row of little ‘v’s on the other side.

When you work the knit stitch, the side that’s facing you forms the little ‘v’s and the other side forms the bumps. Knit stitch creates the ‘v’s on the side that’s facing you and purl stitch creates the bumps on the side that’s facing you.

This difference is what lets us create a lot of really great texture combining knit and purl stitches. – we’ll talk more about this in the next tutorial!

There you have it – the purl stitch. Give it a try, let me know if you get stuck and subscribe to our YouTube channel if you’d like to see more of Ellevate Designs’ Learn to Knit tutorials.


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Photography by Piotr Angiel