Purling the Night Away

By Emily Vanek

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Purling is knitting's alter ego. Some knitters love it and others loath it. Either way you shake it, it's a critical part of most knit projects. Here we help demystify this basic stitch. While there are many ways to purl, we'll show you the most common.

Just like casting on and knitting, there are a few ways to purl: English, German, oh my! One popular method is the English, or American, purl, which is widely known as the easiest way to learn the purl stitch. Some find themselves switching to the continental, or German method after mastering purling this way, and others, like myself, just keep on swimming with the English method.

purling in action

For the English method, the yarn is held in the right hand, brought to the front of the work if following a knit stitch, and, wrapped around the right needle before pulling the stitch through.

The Continental method is worked by holding the yarn in the left hand. The index finger is then used to push the yarn down and to the right, where the right needle can easily push it back through the stitch. Some knitters find it tricky to master at first, but once they have it down, it's quite speedy, as this method requires far fewer hand movements than the English method.

Once you have mastered the purl stitch, your possibilities of knit designs are endless! Many lace projects are achieved with purling and I haven't met a stockinette on straight needles that didn't need a row of purl stitches. But there is one last method to create a purl stitch without turning your work.

Knitting back is done as a knit stitch, but backwards. Instead of turning your work and creating a row of purl stitches, you essentially do everything you did for the knit row, but in reverse. How you accomplish this depends a bit on if you knit English or Continental. Let's take a look at the English method first.

purling example

Insert your left needle into the stitch, bring the yarn from behind the left needle tip, and push it down between the needles being mindful to not let the yarn fall off. Next, scoop the yarn through the old stitch with the tip of the left needle, holding a bit of tension on the yarn to make it a bit easier.

For the Continental knit backwards you insert your left needle into the stitch, extend your left forefinger to bring the yarn over the left needle tip from the back, and down between the needles.

Personally, I prefer to just purl that baby, rather than try to knit backwards, but every now and again it is fun to try a new method. Do you love or loathe to purl? Leave us a comment below to share!

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