Knitting Backwards (& Avoiding Purling!)

Posted by on Apr 6, 2013 in Knitting | Comments

There are so many different techniques to learn in knitting. I, for one, am excited to try them all! When I first started knitting, purling was the one thing I loathed. I don’t know why. Maybe it was because of the way I held the needles, or the way I throw the yarn, but purling was definitely the one technique that took the longest for me to get used to. But now, I’ve found out there is a way to avoid purling all together! Enter: knitting backwards.

Knitting backwards is a technique that has been around for ages. It is just as it seems. Instead of turning the work to purl the next row, you can simply knit that row backwards and it produces the same results. Still not convinced? Here are a few ways that knitting backwards can come in handy.

Charts are used in a variety of ways in knitting. From simple patterns to intricate Fair Isle, charts are used to help you “see” the stitches a bit clearer than in the written form. Knitting backwards can help you see your pattern develop along the way as you knit instead of having to reverse the fabric or guess as you purl. This makes reading and following charts a lot easier!

Entrelac knitting is another way knitting backwards can come in handy. In entrelac you are constantly turning your work, knitting one way and then another. If you could knit backwards, this would speed up your entrelac pattern and keep you from getting confused about which side you were supposed to be on.

Thin strips or sections too big for icord, but cumbersome to turn back and forth, like an 8 stitch strip, would prove beneficial for the backwards knitter as well. Another time you are constantly turning your work is with these thinner projects and backwards knitting just might save the day, and your sanity.

So now, how do you knit backwards? After you knit a row, instead of turning, leave your work facing you. Insert the left needle into the loop leaving it behind the right needle.

Knitting Backwards

Wrap your yarn around, back to front and pull through the stitch, taking the remain loop off the right needle.

Backwards Knitting

That’s it! Pretty simple, right? It may seem a bit awkward at first but by mastering the knitting backwards technique, you can look forward to even stitch rows and a new way to spice up a dull stockinette.

Why not try this technique in a new project? The Entrelac Scarf Pattern by Freckles & Purls is a great (and free!) way to test out your new found skill of knitting backwards. This pattern leaves you with a scarf that looks both intricate and complex, people will be amazed at your knitting skills! Lucky for you, it’s actually a simple pattern.

Entrelac Scarf Pattern

Now that you have learned this great new technique, how will you use it in your next project? Do you already know and love backwards knitting? Share your comments and projects with us below!


  1. Pamela North says:

    Absolutely essential if you want to knit entrelac.

  2. sandy says:

    this was really interesting. I am going to try it as soon as I get done with the project I am working on at the moment. I am working with lattis yarn and making earrings and necklaces.,

  3. LakshmiMoorty says:

    Yes , you can knit without turning work. Yes I knitted Entralac 35 years ago. Yes It requires turning work every 10 or so stitches or so and this technique comes in handy. If you Know Crochet, this is like Crocheting backwards. This a fun way to Purl. Yes it is easy to knit but Purling is not so much fun. This way you do need to turn work at all. If you are a British / English Knitter then you Knit by throwing Yarn/wool around the Needle. You learn this with Practice. If you knit European Style/ Continental style this is Easy. Good Tip..

  4. Ellisen says:

    Thanks for explaining the knitting backwards technique. I didn’t realize it was a real technique! Think it could be very handy on very tiny items.

  5. karen says:

    Thanks, wonderful suggestion.

  6. ANNIET says:

    hello, i am a beginner with the knitting, i do not like to purl but your backward purling looks so easy. i hope i can do it. i wrote it down, but it’s always nicer to see it while you are trying it yourself. thank you so much . i am going to try it soon, wish me luck.”


  7. Jade (Sheri'L) says:

    Could this work for those of us who are Knitting Left (left-handed)? Would I just reverse the “right” needle and ‘left” needle directions?

  8. Jody says:

    I am a little confused, well maybe a lot confused :) …so this is the pattern to learn to knit backwards but the instructions say turn? so I don’t really turn the work? I would really like some clarification as this isn’t looking like a “simple” pattern like you said it was

    1. Jody says:

      Oh and Thank you for this new technique and free pattern! Hoping I can get my brain wrapped around how to do it

    2. Sandra says:

      The pattern isn’t one written specifically for the backward knitting technique but is one you can use to try the backward knitting technique. Where it says turn, you don’t turn, use that as your cue to knit backwards. You will knit and then instead of turning, knit backwards.

  9. Carole James says:

    I must be different, because I love to purl…
    It seems to go faster than knit for me.
    I let the right needle be fixed…under my arm ,
    belt, or just propped in my lap.

  10. SANDEE says:

    I find purling really relaxing and i find it easier than the knit stitch
    maybe its because i knit left handed
    Ill still try this trick but doing it left handed may be harder
    Id love to learn to do knitting the contenantal way

  11. Cockatoo says:

    Interesting technique but I found out a long time ago that continental/picking is much faster and easier and purling is no problem. I switched techniques and have always been much happier with that style of knitting. It isn’t hard to switch, just sit down with cotton yarn and start making washcloths until you have trained your brain to the change.

  12. Karla says:

    This technique is so much easier than the other ways that are out there. Now I really will try it. Thanks so much!

  13. Jill Metcalf says:

    I knit continental style. In trying knitting backward, I’m endind up having to “throw” the yarn over the left needle. Any tips for holding the yarn?

  14. Sandra says:

    I love to learn/try different ways of knitting. I discovered this quite a while ago and was told this is the way left handed people knit. I get bored just doing stockinette stitch so “backwards knitting” breaks up the monotony. Thank you for sharing so others can also try it.

  15. Karen says:

    This technique is sometimes useful, but doesn’t get away from the need to purl when doing ribbing, moss stitch etc.

  16. Bernadette Lariviere says:

    This is very interesting. I can’t wait to try it out. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  17. P. Quiones says:

    How do you do garter st in the round without purling?

  18. Selena says:

    I learned to knit reading instructions a long time ago. I had great stitches but didn’t understand what to do when it said turn your work. I finally went into a yarn shop to ask them what I was doing wrong. I sat down and they had me knit in front of them. Looked at my rows and said they were great! But They still didn’t answer my question. Another lady walked in and they asked her to help me. She sat with me and I did a few rows. She was like how did you do that? She said she had never seen anyone knit with both hands before. I was knitting one direction then back the other direction without turning it around. I had no idea I thought I was doing it right. After all my stitches were all perfect. LOL Now I do it when I want to do something quick. LOL