Knitting Blog

Back to Basics: Learn How to Knit and Purl With Confidence in This FREE Photo Tutorial

We're going way back to the basics for all our beginners to take a look at how to knit and purl.

Beginner knitters, hello and welcome! Knit and purl stitches are the foundation for knitting. Once you learn how to knit and purl, there are all kinds of stitches you'll be able to knit with confidence. In fact, many decorative stitches consist of knits and purls in different orders.

Learn how to knit and purl, then practice until the stitches flow on and off your needles with ease.

Knitting Stitches You Need to Know

knitting stitches guide

Stitch your way to knitted joy with seven essential stitches.Get My FREE Guide »

How to knit

The knit stitch is the most basic stitch. Knit this stitch row after row and you'll find yourself with a pretty garter stitch.

Cast on as many stitches as you'd like (try one of these seven ways to cast on or learn even more cast-on techniques).  The more stitches, the more practice you'll get!

Long tail cast on

Before you get started with the knit stitch, notice how the stitches are sitting on the needles. Do you see how the stitch has two legs? When the stitch is facing you, the leg on the right side of the stitch sits over the front of the needle, while the leg on the left side of the stitch hangs out behind the needle. This will be important later when you're inserting the needle into those stitches.

Insert the knitting needle into the first stitch. Insert it from left to right, and be sure the needle goes through the stitch rather than beside it.

How to knit

The needle should be poking out on the other side at a diagonal from where you inserted it.

How to knit

While you're hanging on to everything, wrap the working yarn (not the tail) around your right-hand needle. There are a few ways to wrap the yarn, depending on how you hold and carry the yarn. The two most common styles are English and Continental. Try both to see what's comfortable for you.

Wrapping yarn to make a knit stitch

Hang onto the yarn as you pull the needle through the stitch, back toward you.

Pulling yarn through to make a knit stitchTake a peek at your needles and you'll see that there is one stitch on the right needle while all the cast on stitches are still in place. How to knit

Drop a stitch from the left needle — that's a knit stitch! Insert your needle into the next stitch on the left needle to make another one.

Keep practicing this stitch across the entire row until you've knit the very last stitch and all the stitches are on your right-hand needle. Don't worry if it looks messy. This is practice, after all!

How to purl

The purl stitch is just a little different than the knit stitch. Instead of the needle going through to the back of the needles, the needle will stay in the front where you can keep an eye on it.

Insert the needle from right to left into the first stitch on the needle.

Starting a purl stitch

Wrap the working yarn around the needle.

Wrapping yarn to knit a purl stitch

Pull that wrap through the stitch.

Purling stitch in progress

Drop the stitch from the left needle.

One purl stitch

Work your way across the row, purling each stitch. All the stitches on the left needle will be transferred to the right needle.

If you continue alternating knit and purl rows — knitting on the right side and purling on the wrong side — then you'll make stockinette stitch, which looks something like this:

Stockinette stitch knitting swatch

Which is easier: knit or purl?

The debate over which stitch is easier will never end. Some knitters say they prefer the knit stitch, while others prefer the purl. There are many factors that could determine your choice, like which hand is your dominant hand or which stitch seems faster to you.

Chances are, after practicing your knitting for a while, you'll soon have a favorite without even realizing it.

Knitting Stitches You Need to Know

knitting stitches guide

Stitch your way to knitted joy with seven essential stitches.Get My FREE Guide »

2 Comments

Eleanor

Hi I want to know how many stitches to cast on for a knit and purl scarf on 4.5 needles

Reply
Ashlee

It depends on what size scarf you’d like.
Play around. Practice makes better.

If you haven’t already, check out ravelry.com

Reply

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