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purple yarn and knitting

Step-by-Step Tutorial: The Purl Stitch
The exact opposite of the Knit stitch, the Purl stitch (pronounced "pearl") is one of the cornerstone stitches of knitting. Whereas the Knit stitch pulls a loop of yarn from the back to the front, to create a new stitch, the Purl stitch pulls a loop of yarn from the front to the back, to create a new stitch.

For this tutorial, we'll be using Paintbox Cotton Aran yarn in color #642 Dusty Rose -- part of the Tudor Garden Collection. This affordable yarn comes in a large selection of colors and is perfect for new knitters. With this yarn, you'll want size US 7 (4.5mm) knitting needles, which is a standard size for beginners. In this tutorial, we'll be using Clover Takumi Bamboo needles.

What We'll Cover:
> How to Work the Purl Stitch
> Purling on Every Row
> How to Practice Your Purl stitches
> Quick Visual Photo Reference

paintbox cotton aran dusty rose
Step by Step Purl Stitch
When you're starting out, it's important to stick to light-colored yarns for your practice. Using dark or multi-colored yarns will make it harder to see the stitches and increase the odds of making mistakes.

Most knitters find that purling is slower than knitting, which can be frustrating at first. However if you're a new knitter, there is a big benefit to learning purl stitches...they're much looser than their knitted counterparts! If you're one of the many beginners who's suffers from super tight, unworkable Knit stitches, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how loose your Purl stitches will be.

To begin, cast on any number of stitches. For this tutorial, we'll be casting on 16 stitches. Hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand and the empty needle in your right hand.
how to purl tutorial
Step 1: Insert the right needle into the front of the first stitch on the left needle; from right to left.

If you've already learned the Knit stitch, you will notice that the needle is being inserted from the opposite direction. Inserting a knitting needle into a stitch from right to left is called 'inserting purlwise'. This is a term you will come across often, when using knitting patterns.
purple yarn knitting
Before we continue to Step 2, let's take a closer look at how the needle is positioned.

If you feel like you've inserted the needle incorrectly, loosen up that first stitch and see if your needles are inserted into the stitch as shown below. If everything's set up properly, pull the yarn to tighten the stitch back up and continue to Step 2.
purl stitch knitting tutorial
Step 2: Wrap the yarn counter-clockwise around the right needle tip.
purple cotton yarn
Once you've wrapped the yarn around the needle, your work will look like this:
step by step purl stitch
Now for the tricky part--pulling the yarn through to the back. If you've already mastered the Knit stitch, this is the same action, just reversed to pull the loop through to the back, instead of the front.

Step 3: Keeping the yarn taut, press the tip of the right needle away from you, through the stitch on the left needle, to bring the loop you've just wrapped through to the back.

bamboo knitting needles
Let's take a closer look at where the yarn is going. In the images below, the arrows are both pointing to the same part of the yarn. The yarn that was wrapped in Step 2 is being pulled through on Step 3 to create a new stitch.
how to purl in knitting
Step 4: To finish your stitch, gently pull the right needle away from the left needle, until the two needles separate. Be careful not to pull so hard that you pull the un-worked stitches off the left needle.

That's it! You've worked your first Purl stitch!

purple yarn
Repeat Steps 1-4 for every stitch until you reach the end of the row:

row of purl stitches
Puring on Every Row
Purling on Every Row
Because the Purl stitch is such an integral part of knitting, you'll want to take the time to practice it, before moving on to the next technique.

The best way to practice is to simply purl every stitch on every row. In the image below, we've continued purling every stitch on every row for 30 rows:
purled garter stitch
If you're thinking this looks an awful lot like knitted Garter Stitch, you're right! The stitch pattern that's created when you purl every row is called Purled Garter Stitch. It's precisely identical to regular Garter Stitch, which is worked by knitting every row.

While knitted Garter Stitch is a staple pattern in knitting, its purled counterpart is rarely used. Though perfect for practicing your purl stitches, Purled Garter Stitch has very few practical uses in the knitting world. It's harder, slower to work and creates a looser fabric than regular Garter Stitch.
Purled Garter Stitch, like regular Garter Stitch, is comprised of two-row repeats. The 1st row and all odd rows thereafter (1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc.) create the bottom ◡ shaped stitches, while the top ◠ shaped stitches are created by the 2nd row and all even rows thereafter (2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, etc.)

Together, two rows create one horizontal Garter Ridge:
purl ridges
How to Practice Purl
How to Practice Your Purl Stitches
There are a number of fun projects you can make using just Purl stitches. Or, if you don't want to work continuous Purl stitches, you can mix your Knit and Purl stitches together and practice knitting Seed Stitch or Stockinette Stitch.

Here are a few Purled Garter Stitch projects to get you started:

COASTERS: A nice small project for practice is purled coasters. While a great way to master your purl stitches, they also create a practical item for the home. Choose a worsted weight yarn in a light color using size US 7 (4.5mm) needles. Paintbox Cotton Aran, as used in this tutorial is a great choice. Cast on 18 stitches and work in Purled Garter Stitch (purl every stitch on every row) until your coaster is square. Then cast off.

SPA CLOTH: Another great beginner project is a purled spa cloth. Choose a worsted weight cotton yarn, such as the Paintbox Cotton Aran used in this tutorial, and size US 7 (4.5mm) needles. Cast on 50 stitches and work in Purled Garter Stitch until your work is square. Then cast off. Roll it up in an organza bag with a bar of pretty handcrafted soap and you'll have made your first knitted gift set!

PLACE MATS: Looking for a fun project to add a little color to the dinner table? Choose a washable cotton or acrylic yarn, such as Paintbox Cotton Aran and size US 7 (4.5mm) needles to get started on your own custom place mats! Choose colors that match your decor, or have fun or try different colors for each family member! To begin, cast on 60 stitches and work in Purled Garter Stitch until your place mat measures approximately 18 inches long. Then cast off.
Quick Visual Purl Stitch
Quick Visual: The Purl Stitch
Use this quick reference guide to help practice your stitches.
Comments (1)

5 days ago

Thanks for the closeups! As a newbie pictures are my friend and I learned how to spell purl. I thought it was pearl. LOL

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