How to Purl Stitch in Continental Style (with Slow-Mo Video) for Novices.

Do you fancy yourself a purler? Do you wish to have access to every knitting pattern ever created? If so, this tutorial is exactly what you're looking for. Below, I'll demonstrate a second method for knitting the continental purl stitch.

Casting on and knitting stitches are skills you've developed in previous lessons. By combining these fundamentals of knitting, a wide variety of lovely stitch patterns (such as the stockinette stitch and the double moss stitch) become available.

So, without further ado, I shall instruct you in the art of purling.

A knitting sample in stockinette stitch on the purl side The reverse side of a stockinette stitch sample

Purl, or just a "P" in knitting patterns, denotes this stitch. When you see the notation "P3," it means you should knit three purl stitches in a row. If your pattern calls for "purl to the end of the row" or "Row 3: Purl," you will purl until the row is complete or until you reach the third row.

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  • You can use any yarn you like, but for this tutorial I chose Schachenmayr Catania Grande.
  • Needle of any kind; I'm working with some bamboo Knitter's Pride needles.
  1. To begin, advance the yarn you'll be using to the front of your project.

    starting the purl stitch by bringing the yarn to the front of the work

  2. Right needle goes into front of left needle's first stitch, crossing it from right to left. The yarn in use must remain in the foreground at all times.

    inserting the right needle into the first stitch on the left needle from right to left

    In case you're unfamiliar with tensioning yarn, I've gone into great detail about it here.

  3. Then, beginning at the bottom, wrap the working yarn counterclockwise around the needle.

    wrapping the yarn around the needle counter-clockwise

    Consider the analogy of the clock's needle at its center. The yarn should be wound counter-clockwise if viewed from above.

  4. To advance the working yarn, use your middle finger.

    pushing the working yarn forward with the middle finger to make it easier to purl

  5. A working yarn pull through a completed stitch.

    Pulling the working yarn through the loop

  6. To complete the purl stitch, slide the stitch off the left needle.

    having dropped the stitch off the left needle to finish the purl stitch

    There ought to be a hump at its bottom. That's also a quick way to tell purl stitches apart when knitting. A purl stitch can be identified by its characteristic "bump."

Many knitters on the European continent knot the yarn around their index finger. I see no problem with that. Here, however, the entire index finger can be advanced with minimal effort.

using the index finger with the working yarn wrapped around it to purl

You can also use your thumb in place of your middle finger to advance the yarn. Although I don't find it particularly relaxing, some newcomers swear by it.

using the thumb to do the purl stitch the easy way

Tips for Readers

Purling in the English style, while knitting

This use of a contrasting red yarn is strictly for demonstration.

English and American knitters will find that the purl stitch is just as simple as the knit stitch. Both are simple in practice. How? Read on!

Step 1: Fetch the yarn you'll be working with to the front.

Second, working from the back to the front (or right to left), insert the right needle into the first loop.

insert the needle from right to left to purl english knitting

Wrap the yarn counterclockwise around the right needle, as shown in Step 3.

throw the yarn around the needle counter clockwise for the first purl stitch

Fourth, maintain tension on the working yarn and draw it through the loop.

pull the working yarn through the loop

Step 5: With right needle, slide first loop off and pull working yarn gently to tighten first purl stitch.

the first purl stitch american knitting on your right needle

Repeat steps 3-6 to keep knitting in purl stitch.

wrap the yarn around the needle for the second purl stitch For the second purl stitch, I simply threw the yarn around the needle.

Here's some guidance on telling the knit stitch apart from the purl stitch.

  • To knit, you should always start with the yarn at the back, insert the needle from the left, and wrap the yarn counterclockwise.
  • To purl, you must have the yarn in front of the needle and wrap it clockwise.

If you examine these guidelines carefully, you'll notice that the stitches are written backwards. The only consistent step is wrapping the yarn counterclockwise. That is a crucial insight, by the way. No matter which stitches you're knitting in continental knitting, the yarn is always wrapped around the needles clockwise. Read this to learn the difference between knit and purl stitches.

Knitters, if you want to learn how to purl backwards, you should read this.

What is the origin of the term "purl stitch"?

The wrong side of a stockinette stitch sample pattern so called reverse stockinette stitch The back of a sample of stockinette stitch

Since the 16th century, embroidery with gold or silver thread has typically originated from the now-extinct Scots word pirl ("twist, ripple, whirl"). The stitch reminds me of a pearl, at least in my mind. This stitch is referred to as a "pearl" in vintage knitting books like Miss Lambert's "My Knitting book" (1847).

Simply "left stitch" (because you pull the yarn from the left) and "right stitch" (knit) are the terms used in German. This has always seemed more believable and was simpler to remember for me.

Purling Errors and Their Solutions

(1) Stress and anxiety

When working purl stitches, tension can be a problem for many knitters. Compared to the knit stitch, the stitches produced by some continental knitters are very tight, while those produced by many English knitters are much looser.

When your pattern calls for you to only purl, this won't be an issue. However, if you are combining two stitches (such as in a 22 ribs stitch), the resulting structure may be a little wonky. There are two solutions to this problem;

  • It's true that some knitters A) use smaller needles for purl rows
  • B) Wrap the yarn around your pinky finger once more (or once less) than usual to adjust the tension of your working yarn. After you've completed a stitch, you can make it tighter by pulling on the working yarn.

Second, you can't get the needle through the loop no matter how hard you try.

Inserting the needle from right to left for the second purl stitch

Put your right fingers over the yarn and hold the loops in place if you keep dropping them as you try to pull your stitch through.

Thirdly, you have lost a stitch and have no idea how to replace it.

Your go-to tool will be a crochet hook. You can easily recover a dropped loop by threading your crochet needle through it. Your crochet needle should be positioned so that the little rib (the yarn connecting the adjacent stitches on either side) is facing you. Now just thread it back onto the needle by pulling it through the loop of the dropped stitch.

A workaround should be flipped if the stitch unravels for multiple rows. Then you can fix the errors with some simple chain stitches. If you need a more in-depth guide on how to pick up a dropped stitch in knitting, here it is! A video is included to demonstrate the process in detail.

fixing a dropped stitch with a crochet hook

The Stockinette Stitch, the Next Knitting Stitch to Learn,

How to knit the purl stitch for beginners
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