01 of 03
Picking Up the Loop
The purl stitch is sometimes thought of as the opposite of a knit stitch. The purl stitch is yin, the dark, shady hillside, to the knit stitch's yang, the bright, flat open space.
It might seem like a strange metaphor, but it's actually pretty accurate. Even the look of the knit and purl stitches bear this out: the purl stitch is a raised loop, while the knit stitch is a flat half-V.
When you look at something made in Garter Stitch you see the bumps and flat spaces clearly, even though you performed the same knit stitch over and over. That's because the "front" and "back" of a knit stitch look different – the back of a knit stitch looks the same as a purl stitch.
They really are two parts of the same whole, just like yin and yang. The steps for purling are the same as when making a knit stitch, but the form is different.
This is the method for purling in what's known as the English style, sometimes also called American or throwing, where the yarn is held in the right hand. You can also hold the yarn in the left hand; that is known as continental style.
Just like when forming the knit stitch, your first step when making a purl stitch is to open or pick up the first loop on the needle, which is again in your left hand while the empty needle is in your right.
The difference this time is that the working yarn should be in front of the needle instead of behind, and instead of going into the loop from front to back, you go from back to front.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
02 of 03
Taking the Yarn Over
Once you have the right-hand needle through the first loop on the left-hand needle, you need to take the working yarn over the right-hand needle, just like you did to make a knit stitch.
The difference, again, is that the yarn is in the front of the work instead of the back when you make the stitch. The yarn is still looped over the work counter-clockwise, starting at the bottom of the stitch and looping around so it is back in front of the needle when you are finished.
Make sure the working yarn has gone between the two needles when you do this, as that makes the new stitch that will go on the right-hand needle.Continue to 3 of 3 below.
03 of 03
Front to Back
As with the knit stitch, the needles now need to switch places in order for you to move the loop off the left-hand needle and onto the right-hand needle, but this time the right-hand needle needs to go from front to back instead of back to front.
The task is performed in exactly the same way: just slide the right-hand needle back so the loop comes close to the tip of the needle. As the needle is about to slide past the left-hand needle, give it a little push to help it move to the back.
Make sure at this point that the original loop is still on the left-hand needle, the new loop is on the right-hand needle, and the working yarn is in the front.
Then slide the loop off the left-hand needle and you've completed one purl stitch.
Once you've completed your first stitch, continue in that manner to finish the row. If your next row is to be knit instead of purled, remember to take the yarn back to the back of the work before beginning.
Now that you know both how to knit and purl you can start making some really wonderful simple projects. The great thing about knitting is you can go very far only knowing the knit stitch and the purl stitch. There are all sorts of really intricate patterns that can be made by correctly combining these two basic stitches.
And of course, the most common knitting fabric out there is Stockinette Stitch, which is made just by knitting one row and purling on.