How to purl

Now that you’ve learned how to knit the knit stitch, you are ready to learn the second fundamental knitting stitch: the purl stitch. This is a favorite of ours as it really broadens the knitting opportunities. We love to knit hats, fingerless gloves, and pretty cowls using the purl stitch, and we’re sure you will too. But before we begin, let’s talk about a few differences with the purl stitch.

Purl Stitch or Stockinette (Stocking) Stitch

Like the knit stitch, the purl stitch is a technique and the stockinette stitch, or stocking stitch in the UK, is a pattern. One key difference is that when knitting this pattern, you will knit on one side and purl on the other.

The purl stitch creates flat, vertical V shapes while the garter stitch creates horizontal hills. We like to think of it as hills and valleys. Learning to recognize each will help you identify right and wrong sides in patterns and worked pieces. More on that later though.

Here are a few things to know:

  • Stockinette stitch creates a flat, thin piece that is less stretchy than garter stitch.
  • The working yarn is in front of the needle.
  • The purled side is the right side, while the knitted side is the wrong side.
  • If you purl every row, you create garter stitch.
  • NOTE: When working in stockinette, the edges will curl. Some patterns use this in their favor. If you want to prevent this from happening, you can add on a selvedge or knitted border.

American Style Knitting (or English Knitting)

The style of knitting used in this photo tutorial is American style knitting (or English Knitting). In this method the working yarn is in front and your right hand fingers control yarn tension. The photo tutorial below demonstrates how to knit the purl stitch.

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How to Purl

The purl stitch is the opposite of the knit stitch. With the purl stitch your yarn is in front and your needle enters from above and down. The following photo tutorial will show you how to purl in six easy steps. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Before you begin, make sure your working yarn is in front. This means moving the yarn to the front before you insert your needle to purl.

Step 2: Insert your right needle into the front of the stitch.

Step 3: Carry (or throw) the working yarn counterclockwise and wrap around the right needle.

Step 4: While maintaining tension on the working yarn, begin to slide your right needle down.

Step 5: Continue sliding your right needle down, then into the loop. You have just worked the stitch.

Step 6: Now slide the stitch up and off the left needle. Your purled stitch should now be on your right needle.

Congratulations! You just learned how to knit the purl stitch. You are on your way to learning more knitting stitches. Remember, the more you practice the better you will knit.

Ready to practice your stockinette stitch? We have just the thing. Our free Fingerless Gloves pattern is perfect for beginners and an easy knit to complete. And did we mention it’s free? It is. Enjoy!

Finished your first stockinette stitch project? You’re so awesome. Don’t forget to share a pic with us on Twitter, or on Instagram, #Knitfarious. We look forward to hearing from you!


/pəːl/[no object]literary

  • (of a stream or river) flow with a swirling motion and babbling sound.

    ‘large stones stood blackly in the water, making it purl as it rolled around them’

    • ‘Miri could not imagine there was such a beautiful place as the island of Philae, an island amongst islands washed by the purling waters of the Nile.’
    • ‘The water gurgled and purled, loudly at first, then softly, as a powerful foot-wide whirlpool took shape.’
    • ‘I look out of the window and through the purling drops I can see gutters running with water; I can see the clouds almost black with rain to come.’
    • ‘He sits on the bank and, wretched, stares into the purling water.’

    splash, wash, swish, slap, slosh, break

    View synonyms


  • A purling motion or sound.

    ‘it was quiet except for the liquid purl of the fountain’

    • ‘His hands just purled off notes in all shapes and forms.’
    • ‘A mercurial figure whom Sacco often draws veiled in purls of cigarette smoke, Neven is a ‘fixer,’ a source and guide to foreign journalists seeking access to the front lines.’
    • ‘No. 23 (F Major – Moderato) purls off the piano like drops of water for some forty seconds before the conclusion begins, in No. 24 (D Minor – Allegro appassionato), sweeping, broad, interlaced with runs.’
    • ‘Somewhere in the alleyway outside, cat song purled into the night.’
    • ‘The shadows lurched forward, purling around his ankles like tendrils of smoke.’
    • ‘‘See how easily the white meat slices,’ a dark, rumbling voice purled around the gunner's ears.’

    splash, purl, babble, burble

    View synonyms

Early 16th century (denoting a small swirling stream): probably imitative; compare with Norwegian purla ‘bubble up’.

How To knit: The knit stitch

1. With needle holding stitches in left hand and second needle and main yarn at the back of needle in right hand, * insert right-hand needle into front loop of first stitch from front to back.


2. Take yarn round point of right-hand needle from back to front.Knit-stitch-image-23. Draw the loop through the first stitchKnit-stitch-image-34. Slip first stitch off left-hand needle; repeat from * into each stitch along row. Turn work so that the needle holding stitches is once again in left hand and second needle and main yarn are in right hand. Repeat last row again. The knit stitch is one of two basic stitches in knitting. Find out how to purl.Knit-stitch-image-4

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