Reading Your Knitting – Knits and Purls

We talk with a lot of knitters at Little Red Mitten, and we often hear that recognizing stitches seems to be an issue.  So here’s a quick mini-guide to recognizing what you are seeing.

If a stitch has a purl bump at the base and looks a bit like a turtle-neck sweater, then it’s a purl.  Below, you see both legs of the stitch (resting on top of the needle) and the purl bump (a frown), at the base of the legs.  (There is a knit stitch worked above it, on the next row.)

In the photo, below left, you see a purl, too, with another purl worked directly above it.

In the photo of purl stitches, below right, the purl bump is up close to the stitch on the needle.  The purl stitch is the loop over the needle plus the turtle-neck bump snugged up to it.  (That is why you also need to count the loops on your needle when you count your rows!)

In the photo below, the stitch that has its two legs resting on top of the needle is a knit – we know this because the stitch has no purl at the base (it’s hiding on the other side of the fabric!)  A knit looks like a V-neck sweater.knit stitch

And the thing that sometimes confuses people is the stitch directly above that stitch.  Do you see the knit with a frown and 2 smiles on top?  Well, that is also a knit – that purl business happened when the row above it was worked.

To recap: The stitch with the needle behind it is a knit.

The stitch that is one row higher is also a knit.

The stitch that is two rows higher is a purl.



And if you’re ready for just a bit more …

You probably already know that a knit looks a purl on the back …and a purl looks like a knit on the back …so what you see as a purl on the front, may have been worked as a knit on the back!

So that explains garter stitch, below.  Those smiles and frowns that you see on the front, were worked as knits on the back.

garter stitch

Knits on the back, show as purls on the front.  Below, you see the turtle-neck sweater, or more accurately, a V-neck with a turtle-neck at the base 😉  Yes, that’s the purl!

purl garter stitch

And hiding in the valley, is the knit stitch, below.  Just a V-neck with no turtle-neck at the base.  And those smiles and frowns just above the valley, are the backs of the knits on the following row.

knit garter stitch

Phew!  That felt like a lot of words and photos.  If this is new to you, please take your time.  If you think about each photo on its own, it will make sense.  I promise!!!

Happy knitting,


PS. Did you know that garter stitch can be worked with all purl stitches?  And it looks just the same!


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