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Beginner Knitting: How to Knit the Knit and Purl Stitches

Basic Knitting Stitches

Knitting Methods

Knitting is the art of creating a fabric by using yarn to make consecutive rows of interlocking loops. These interlocking loops are called ‘stitches’.  The active or working stitches are held on a needle in the left hand.  The right-hand holds the working needle.

There are different ways to hold the yarn and needles. In the ‘English’ or ‘American’ method, also called throwing,  the yarn is controlled and ‘thrown’ (looped) with the right hand to create stitches. In ‘Continental’ or ‘German’ knitting, also called picking, the yarn is controlled in the left hand and the stitches are made by ‘picking’ loops off the left needle with the needle held in the right hand.

Some knitters consider the Continental method to be faster because there is less motion. Also, since the yarn is controlled in the left hand, this method may be a little easier for left-handed knitters and somewhat more difficult for right-handed ones. However, I am a right-handed knitter and find the Continental method easier than the English method.  Thus, all knitting tutorials shown on this website are done in the Continental style and you should try both methods to find the one that works best for you.

There are two basic knitting stitches, the ‘knit’ stitch and the ‘purl’ stitch.   Once you know these stitches, you’ll be able to make almost any combination of stitches.  If you use only one of these basic stitches for every stitch of the fabric you are creating, it is called a garter stitch.

The Knit Stitch

The knit stitch is the first stitch that I learned and I created my first two prayer shawls from a garter stitch of the knit stitch.

The knit stitch is produced by inserting the working needle through the bottom of an existing active loop and pulling a new loop down and through the first loop with the yarn in the back.   This is called ‘working through the back loop’.  Knit stitches look like a “V” stacked vertically.

The Purl Stitch

The purl stitch is the second stitch I learned, but I did not create anything using just the purl stitch.

The purl stitch creates a wavy horizontal line across the fabric, but if you look at it from reverse side, it looks exactly like the knit stitch.  It is created by inserting the working needle from the top of an existing active loop, with your yarn in the front, and pulling a new loop up and through the first stitch. This is called ‘working through the front loop’.

The texture and pattern of a knitted fabric is created by combining kit or purled stitches and changing whether the stitch is worked through the front or back loops.  This literally creates an infinite number of stitch and pattern possibilities!

If you are struggling with the Continental method, has tutorials on how to knit and purl in the English style.  Be sure to check out both methods for holding the yarn and needles so you can find the technique that suits you best and get started knitting!

Until next time… Happy Knitting!

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