Knitting vs. Purling: What’s The Difference?

Knitting vs. Purling: What's The Difference?

It may not be too obvious, but there are a lot of differences between knitting and Purling. If you are one of those beginner knitters who get confused easily with its distinctions, let us tackle what makes knitting different from Purling. 

The knit stitch and purl stitch’s primary difference is the direction wherein the knitter lays the stitches. You have to enter the stitch on the front left side and exit on the right with the needle behind the project in a knit stitch. As a result, it makes the stitch to lie on the back of the work. A purl stitch requires you to insert the needle from the right while keeping the needle at the front of the work. This action causes the loop to lay on the front of the work while creating a bumpy texture, unlike a smooth one with knitting.

Both Knitting and Purling are essential for every beginner, but you need to know that they work differently. So, let us give you the differences between these two stitches for a better understanding. This way, you know how and when to use each stitch on various projects.

What Is A Knit?

Knit stitch, or what other knitters refer to as the plain stitch, is the most fundamental stitch in knitting. Most of the time, it is the first stitch the new knitters would have to learn first. Knit stitches look like “V” stacked vertically. The back of the stitch looks like the front of the purl stitch. When working with this stitch, you have to start from front to back and place the yarn on the back while doing it. 

What Does All Knit Stitch Look Like?

A Knitting stitch will have a smooth “V” at its base, while a purl stitch will bump at its base. So, if you look at the row, you’d knit the stitches that look like smooth stitches, and purl the stitches that look like bumpy stitches.

What Is A Purl?

If knitting is the first stitch that every beginner knitter would have to learn, then a purl stitch will be the second lesson. Put it this way; Purling is the exact opposite of knitting. So, if it would be more comfortable, understand how and what is a knit stitch, and everything synonymous with it refers to a purl stitch. 

What Does Purling Look Like?

The front of the purl stitch is like the back of the knit stitch. The bumps in the knitted fabric are common from purl stitches. You can form the purl stitch from the back to the front instead of the front to the knit stitches back. For short, Purl stitches look like a horizontal line across the fabric.

What Are The Differences Between Knitting Vs. Purling?

Knit and purl are types of stitches used in knitting. However, these two stitches are essentially different from one another. The key difference between these two stitches is that the knit stitch requires you to work from the front of the fabric, while the purl stitch begins from the back of the material. The knit’s back looks like a purl stitch, and the end of the purl looks like a knit stitch. Simple knitted fabrics are always from a combination of knit and purl stitching, or what they call as a garter stitch. When you combine the knit and purl stitches in the alternating rows, you can form a Stockinette stitch.


Knit – You can make Knit stitches while working from the back to the front.

Purl – You can make Purl stitches from the back to front.

Front vs. Back

Knit – The back of the knit looks like the front of the purl.

Purl – The back of the purl looks like the front of the knit.

Visual Effect

Knit – Knit stitches form a V-shaped stacked vertically

Purl – Purl stitches look features a wavy horizontal line across the fabric.

Essential Points To Consider Between Knitting vs. Purling

  • The main difference between knit vs. purl is the stitching style.
  • In Knit stitch, the needle goes up and down inside the stitch. In the purl stitch, the needle moves down and in front of the stitch.
  • The stitch made using the knit method is almost V-shaped and flat. A stitch made using the purl method forms a small horizontal bar and bounces out a bit.
  • The purl stitch can be called the back of the knit stitch and vice versa. In such a case, a purl stitch will look like a knit stitch on the other side.
  • Knit stitch is significant to make stitches in the front part of the piece. Purl stitch is usually standard on the backside.

Why Does My Purling Look Like Knitting?

Sometimes you will see the instruction in the pattern to “knit the knits and purl the purls as you see them” or K the Ks and Ps. It means you’re knitting the opposite of the line you’re just knitting. In other words, you need to knit the stitches that look like they’re only knitted. Plus, you’re supposed to purl the stitches that look like they’ve just been pulled.

Looking at the back of the row, you’ll see the opposite stitch of the one you’ve only worked. Knit stitches look like purl stitches, while purl stitches look like knits. The backward quality makes the stockinette stitch (knitting one row and Purling the next row) work because the front of the knit and the purl’s back look the same.

To determine if you need to knit or purl a stitch when all you’re told is to thread the knits and purl the purls, you can either look at the last row of knitting and do the opposite or look at the stitches themselves. A knit stitch looks like a simple piece of yarn looped over a V-shaped needle, while a purl stitch has a little bump at the bottom. 

When you turn your knitting project around, and you’re ready to start the next row, look at the stitch you’re about to make. If it’s a V, it’s a knit stitch, so you’re going to knit it. If it’s a bump, it’s a purl, and you purl it. Once you’ve had a little practice of “reading” your stitches, you’ll knit the knits and purl the purls in a flash.

How to Knit and Purl?

These two stitches are an essential part of knitting. The knit stitch is of obvious importance, given the choice of name. So, let us simplify the steps on how to incorporate and purl on a single project.

Step 1: Start Casting On Your Stitches

Just like any other knitting projects, you should always begin with casting on your stitches. Some knitters use a long-tail cast on, but it still depends on what method you are comfortable to use. Regardless of the means that you choose, start casting on 15 stitches.

Step 2: The Knit Stitch

This stitch comes in front of the purl stitch because it’s used more. A fabric made of knit stitches on the front and back is called a garter stitch. However, if you’re going to make the cable swatch that’s coming, go to the purl stitch first. The swatch features a border of three purl stitches on each edge, one purl stitch running down the center between two cables.

Hold the needle on the stitches in your left hand, with the yarn leading to your work’s back. You should feel comfortable managing a needle-like a bike handlebar. Put the other needle in your right hand and insert it in the stitch at the left needle’s end from left to right.

Wrap the yarn in a clockwise fashion. Some knitters like to wind the yarn end around my right middle finger once or twice to keep it under control. Pulling the yarn’s end to keep the loop in place, remove the needle back out of the left needle’s stitch. Slide the stitch off the left needle and tighten your first stitch gently. Repeat as many knit stitches as your pattern requires. Do it again and again if you like it, because it’s a good practice, too.

Step 3: The Purl Stitch

To work the purl stitch, first, move the yarn to the front of your work. Insert the right needle into the next stitch on the left needle from right to left. Wrap the yarn in a counter-clockwise direction around the right needle. Slide the right needle tip back through the first loop and carry the new loop with it. Slip the old stitch off your left needle. Complete as many purl stitches as your pattern needs.

Step 4: Continue Stitching Onward

If you are knitting for the first time, experts suggest casting on stitches and simply practicing the knit stitch until you get its hang. Knitting on both sides of your work produces a garter stitch. Once you’re comfortable knitting, you can avoid accidentally increasing or decreasing the number of stitches on your needles.

If you don’t know which side is knit and which side is purled, look for either a v or a horizontal bump on the row below where you’re working. If you see a v, knit it above. If you see a bump, purl it above. However, once the stitches don’t match up, undo everything and try again.

It might also be a good idea to practice the seed stitch, aka moss stitch, before trying the cables. It’s going to help you switch between purl and knit stitches in the same row. For an even number of stitches, follow the pattern * K1 P1 * for odd-numbered rows and * P1 K1 * for even-numbered rows. For an odd number of stitches, repeat * K1 P1 * but finish each row with another K1. Repeat this pattern across all of your rows. You should knit the purl stitches and purl the knit stitches.

Watch out for the end of the yarn, as you’ll need to move it to the front of your work for each purl stitch, and move it to the back of your work for each knit stitch. If you don’t, you’ll have a lot of little holes in your unintentional “yarn overs.” You can use these accidents to make lace with practice. 

Step 5: Seed Stitch

The seed stitch alternates with knit and purl stitches to give a lovely, textured fabric that looks like little stars. The reason it’s useful to learn cable is that you’re going to have to keep track of where the lead yarn comes from. You’ve got to pull the yarn in front of you to purl, and put it back to knit, so you’ll get a lot of practice moving it after every stitch. 

14 Tips For Reading The Differences Between Knitting vs. Purling

Knitting for beginners may seem intimidating at first, but with the right knitting tutorials, anyone can learn how to knit. However, when you start knitting, learning how to read knitting patterns can seem pretty daunting. These beginner tip knitting will help you interpret your knitting pattern and give you the confidence you need to begin and complete your first knitting project.

  1. Choose patterns based on ability. While advanced knitting patterns are stunning, it’s not to be overwhelmed!
  2. Like we’ve been taught at school, when you first learn how to read knitting patterns, reading the whole pattern first is essential. If you first read the pattern, it won’t come as surprises.
  3. Highlight or circle any vital information, such as the size, color changes, or other special steps you are making.
  4. Take note of anything unusual, any stitches you don’t know about, or a unique finishing technique. If there’s something you’re not familiar with, always put these things into practice first. If you need visual demonstrations, YouTube is an excellent tutorial source.
  5. Ensure you have the right needles in size and even a size above or below just if your gauge swatch indicates that you need to change size. Remember, the needle sizes given in the pattern are only a suggestion and depending on your tension and knitting style, you might need different sizes.
  6. You do not have to use what the pattern designer has chosen when choosing your yarn. Make sure you get the right thread for weight, and you have enough yardage.
  7. A gauge swatch listens to the pattern. You’ll later be thankful to yourself. Having a gauge swatch allows you to practice the stitch pattern when learning how to knit and make sure your finished product is the correct size. Before you start, you will be able to adjust the needle sizes, adjust the tension, or even decide that yarn is not the right choice.
  8. Keep a pen or pencil handy to score notes to yourself, or remember where you left off in a pattern if you need to put it down. You’ll be surprised how the traditional and versatile tool will save you from forgetting essential notes for your project.
  9. Be careful to follow instructions, row by row. Checking out a row as you complete is often beneficial, and using something to help your eyes and mind to follow the exact line you are working on. For example, it could be a sticky note or a ruler.
  10. Recognize that a letter of stitch followed by a number indicates how many of that stitch is required. If your pattern says Row One: P10, K10, you’re supposed to purl ten stitches and knead ten stitches on your first line.
  11. You repeat the instructions inside the notations when you see asterisks, brackets, or when the pattern says, “X times.”
  12. If you have a chart in your pattern, take a moment to become familiar with the symbol key. Some designers choose Right to Left, while others select Right to Left. Always indicate the direction.
  13. Enter the great online communities that will help you with whatever questions you have. Don’t be afraid to open up and ask questions. If you don’t, you won’t be able to grow as an all-around knitter.
  14. Do not be afraid of trying out new things. Work just one row at a given time. Learning how to knit doesn’t focus on the big picture; instead, focus on one step at a time.


Knitting and Purling may have their differences, but both are essential in various knitting projects. Learn these two stitches, and you’re allowing yourself to become more versatile as a knitter. During the process of learning, you must understand how the method works. Then, keep on practicing by applying what you have earned. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes because you can always redo your projects in knitting.

Recent Content