Thursday, September 01, 2011

Knitting Day Three: The Purl Stitch and Why It's Necessary

To help explain the purl stitch and why its necessary in knitting, let's review what we've already learned:

To Cast On using the Knitted Cast On Method:

Make a slip knot. Slide it on a knitting needle. Place that needle in your left hand (even if you're left handed).

For those of you who are right handed, place the other needle in your right hand, and shove the tip of it through the loop from bottom to top, and from front to back.

I italicized that, so it must be important....Here's a visual:

Notice how the yarn is behind the needle. That yarn, called the working yarn, should trail back to the ball or skein of yarn you're using. Make sure you're not using the much shorter tail!

Now, swing the working yarn behind the needle and wrap it around the tip counterclockwise. The working yarn is now between the two needles. Using the tip of the needle in the back (the one that should be in your right hand), push that yarn down and through the loop. If you need a visual, go back to Knitting Day One and watch the video.

You now have a loop on each needle. Place the loop you created on the right needle onto the left, paying attention to the little twist the Lion Brand instructor performs as she does so.

To Knit:

Do all the above except do not dump the loop you created on the right needle onto the left! Instead, the loop you were using on the left is slipped off the left needle. This is hard to explain and understand in writing, so go back and watch the video.

I'll continue on because I've already made the point I needed to make.

To Purl:

The purl stitch is the polar opposite of the knit stitch: 

That's right, the tip of the right-handed needle is placed into the loop from top to bottom, and from back to front. Notice the working yarn is now in front. How does that happen?

Before you attempt a purl stitch, you move it to the front. Yes, it's that simple.

Now what?

Same as the knit stich. Swing the working yarn behind the right-hand needle, wrapping it counterclockwise as you would a knit stitch. The only difference, you'll push it up through the loop instead of down. Here's the Lion Brand video:

Another one, with a closer view:

In yesterday's post, you saw what rows of knit stitches look like. Here's a photo of that sample swatch with the knitted rows on the bottom, and the purled rows at the very top:

Don't bother squinting. It really does look the same. So why purl, especially since it seems more awkward than the knit stitch?

The magic of the purl occurs when you combine it with the knit stitch. Here's the same swatch in the photo above, but at the top, I knitted one row, purled the next, knitted the following row, purled the next, and so on:

It's starting to look familiar, isn't it? A closer look: 

Knit and purl stitches are combined to create a variety of looks including the stockinette, as it's called, look above, flexible ribbing, cabling, seed stitch and more. That's why it's important for knitters to learn both stitches.

Now, cast on, knit a row, purl a row and repeat until you've created a swatch one or two inches long. Tomorrow, we'll discuss binding off the stitches left on the needle when you're done.

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