Difference Between Knit and Purl

Beginners who are new to knitting often have trouble with the differences between knit and purl stitches.

An experienced knitter can usually read their knitting and quickly identify and fix any mistakes in their patterns.

Here we will take a look at the differences between knit and purl stitches so that you can learn to read your work and catch mistakes.

Knit vs. Purl Stitch

There is not a big difference between knit and purl stitches. They are essentially the same things. Only they are mirrors of each other.

Knit stitches are knitted into the front and the yarn winds around from the backside to the front side when the stitch is removed from the needle.

So what you end up with when making a knit stitch is a smooth knit stitch on the front side and a bump (purl stitch) on the backside.

A purl stitch is the opposite. For a purl stitch, the needle goes through the stitch from the backside to the front side, so the yarn winds around from front to back.

When the stitch is taken off for a purl stitch you have the bump (purl) facing you, and the smooth side (knit stitch) is at the back.

When you begin to master the basics of making knit and purl stitches, you can combine these two techniques to make many different kinds of fabric.

How to Knit Stitch

  1. Cast on roughly 10 to 12 stitches onto one of your needles
  2. In your right hand hold your empty needle, and in your left hand hold your needle with the stitches cast on
  3. Take your empty (right) needle and insert it into the first stitch of your left needle
  4. Push the needle through the stitch from front to back
  5. Wrap the yarn counter-clockwise all the around to the front of the needle in your right hand
  6. Slide the right-hand needle down through the original stitch so that your right-hand needle should be in front of your left-hand needle
  7. At this point, take the new stitch and slip it off the left-hand needle onto your right hand needle
  8. That completes the knit stitch. You can now repeat the steps until all your cast-on stitches are worked on your right needle.

How to Purl Stitch

  1. Like the knit stitch, take your empty needle in your right hand, and your needle with stitches in the left hand
  2. Make sure your yarn is in front of your work
  3. Insert your right needle from back to the front of your first stitch
  4. Wrap your yarn counterclockwise around your right needle until your yarn is in front of your needles like at the start
  5. Slide your right needle down and move it through the loop
  6. Slide the stitch off your left needle so that your purled stitch is on your right needle
  7. Repeat these steps until all of the stitches on your left needle are gone

It can be a little hard to learn knit and purl stitches by just reading alone. We recommend you follow along with the below video until you get the hang of it. Take your time and don’t rush!


Putting it All Together

Now that you’ve learned how knit and purl stitches are different and how to knit them, you can put it all together to create a few different types of stitches.

Stockinette Stitch

The stockinette stitch is one of the most common types you will be using in your knitting works. This stitch is created by making a row of knit stitches and then turning and knitting a row of purls.

What you end up with is a knit side and a purl side. You can find many finished works are created with the stockinette stitch. The knit side can be facing in or out, both options work well for your finished pieces.

Garter Stitch

A garter stitch is made by first making a row of knit stitches and then turning to make another row of knit stitches.

This is another very simple and common stitch. Garter stitches are usually used for creating an edge on pieces so that it doesn’t curl. It results in a very strong and thick fabric.

Moss Stitch

Moss stitches are created by making 1 knit stitch, 1 purl stitch, and then repeating. Essentially knit one, purl one, and repeating. This creates a cool bumpy texture because of the alternating stitches.


A rib stitch is similar to the moss stitch in that it is made by alternating knit and purl stitches.

However, the difference is that every row is knit with the same alternating pattern. What you end up with is a vertical stripe of knit stitches and a vertical stripe or purl stitches down your work to create this “ribbing” effect.

Commonly Asked Questions

Am I on a Knit or Purl Row?

If you need to figure out what stitch you are on you can find out by learning to read your work. Knit stitches you will see what looks like a little “V”.

Purl stitches look like little bumps or horizontal lines. Take your time and learn to recognize how these stitches each look so that you can easily figure out where you are.

How to Switch from Knit to Purl

The secret to switching from knit to purl is to pay close attention to the working yarn. You will be constantly changing the position of the yarn in between the two tips of your needles.

The position of your yarn is key. Here’s great a video that shows how to alternate between the two.

Closing Thoughts

Knit stitches and purl stitches are something every beginner should take the time to learn to master.

They are different, but essentially they are also the same.

After reading this, we hope you can see the value that learning these stitches has. By mastering these two, you open up a whole world of possibilities on the types of other stitches you can make to create beautiful and intricate pieces.

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