Hit it, Purl!

It seems like there have been a lot of anti-purl sentiments made recently, so I thought these might be helpful:


For Pickers (you know who you are) learning the Norwegian purl makes things much faster. This is really good for ribbing or other patterns with lots of switching. DO keep in mind that this results in a looser purl stitch, which you can either tighten as they are made, or just learn to work with a fun new gauge.


If you have ever bought a Drops pattern book, there is a note in the front about the stitch gauge being looser because of their wacky purl stitch - I believe this is this is the stitch they are using.  Norwegian Purl


Another option is to learn to do it both ways, like a typewriter.


For a wide bit of stockenette I will often pick right-handed for the knits and then throw left-handed knits instead of purling. This keeps the yarn in the same hand, and alternating techniques each row gives the wrists a little break - good for people with carpel tunnel probs.


On the other hand, you may prefer learning to pick left-handed knits and alternate right and left handed knitting.


Just remember to pick or throw so the stitches run around the needle in the same direction as your original knitting (clockwise or anti-clockwise) or the stitches will change orientation. If that doesn’t bother you, don’t worry about it.


These take a bit of practice, but the increase in speed is worth the effort. Once you get the hang of it, you will look like a Tex Avery cartoon. And remember, Purl is your friend.



Chris Vandenburg's picture

Justin, Going to give it a shot.  Chris

"If a man has cream at home in the refrigerator he won't go out looking for 2% butterfat"
............Erma Bombeck

altivo's picture

I agree that purl is our friend. Without it we lose an awful lot
of patterning capability. :)

I was taught right handed and wrap. I learned picking in order
to do fair isle type color patterning more quickly (one color in
each hand, wrap color A, pick color B as needed.) I've never been
proficient at picking a purl stitch, but I don't need to be
since I can wrap a purl row nearly as fast as I knit one. On the
other hand, it means I don't work fair isle flat, but only on
circulars or dps.

None of this ever bothered me until I taught a class on sock
knitting a couple of years ago and had one student who was a
picker exclusively. Figuring out how to explain some things to
him was quite a challenge for me.

In any case, folks, don't resist the purl. Just do it. Eventually
you won't even think about it.

JPaul's picture

Have you read Anna Zilboorg's "Knitting for Anarchists", Justin?  Your post makes me think you have.

If anyone hasn't read it, I highly recommend it.  It's a small book, only available in hardcover and a little pricey at $25 US.  (In the book, she mentions learning to knit left- and right-handed to avoid purling).  The book is about the mechanics of knitting or how knitting works, so that if you understand why knitting works the way it does, you become less dependant on rigidly following patterns and "rules" and you're much freer to make changes to suit you or to skip using patterns altogether and strike out on your own.

Your mention of always wrapping stitches the same direction made me think of her book, Justin.  I've read that for english knitting (throwing the yarn), the direction we normally wrap on the purl requires the yarn to travel a longer distance, so the purl stitch ends up a bit looser.  If, instead, you wrap the yarn clockwise (looking down the needle towards the tip), the purl stitch is more consistent with your knit stitches and this helps solve the knit to purl transistion sloppiness.  Dan suggested this also on the Loose Stitch Problem discussion.

This does, as Justin says, change the orientation of your stitches.  If you know that's going to happen, if it doesn't bother you and you know how to deal with it, then you don't worry about it.  If not worrying about it is appealing to anyone, Knitting for Anarchists is a good place to start.

I must be in the minority, because I really don't mind purling at all.  I work by throwing the yarn with my right hand, and can get into a rhythm while purling that is almost as fast as knitting, though speed really isn't a big concern for me. However, purling through the back loop is something I will do absolutely anything to avoid.

drmel94's picture

I'm a picker, but for purling, I tension the yarn between my thumb and forefinger, which keeps my purl stitches from being too loose. If anything, I have to make a point of keeping my stitches (knit & purl) looser to avoid aggravating my wrists, which means I usually have to go down in needle size to obtain gauge for almost any given project.

"Hatred does not end by hatred; hatred ends by love. This is the eternal law." - Buddha