Recognizing K & P

Another brand new knitter here - long time crocheter! This site has been immensely helpful, after many tries at knitting …

Maybe I’ve missed something, but I’m having a difficult time recognizing the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch once it has been made. I’m playing around with a pattern that indicates “k the k sts and p the p sts” for every other row. I guess I can go to the instructions for the previous row and simply follow it backwards, but surely I should be able to recognize the stitches. Sometimes I think I do, but then it doesn’t seem so clear.

Is there some trick to this that I’m missing? Or maybe my stitches aren’t so good so they don’t look like they should? Maybe someone could point me to one of the instructional videos that will show this … I haven’t seen it yet, but maybe I skipped it?

It is a common question - it took me a long time to ‘get it’ too. Work a knit stitch and then look at what you just did, which is now on the right needle. Below the needle you will see what looks like a ‘V’. That is what a knit looks like. Now, work a purl stitch and look a the resulting stitch on the right needle. Right below the needle you will see a little bump. That is what a purl looks like.

I read a good comparison in the Stitch 'n Bitch book – a knit stitch looks like the stitch is wearing a scarf and a purl stitch looks like the stitch is wearing a noose.

Shout back if it’s still not clear.

If you are knitting one row and purling the next you are doing stockinette stitch. The flat, smooth side where the stitches look like V’s is the knit side and you would knit them. The purl side is the the bumpy side and you purl those.

The backside of a knit stitch is a purl and vise versa. So you knit the knit stitches as they are facing you and purl the purls as they are facing you.

It’s ALWAYS good to know what they look like especially as you get into ribbing and other patterns. Here’s a little sample that shows what they would look like on a k2p2 ribbing pattern. In this sample you would knit the knits and purl the purls to create ribbing on either side.

Try it on large needles, you can see the stitches easier then. Just look at the pictures and videos on the basic knit and purl stitches. Also, the sampler pictured on the Increases/Decreases page is all knit stitches facing. The knit stitches look like Vs and the purls have a bump, sorta like an upside down U. Also knit sts look like purl on the other side, and purls look like knits on the other side. Which is how you get stockinette - by knitting one row and purling the next row.

Hang in there, you’ll get it.


Jan, what a great picture! That would’ve helped me a lot way back when!! :hug:

I know! Me, too! Next to learning to knit and purl it was the single most helpful thing I learned and it’s become almost a mantra when I’m telling people about knitting. When someone posts about having trouble with ribbing I think the biggest issue is not knowing what the stitches look like and that they are the opposite on the back side. Thanks!

This is very hard. I took a class and while I was trying to learn how to just hold my yarn another student was otherwise frustrated. Every row the student had to ask the teacher, “Did I just knit or just purl?”. So, it’s difficult for everyone. Luckily, this phase doesn’t last too long.