Difference between a Knit and Purl Stitch – Learn to Knit for Beginners – Lesson 2

Welcome to lesson 2 of my Learn to Knit for Beginners Course.  One of the first things we will learn in this lesson is the difference between a knit and purl stitch.

We will start learning about the different knitted fabrics you can create using knit and purl stitches.  We are also going to look a bit more at the types of yarn you can use for your knitted projects.

In this Lesson, we will look at:

  • What a knit stitch and a purl stitch “look” like
  • What is the difference between a knit and purl stitch
  • Four different stitch combinations:
    • Stockinette Stitch
    • Garter Stitch
    • Ribbing
    • Moss Stitch
  • How to count rows and stitches
  • Choosing your yarn
    • Yarn types,
    • What to knit with what?
    • Skein, hank ball etc

At the end of this lesson I will share a simple knitting pattern for you to create your own knitted scarf.  In Lesson 3, I’ll be sharing all the tips you need to read patterns.  For now, I’ll share a video explaining how to get started on this pattern.

As usual, there is a Jargon Buster at the end!

Lesson Re-cap

If you’ve just found this course, take a look at:

The Introduction to this Learn to Knit for Beginners course here.  In the introduction, I shared lots of information about the equipment you will need to learn to knit.

In Lesson 1, we covered the basics of knitting, including how to hold your needles and yarn and some photo and video tutorials of the knit and purl stitch.  Find Lesson 1 here.

Lesson 2

So, let’s get started with Lesson 2.

What is the difference between a Knit and Purl Stitch?

To understand the difference between a knit and purl stitch, lets look at what “knit” and “purl” stitches look like.  I’m using this knitting swatch, which alternates knit stitches with purl stitches.

Knit stitches and Purl Stitches basically mirror each other.  Both stitches make a “bump” in the knitting.  In the Knit stitch, the bump is made on the back.  In the purl stitch the bump is made on the front.

You can see what was a knit stitch and what was a purl stitch by looking for the “bump”.  knit-and-purl

As you can see, the purl stitches have little horizontal “bumps” in front of them, whilst in the knit stitch the yarn comes round either side in a little “v”.  That is basically the difference between a knit and purl stitch.  Sounds simple but its a really important thing to learn.  It will help you in the following stitch types.

Combining Knit and Purl Stitches

By combining the order of knit and purl stitches, you can make lots of different knitted fabrics, using just these two stitches.

For example, these four samples all look different, but were made by changing how the knit and purl stitches are “combined”.


What are all these different stitch types?

Garter Stitch

Garter Stitch is made by making a row of knit stitches, then turning and making another row of knit stitches.


This is a stitch which doesn’t really curl at the edges so it is good for an edging piece.

You will probably have found when you were practising knit and purl stitches, that you fabric looked a bit like this when you were doing only knits or only purls.

Hopefully you’re starting to see the difference between a knit and purl stitch in action now?

Stockinette Stitch

Stockinette stitch is made by making a row of knits, then turning and making a row of purls on the next row.


You will end up with all the “knit” stitches on one side (without bumps) and all the purl stitches on the other side.  Because of this, Stockinette has what is referred to as a “knit” side and a “purl” side.  I’ve shown you the difference in the image above.

If you look at most shop-bought cardigans or jumpers, you will find they are knitted in Stockinette stitch.  Sometimes companies put the “knit” side facing out and sometimes they put the “purl” side facing out.  Both work nicely.

Go and have a look in your wardrobe, see if you can find something knit using stockinette stitch!

Note from me:

Stockinette will curl at the edges.


This is normal and there isn’t really a lot you can do about this.  It’s something to do with the different tension that knit and purl stitches have.  You’ll notice that a garment made with stockinette stitch will have another (non-curling!) stitch at the hem / collar / cuffs / edges.  Often this is ribbing, which doesn’t curl.

Rib Stitch

Rib stitch alternates knit stitches and purl stitches on the same row. This is where it starts getting SUPER important to understand the difference between a knit and purl stitch.

In this swatch I’ve made 2 knit stitches, then two purl stitches, then 2 knit stitches again, etc.  This is often referred to as “2×2 Ribbing” because there are 2 of each type of stitch.

You can do any number of combination though.  “1×1 Ribbing” would be 1 knit and 1 purl.  You could even mix it up and do 3 knit then 1 purl then 3 knit again.

Whatever you like!


Like Garter Stitch, Ribbing doesn’t curl.

Tip from me

Ribbing is also much more stretchy than other stitches.  This makes it good for cuffs. In this example below, the swatches (test pieces of knitting) are all knit using the same size needles and the same number of stitches.  Look how much smaller the ribbing one is!


Ribbing is a stitch that gets used a lot so check out this video where I explain exactly how to knit 2×2 ribbing.

Moss Stitch

In moss stitch, you alternate 1 knit stitch with 1 purl stitch. As with rib stitch, this will be harder if you don’t know the difference between knit and purl stitches.  Which hopefully you do now! 🙂


As you will have seen in the video above, in ribbing, a knit or purl stitches will sit on-top of each other to create a “rib”.

In Moss stitch, you will put a purl on top of a knit, to create this bumpy texture.  So If I was knitting something in Moss stitch, I would check the row-below to make sure I knew which stitch I had to do.  instead of matching the purl bumps though, if I saw a purl bump, I would knit.  That is what creates this interesting texture.

Don’t worry if that doesn’t completely make sense to you right now, in the introduction video for the optional knitting project I’ll explain this a bit more!

How to count Rows and stitches

As well as understanding the difference between knit and purl stitches, you need to understand how to count rows and stitches.  This is especially important when you are following a pattern.

Counting Stitches

Lets look at counting stitches first.  It’s easiest to understand in stockinette stitch.  Look at this sample below.  You are looking for little “v” marks.  Each of these is a stitch.


How to Count Rows

Each row is made up of a set of stitches.  Rows will always go across like this.  So this is a row of stitches.


Putting it into practice

So, lets look at this sample. Count the rows and stitches in this square.  How many are there?



Here’s a bit of help, if you’re anything like me, your eyes will play tricks on you!


Hopefully this helps you see that there are 7 “v” shaped stitches and 6 rows in this square.

It’s that simple really!

As we’ve learned above, this is the “knit side” of the stockinette, it is easier to count rows and stitches on this side.

Lets take a look at yarn

There are so many types of yarn to choose from. Yarn is usually categorised by weight.  As we learned in Lesson 1, the weight of the yarn will determine the needle size required.

Yarn Weights

The main weights of yarn you will find are as follows:


As you can see, lace is the finest (and will need the smallest needle) and super Chunky (sometimes called Super Bulky) is the largest you will normally find.

“Extreme knitting” is a thing now, and I’ve seen people arm knitting so you CAN get bigger but for most normal knitting projects you will probably be buying one of these weights of yarn.

What are they good for?

Lace weight yarn is great for shawls

Fingering weight yarn is also great for scarves and shawls and a lot of socks are knitted using this weight yarn.

DK (Double Knitting) yarn is what I would call an all-rounder, you could make most things from this!

Aran yarn is great for jumpers and scarves

Chunky and Super Chunky Yarn is great for chunky knits like winter hats and scarves or blankets. Because you use large needles to knit this with, it will knit up quickly!!

Ball / Skein / Hank / Cake…..what???

Yarn comes in so many different forms,

You can get:


like this drops Lace mix.  So beautiful but it takes SO LONG to knit with because it is so fine!



Like this beautiful Scheepjes Whirl.  Yarn Cakes tend to be very big. This one is 1000m long, big enough to make a shawl using only one ball.  I’m a little in love with Scheepjes Whirl as you’ll probably have noticed from all the posts I make about it!



Why is it all cake related? The Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran that I recommend as a yarn option for the optional knitted scarf project comes in a doughnut shape.doughnut

Skein / Hank

A lot of the nicest (but most expensive yarn) comes wound into these Hanks or Skeins (I’ve heard the term used interchangeably).  The only warning I would give about these is that they will need to be wound into a ball before you can knit with them.  To do that you can use a “ball winder” or you can use two very patient friends chairs to hold for you whilst you wind.

Do give it a go though, there are so many beautiful yarns sold this way that you will miss out if you don’t!


Washable or not?

The final thing to think about is whether the yarn is washable or not. Some yarn is machine washable (sometimes called “superwash yarn”) and some yarn isn’t.  It probably depends on what you are making and how often you will need to wash it.

The Yarn label tells you whether the yarn can be washed and if so, at what temperature.

For me this isn’t much of a consideration because I’ve NEVER been brave enough to put something that I spent hours knitting into the washing machine.  I always hand-wash my knits.

Knitted Scarf Pattern

If you want to give the Knitted Scarf Pattern a go.  This bonus post has details of the yarn and needles you are going to use.  It also has the pattern and a video to help you get started.

Don’t worry if the pattern looks scary.  In Lesson 3, we will be looking at how to read knitting patterns.

I am here to help!

If at any point you have any issues, question, comments, please post them either below in the comments section, or you can find me on Facebook here or here. I really am here to help so please don’t struggle in silence. If you are struggling with something, chances are that someone else is too, so think of it as helping them!! 🙂

Please show me how you’re getting on!

I’d really love to see what you’re up and I know you can’t add pictures to the comments on my blog so:

If you’re on Facebook – please share them on my Facebook page Jo Creates Facebook Page or if you’re sharing them in your own news feed, please tag me so I can see what lovely knits and purls you are making!

If you’re on instagram, please post pictures of your knitting practice using the hashtag #learntoknitjocreates.

That’s it for now…

Well done for getting to the end of Lesson 2 of this Learn to Knit for Beginners course!

You should now understand the difference between a knit and purl stitch and how they can be combined to make different knitted fabrics.

In Lesson 3, we will look at how to read a knitting pattern and some tips on where to get free ones!

EDIT: Lesson 3 is now available! check it out here!

Now it’s time to have a go yourself!

Before the next lesson, have a go at the different stitches we have learned here.  Stockinette, Garter, Moss and Ribbing. 

If you’re knitting along with the pattern, then go check out the introduction post here and get the materials you will need to make your own beautiful scarf to wear this winter!

Thank you so much for joining me! I hope that you have fun knitting and purling.

Jargon Buster

Garter Stitch A stitch made up using only knit stitches
Knit Side the side of stockinette which has all the knit stitches facing
Moss Stitch A stitch made up by alternating knit and purl stitches and “stacking” knit stitches on purl stitches
Purl Side the side of stockinette which has all the purl stitches facing
Ribbing A stitch made up by alternating knit and purl stitches and “stacking” knit stitches knit stitches and purl stitches on purl stitches
Stockinette Stitch A stitch made up of knit stitches one row and purl stitches the next row
Superwash  Yarn A type of yarn which is usually more resistant to washing in the washing machine
Swatch A sample of knitting using the needles and yarn recommended by your pattern.




14 Responses

  1. Oh thank you! I’ve heard of all these different stitches, but I never knew they were just different combinations of knit and purl stitches! Maybe knitting isn’t quite as complicated as I thought 🙂

  2. Mia T.

    Thank you so much! Lessons one and two really have helped me as I’ve taught my self to knit and was tired of everything looking the same (garter Stitch) but with this hopefully i can get some new patterns in!

  3. Nonya Beezwax

    This was so informative. Thank you so much for this! I was having a lot of trouble trying to tell the difference between a knit and a purl stitch. I tried watching so many videos to help, buuut it didn’t click until I came across this.
    The funny thing is is that I actually thought the knit stitch ROW would look different than that of the purl stitch. So, I was sitting there, crying about how all my rows looked exactly the same even when I was using different techniques.
    Thanks again, for lessening my pain. You’re real lit! 👌🔥

  4. Carol

    I used to knit a lot before my stroke, now I’m paralyzed on my left side. I miss knitting and wondering if you know a sight I could go on to relearn to knit again one handed. If not thank you any way. I enjoyed looking at your sight it brings me back to when I did knit.

    1. Dr. R.M. Summersides

      To the lady who had a stroke.. If you Google how to knit with one hand after a stroke. You will find several very helpful videos. I hope this helps and very best wishes to you..

  5. suzy

    Could you spend a moment to talk about the horizontal feature between the st st and moss? Also why the sample is narrower by your left hand compared to the right hand.

      1. s

        Thanks. I thought the picture was one piece of continuous knitting, which explains my 2 questions.

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