Reading Your Knitting
It is possible to be a pretty competent knitter without understanding how to read your knitting, but knitting may be an entirely more frustrating experience than it has to be! If you know how to look at your knitting and determine whether the stitch you’re working into is a knit, a purl, a yarn-over, a knit-two-together or a make-one, you will be much less likely to make mistakes, and you will be able to easily “memorize” patterns. In reality, you don’t have to memorize anything or even mark your place in the pattern if you understand how stitches are constructed and can determine what stitch to make next based on those you see below.
Tip 1: Notice that when you knit a stitch, you’re actually altering the stitch below the new one you’re creating.
Here is your left needle at the beginning of a new row. The knit stitches are highlighted in yellow, and the purl stitches are highlighted in pink. The grey stitches on the needle are still indeterminate stitches. They will become knits or purls as you’re knitting the next row!
Now you’re halfway through the row. You decided that the indeterminate stitches from the photo above would become knit stitches, so I’ve highlighted the knit stitches and those that are about to become knit stitches in yellow.
Tip 2: Notice that knitting and purling are exactly the same thing, worked in reverse. Thus, a knit is a purl if you turn the fabric over, and vise versa.
This is the same swatch as above, flipped over. Again, knit stitches are highlighted in yellow and purl stitches are highlighted in pink.
Tip 3: Knitting means pulling the working yarn from back to front; purling means pulling the working yarn form front to back.
This is a knit stitch that you just popped off of your right needle. See how the yarn comes through the stitch below from the back to the front?
And this is a purl stitch that you just popped off of your left needle. (It’s actually the exact same stitch as in the previous photo, flipped over.) See how the yarn comes through the stitch from the front to the back?
Tip 4: If you’re working into a knit stitch, you will see a V shape below the loop you’re working into. If you’re working into a purl stitch, you will see a horizontal bump below the loop you’re working into.
You’ve introduced some purls alternating with knits in the previous row, and you’re knitting every stitch in the current row. I highlighted two rows this time: the current row and the previous row. The yellow stitches on the left needle aren’t knits yet, but they’re about to become knits. Notice how you’re about to work into a knit, then a purl, then a knit, then a purl…
Tip 5: The purl bump is actually the top of the stitch.
Now, you want to count how many rows you’ve completed in order to figure out whether you’re on a straight knitting row or a knit, purl row. You should pull the fabric taut because knit and purl stitches distort each other. Notice that there are two knit rows between the rows with the purl bumps, and also two knit rows above the previous row with the purl bumps. That means you’re ready to work a knit, purl row.