How to Knit and Purl Stitches: Count Tension and Gauge in Knitting
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How to Knit and Purl Stitches: Count Tension and Gauge in Knitting

At its core, knitting is an elegant dance of needles and yarn. It begins with mastering two fundamental stitches: the knit and the purl. These stitches form the backbone of countless patterns and designs. In this article, we’ll explore these basic stitches and understand the critical concepts of tension and gauge, ensuring your knitting projects look elegant, superb, and fit perfectly.

The Knit Stitch: The Foundation of Knitting

The knit stitch is the most basic and commonly used stitch in Knitting. Here’s how you can make it:

  1. Casting On: Before you knit, you need to get your yarn on the needle, known as casting on. There are various methods, but the long-tail cast-on is a great place to start.
  2. The Knit Stitch:
  • Hold the needle with cast-on stitches in your left hand and the empty needle in your right.
  • Insert the right needle from left to right into the first stitch on the left needle.
  • Make sure to wrap the yarn counterclockwise around the right needle.
  • To create a new loop, pull the yarn through the stitch.
  • Slip the old stitch from the left needle and keep the new stitch on the right needle.

Repeat these steps for each stitch across the row. Here’s a video for a visual guide.

Knit and Purl Stitches for round shape

The Purl Stitch: The Knit Stitch’s Counterpart

The purl stitch is the reverse of the knit stitch. It’s what gives knitting its versatility in texture.

  1. Positioning: With the yarn in front, hold the needle with the stitches in your left hand.
  2. The Purl Stitch:
  • Insert the right needle from right to left into the first stitch on the left needle.
  • Wrap yarn counterclockwise around the right needle.
  • Pull the yarn loop through to the front, creating a new stitch.
  • Slide the old stitch off the left needle.

Continue across the row. Watch this purl stitch tutorial for guidance.

Understanding Tension and Gauge

The Importance of Tension in Knitting

Tension in knitting refers to the amount of pressure applied to the yarn while knitting, which can affect the final product. Consistent tension is critical to even stitches and overall neatness in your project. It varies from knitter to knitter and is influenced by how you hold the yarn and needles.

Measuring Gauge for Perfect Sizing

Gauge is the number of stitches and rows in a knitted fabric per inch or centimetre. It also determines the size of your finished project.

  1. Creating a Gauge Swatch: Knit a small square in the pattern’s recommended stitch. It should be larger than 4 inches (10 cm) square.
  2. Measuring the Swatch: Lay it flat and count the stitches and rows in a 4-inch (10 cm) area.
  3. Comparing with Pattern Gauge: Match your swatch gauge with the pattern gauge. If you have more stitches per inch, try larger needles; fewer stitches, smaller needles.

Understanding gauge is crucial, especially for garments. A slight difference can result in a sweater being too large or small. Here’s a detailed guide on measuring gauges.


The knit and purl stitches are the yin and yang of Knitting, essential for creating textures and patterns. Mastering these knitting stitches and understanding tension and gauge can help you complete successful and satisfying knitting projects. Remember, practice is vital for any craft. The more you knit, the more intuitive these stitches and concepts will become. Happy Knitting!