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Hate Purling? With This Technique, You Don’t Have To!

What if I told you you’d never have to purl again when you’re knitting stockinette stitch flat? Is that exciting for some of you knitters out there who detest purling?

Mirror knitting

A technique called mirror knitting lets you knit back and forth without ever purling or even turning your work.

I know. Crazy, right?

The mirror knitting technique has other names, too: It’s also called backwards knitting or reverse, for example. And if you’re a left-handed knitter, it’s possible that you already knit using mirror knitting!

I’ll warn you: mirror knitting feels super awkward at first, especially for right-handed knitters and experienced knitters who’ve been knitting the same way for decades. But it’s a great way to make stockinette stitch more exciting.

Why try mirror knitting?

Some knitters just hate purling. Others are slower at purling, and mirror knitting can help you complete projects faster.

Even if you like purling, mirror knitting is still worth a try. It’s a fun challenge, and trying something new can make you a better knitter. Plus, it can break up the monotony of a project with lots of stockinette stitch, as you’ll work every other row in reverse (and laugh at yourself as you fiddle with the new technique).

Next time you’re working on a project that requires several rows of stockinette stitch, give this tutorial a try to challenge yourself!

Mirror knitting tutorial

Mirror knitting

Setting up your swatch

I’ve created a stockinette swatch here with Cloudborn Superwash Highland Worsted in Shaela Heather. Knit the first row as usual, which for me is knitting the stitches on the left needle onto the right needle.

Then, instead of turning your work as usual, keep everything where it is, with the right side of the work facing you. The working yarn, as pictured above, will be to the left of your work.

Note that this is the opposite of our usual knitting. Usually when we turn, the working yarn is to the right. But since we’re working in reverse and never turning, we’re starting from the left side.

Step 1:

Mirror knitting

Insert the left needle into the first stitch on the right needle, from front to back. Your left needle will be pointing toward your knitting.

Step 2:

Mirror knitting

Wrap the working yarn counter-clockwise around the needle, just as you would if you were knitting normally.

Step 3:

Mirror knitting

Pull the stitch through, then drop the old stitch of the previous row from the right needle. You’ll now have one stitch on your left needle.

Step 4:

Repeat Steps 1-3 across the row.

Mirror knitting

When you finish the row, your working yarn will be on the right side of the work, close to your needle tip. This should look familiar! Every other row of mirror knitting will be knit right to left, just like normal knitting. However, the rows in between will be knit from left to right, just like in our tutorial.

If you flip the piece over, you’ll still see purl bumps, just like you normally do with stockinette stitch.

Feels weird, doesn’t it? The first time I tried mirror knitting, it felt really awkward. But like any other stitch, if you practice it enough, you’ll get used to it!

One tip for knitters who are finding this awkward is to try a different knitting style. For example, if you’re a continental knitter who usually holds the yarn in your left hand, see what it feels like to try English style and throw the yarn with your right hand.

Have you ever tried mirror knitting? Why do you use it? We’d love to hear from our left-handed knitters, too! Is this your go-to method for knitting?

20 Comments

Vi frost

Hi. I am making a ten stitch blanket and found that it was getting heavy to turn my work. I thought that I would try mirror knitting, although I called it reverse knitting. I found that putting the yarn round the needle as normal on the knit row made a twist on the reverse of luck row, (continental stocking stitch), so I started putting the yarn over the top of the working needle. This solved the problem.
I did find this fairly easy, as I tought myself to knit left handed to teach my 7 year old grandson to knit.
Vi

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Mrs L

This is a great stitch especially when you have a large project as you do not need to turn your work!

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Sue Rasted

I call it backwards knitting and use it all the time. It makes it fast to turn heels on socks and easier to work colorwork patterns and designs because you always are working from the right side. It eliminates all the turning for short rows, and baubles are much easier. I knit continental and there is no need to reposition needles, work or yarn tensioning, therefore it eliminates tension issues between knit rows and purl rows.

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Pjr

Mirror knitting is especially useful for knitting bobbles as turning your work round and round is a pest. Even if this is the only thing you ever use it for it is worth learning!!

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Sue

I did this when I tried entrelac. It was awkward at first and became easier the more I did

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Laurie Alexander

I use mirror knitting with color work with lots of bobbins. Not turning the work keeps the bobbins from getting tangled.

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Debbie

Hi!
I’ve used mirror knitting when knitting entraloc.

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Robyn McDougall

I use mirror knitting when I am doing a small amount of stitches ie; front bands for cardigans

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bullet force

Mirror knitting feels super awkward at first….

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Stephanie Neale

I too use it a lot. It is GREAT for strappy things like belts or bag straps (or 10-Stitch Anythings).

It is also great for knitting large, heavy items, as other have described. In addition to not having to wrestle your work all the time, it also saves wear & tear on the right side – I just roll up the item as I go so that the right side is inside and the wrong side gets any roughing-up.

Not that there usually IS any roughing-up, but just in case. There could be. Knitting before coffee has been banned around here.

There are also directions out there for purling backwards.

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Louise Honeycutt

I’ll just HAVE to try that? Love intrelic, so if this would make it easier – WOOHOO!

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Debbie

Pictures would REALLY be helpful…

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Carol Grummett

I started on knitting as a child doing this, I couldn’t work out purl stitch for years. Being left handed I couldn’t get my head round why you had to put it back in the left hand at the end of every row. So it’s lovely to know now I was just proficient in a technique.

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B da Silva

I always usemirror knitting. You just have to practice a little bit and it becomes natural. It is easier to do fair isle and withlace knitting you make less mistakes.

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Lydia

I taught myself how to knit and was getting fatigued flipping work and needles. So I lazily did it this way but called it a typewriter.Because you push the cartridge back.lol.

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Kristina Alm

Hey! I’ve never heard of anyone else using that technique. I actually developed it myself back in my teens because I did’t like doing the purl stitch. I guess other people had the same idea. /Kristina

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John R. Sumrall

Thank you for sharing this article with us! I believe there will be more people like me, they can find many interesting things in this article of you!

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Johanna

Mystery solved ! My MIL was recounting that one day sitting in a bus when she was a young lady, she observed this old lady knitting on straight needles but never turning her work.. she was fascinated and always wondered how she did it, never knowing that it actually was a “style” as such ! We spent ages thinking how she could do that ! So there it is.. lol

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Melanie

Hey Melanie, You can definitely use baby kale in any smoothie calling for regular kale or baby spinach. It’ll work great. If you’re out of celery, no problem—you can simply omit it altogether. For a fun twist and creamy texture, try adding a couple tablespoons of avocado!

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