How to change colors on a purl row or round

A step-by-step tutorial showing you how to switch colors with a purl stitch using a modified twist and weave method.

Advanced stripes or intarsia knitting patterns sometimes require you to change colors on a purl row or round. And now you are stuck, eh? No matter which technique you try, it doesn’t seem to work for a purl stitch.

close-up of the purl stitch color change
Close-up of the finial color-change as seen on the purl side in the middle of a row

For example, one of my favorite methods to change colors in knitting is the so-called twist and weave method. But if you try to do it with a purl stitch on the wrong side, the results will be less than exciting. Well, the key to switching colors with a purl stitch is understanding that a purl stitch is a mirrored knit stitch. As a result, you simply have to mirror the technique.

right side of swatch with purl stitch color change - super neat transition
The way the color change appears on the right side of the project

Let’s dive right into it, eh?

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Instructions for changing colors on a purl row

a color change done on the purl side as seen on the right side of stockinette stitch

This method works perfectly on the wrong side of a project - either at the beginning or in the middle of a row. You will have to weave in tails the regular way later on. Or weave them in as you go.

Active Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute

Instructions

  1. Pick up the new color you want to join the regular way.

    picking up the new color as normal
  2. Insert your right knitting needle into the next stitch on the left needle purlwise.

    inserting the right needle into the next stitch purlwise
  3. Place the tail of the new color in between where the two knitting needles cross.

    placing the tail of the new color in between where the two needles cross
  4. Cross the old tail over the new yarn.

    crossing the tail of the old color over the new color
  5. Bring the old tail around the new yarn. Essentially you are twisting it around once.

    twisting the old tail around the new one once
  6. Wrap the (new) working yarn around the needle as if to purl.

    wrapping the working yarn around the needle as if to purl - so counter-clockwise
  7. Bring the tail of the new yarn around the needle counter-clockwise and pull it down. This will create a stitch/loop around your knitting needle.

    wrapping new tail of the new color around counter-clockwise and pulling it down
  8. Secure the tails with your fingers and pull the loop through the stitch as if to purl.

    pulling the resulting stitch through as if to purl
  9. Pull tight and continue purling according to your pattern.
    step 8 continuing purling as normal/according to the pattern after the color switch

Notes

You can also twist the old tail around the new working yarn the other way round. It doesn't really matter. The tail will end up looking the other way in this case (down instead of up). So, do whatever you prefer.

I really like this method because it doesn’t create a visible knot and still creates a super stable stitch you can easily knit across in the next row or round. As I already said, you will have to weave in the ends the regular way later on.

Of course, you could also consider weaving the tails in as you go in the next row or round. This will only be an option if your yarn is slightly fuzzy and feltable. For cotton yarn (which is very slippery), I personally wouldn’t recommend it.

Important: This method is, of course, meant for advanced intarsia projects. If you are knitting a project with reverse stockinette stitch or any other knitting stitch pattern with larger stretches of purl stitches, this technique is not viable. It’s meant to be used on the wrong side.

Anyway, that’s how to change colors in a purl row. Comment below in case you still have any questions.

how to change colors in a purl row - step by step tutorial for beginners

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