How to purl backwards

A step-by-step tutorial on purling backwards the continental way to stay on the right side and avoid turning your project.

Let me guess? You learned all about knitting backwards but nobody ever mentioned purling. And now you are wondering if it can be done at all? Sure! This tutorial is all about how to purl backwards the easy way.

someone illustrating the difference between normal and backwards purling continental way
Illustrating the difference between normal and backwards purling

In fact, I would say that backwards purling might just be easier than the regular continental purl stitch and it can be a very useful technique when you are knitting a 2×2 rib stitch or a moss stitch and you don’t want (or can’t) turn your work around.

Let’s dive right into it and show you how it’s done the continental way.

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Instructions: How to purl backwards continental

repeat the steps to purl backwards

When purling backwards you have to hold the yarn as usual. And then you have to do everything with your left needle you normally do with your right needle. It's that easy.

Active Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes


  1. Bring the yarn to the front. The yarn stays wrapped around your left hand the way you prefer.

    holding the yarn and needles as normal even though it's backward purling
  2. Insert your left needle into the first stitch on the right needle coming through the back.

    insert left needle into first stitch from behind
  3. Use your right hand to wrap the working yarn around the left needle counter-clockwise.

    wrapping the yarn arond the needle counter-clockwise
  4. Pass the stitch over the yarn using your right needle. So you are bringing the right needle towards the front. Then drop the stitch off the needle.

    passing the stitch over the needle and dropping it
  5. Slide the resulting reverse purl stitch to the middle of the needle and make sure it's not too tight.

    slide the finished reverse purl stitch towards the center of the left needle
  6. Repeat steps 2-5 over and over again to purl backwards.

    repeat the steps to purl backwards

It can take a while to get used to this way of throwing the yarn instead of picking it through. And you probably will have to practice a lot so you can maintain an even tension to achieve a uniform stitch definition.

As a rule of thumb, I would probably only purl backwards on the wrong side if there aren’t any large stretches you need to cover. Otherwise, turning the work around and knitting regular knit stitches will probably be easier and faster as a continental knitter.

And that’s actually something to keep in mind: You can turn around the work mid-row as well. You don’t have to finish the row.

Anyway, that’s how to purl backwards the continental way. Please, comment below if you still have any questions.

how to purl backwards the continental way - step by step for beginners

1 thought on “How to purl backwards”

  1. I watched your video on knitting backwards and found it very helpful, although I choose to lift the yarn over with my left hand (the way I would if I were knitting English style). I think I’ll try that for purling as well, as long as that’s what I do on the right side (it’s an entrelac blanket).
    The tension is a tad tight, but the needles are too large so it works, lol!


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