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How to Knit Backwards

Roses are red, purling is outdated. I tried mirror knitting and I didn't hate it.

Updated February 26, 2019
Knitting Backwards

Imagine hating purling so much that you feel the need to learn how to knit backwards just to avoid it. Now, nobody likes purling, and if you do, you're like a knitting unicorn, but very few will go out of their way to learn how to actively avoid it. Sure, you could work mainly in garter stitch or just knit in the round and steek anything that's supposed to be flat (eek!), but there's another way that people tell the purling demon "not today:" knitting backwards. No, when I say "knitting backwards," I don't mean "tinking." That's undoing your knitting. When you knit backwards, you take on a different style to knit in the opposite direction you usually do, which achieves a purl on the other side. That's right: people entirely upend the knitting style they've perfected over years, knitting from left to right like absolute heathens, because purling is moderately annoying.

I decided to learn how to knit backwards, otherwise known as "mirror knitting," to see what all the fuss is about, and I fear that I may actually like it. Does that mean I'm never going to purl again? No, it doesn't seem worth all the flipping to knit, say, ribbing in the round, but it's changed my stockinette stitch game and I'm not mad about it. If you're interested in learning how to knit backwards, too, well, take a seat, grab some needles and spare yarn, take a good, long look at your life choices, and let's begin.

How to Knit Backwards

Step 1

Let's try a stockinette stitch swatch. Cast on and knit one row as normal. I cast on only 10 stitches so I could flip between knitting forwards and backwards relatively frequently and get used to it.

Knitting Backwards: Step 1

Step 2

Don't flip your work over. Your working yarn will be on the left of your swatch, and your empty needle is now your working needle. Surprise! Being ambidextrous really helps in the knitting backwards department. Stick that sucker in through the back loop of your most recently finished stitch.

Knitting Backwards: Step 2

Step 3

Wrap your yarn counterclockwise around your working needle. That's right, just like you always knit. Now, I'm using the continental method in this example, but the same rules go for English knitting, where you hold your yarn in your right hand. In the gif below, I'm holding the yarn the English way. It doesn't matter, as long as you wrap your yarn counterclockwise.

Knitting Backwards: Step 3

Step 4

Pull the yarn through from the back to the front, and slip the old stitch off of your needle. Just like regular knitting... but with the needle in your non-dominant hand doing all the work.

Knitting Backwards: Step 4

Step 5

Finish up your row, and yes, it is honest-to-goodness stockinette stitch and you didn't have to purl once, you crafty fox. Knit the next row as usual, and every alternate row, knit backwards for practice.

Knitting Backwards: Step 5

Knitting Backwards in Real Time

Check out this gif to see knitting backwards in real-time.

Knitting Backwards in Real Time

How to Purl Backwards

I'm going to go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt that you're just working a mostly purl row with a couple of random knit stitches, because if you genuinely hate the knit stitch enough to learn purling backwards, I'm not sure you're human.

Well, you little maniac, here's how you purl backwards to create a knit stitch without knitting.

Step 1

Let's use the stockinette swatch we've been working on in the previous section. Finish up your row of knitting forwards so, once again, the needle in your non-dominant hand is empty and is your working needle, and don't turn your work. This time, before you begin, bring your yarn to the front of your work.

Purling Backwards: Step 1

Step 2

Insert your working needle through the front loop of the first stitch of your other needle.

Purling Backwards: Step 2

Step 3

Once again, wrap your yarn counterclockwise around your working needle.

Purling Backwards: Step 3

Step 4

Pull the loop through, and your new stitch is on your working needle.

Purling Backwards: Step 4

Step 5

Slip the remaining stitch off of your other needle. For some reason, you just learned how to purl backwards. Practice that for a while, if you're a glutton for punishment.

Purling Backwards: Step 5

Purling Backwards in Real Time

See purling backwards in real-time with the gif below.

Purling Backwards in Real Time

Up Next:

How to Undo a Stitch: Frogging vs. Tinking

Are you going to knit backwards from now on instead of purling?

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