Monday, June 13, 2016

Purls of Wisdom

If you had seen my first ever knitting project, a scarf, you would have thought it had been taken onto a battlefield. There were holes all over the places, dropped stitches, picked-up stitches, and one end was around seven inches wide with the other end being about a foot and a half. A close friend, Wendy, taught me to knit while introducing me to the "Phantom of the Opera," and to this day I cannot thank her enough for both. Bless her heart, when she saw my first project she smiled and encouraged me to keep practicing, not a hint of cringing. Then again, she is a smart woman and, after teaching all of her children (sons included!) to knit, she knew that we all start somewhere.

And I was darn proud of that thing. Apparently not proud enough because I no longer have it. Perhaps that is because I made it as a seventh grader in 2004 and since then I have moved a few times and you know how it is. Maybe it is because I finished another project after that, realized how horrid it was, and threw it back into the closet never to return until I perhaps threw it away. No idea but I wish I had kept it so you could see how far you can come between your first and second project, let alone twelve years.

I practiced my garter stitch for about three or four months and then my grandmother said, "Lena, I found this book of knitting stitches and patterns that I had as a young woman," and she handed me a book from the seventies full of cable-knit sweaters, children vests, dresses, and a library of some various stitches. My first look at the book was of cross-eyed wonder and fright. I would never be able to attempt those. Ever! Knitting in a ... circle? Double-pointed needles? I hade size 13 needles about six or seven inches long and some Red Heart Super Saver yarn. Sweaters and cables were not options.

That glossary and examples of different stitch patterns, though... hmm...

The problem I ran into was that these stitches called for this dark magic called "purling."

I can still remember that night. I curled up on my bed with the knitting spell book, some brand new size 4 needles as my wands, and pink yarn as my component. For three hours, I read these cryptic instructions in a vintage book with faded cream and grey pictures and tried to conjure a "purl" from my extremely non-dexterous hands. I failed once, twice, countless times. I knew how to knit - insert the needle, wrap it around, and draw it back through so that the yarn you just wrapped around becomes a new loop and the old loop just falls off. Easy! What do you mean purling is the "opposite?" How can anything be the opposite of knitting save for not knitting? Ah, middle schoolers and their love of seeing life as black and white, right?

If I close my eyes, I can pull up that moment of stupendous joy when I had finally pulled my working needle away from the left needle and a purl stitch appeared, crisply and cleanly on my right needle.

I had done it!!

(Okay, how did I do it? Cue another five minutes of trying to remember exactly what I did.)

I grew up with my grandparents and, being in the early 2000s, we only had dial-up internet. If there were any videos of how to purl available online, it would have taken my computer just as long to load the videos for me to watch as it did to teach myself from this old book, not even counting for how long it would take pages to load as I searched for a video.

The next time I saw Wendy, I told her of my adventures in learning to purl and she was proud and, on top of that, happy that I kept pursuing knitting.

While this memory is precious to me now, I remember my struggling at learning to purl and it would be pointless with our technology as it is today to not take advantage of it.

So let's use this awesome thing called the internet and learn to purl!


Make sure the yarn is in front of the needle and not behind. Insert the needle into the front of the stitch by going "down" into the loop instead of "up" like in knitting. Wrap the yarn around the needle. Bring needle back up through the stitch with the new yarn becoming the new loop/stitch. Sounds complicated, I know.

Here are some gifs to demonstrate:
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See how the working yarn is hanging down in front of the needle instead of behind. Insert the needle into the stitch by going down through it and wrap the yarn around.

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Pull the needle back through the loop with the working yarn becoming the new stitch.

And that's it!

 Here is the process from beginning to end.

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