The Purl Stitch

by Sally Melville

The second volume in The Knitting Experience series, The Purl Stitch introduces the beginning knitter to the flip side of the knit stitch. It begins by giving the reader an overview of how to pick up the purl stitch (no pun intended) and then, before actually describing the technique of purling, presents a brief photo gallery of the patterns that are presented later on in the book. I like this as a motivational technique; it gives you an idea of what you will be able to accomplish once you’ve learned the techniques that are about to be presented.

After the gallery of finished objects, she dives into the actual physics of making a purl stitch. This Basic Skills section presents both left- and right-hand purling techniques as well as the somewhat obscure “Portuguese purl” where the yarn is tensioned by carrying it around the knitter’s neck. I’ve never tried this technique but I like the fact that she included it, just for completeness’ sake. She also packs in several essential skills such as working selvedge, seaming, binding off, working increases and decreases, and a variety of garment joining techniques. All this is covered with detailed descriptions and clear photographs and illustrations in the first 27 pages.

After that, she provides another overview of her technical notation (introduced in The Knit Stitch) which is used to present every pattern in the book. From there on out, the book is almost entirely patterns. There are directions for shawls, pullovers, cardigans, mittens, hats, socks and wraps. Any knitter should be able to find something in this book that they’d like to make for themselves or a loved one.

Between the patterns, Ms. Melville has inserted some short essays called Meditations, kind of like the conversational passages in Elizabeth Zimmerman’s books. In these Meditations she ruminates on a variety of topics that come to her when she’s working on her projects or just reflecting on the craft of knitting in general. One of my favorites was entitled, “Why don’t more guys get this?”

In each chapter she also provides brief descriptions of additional skills that the new patterns call for beyond the basics, such as grafting (for the toes of socks) and making i-chord.

After all the patterns have been presented, there are two brief chapters on making good choices in planning out a garment and fixing common mistakes. Both these chapters are referred to frequently in sidebar notes throughout the book. Then a series of appendices wrap up technical information about the yarns, suppliers, and techniques used throughout the book. Any beginning knitter would do well to photocopy the techniques appendix and keep it with them for easy reference as they work on their first projects.

This book has been on my night-stand for the past couple of weeks as I tackled my first pair of socks, which are the Simple Socks pattern from chapter 5.

Like The Knit Stitch, I think The Purl Stitch is an excellent book for anyone who is either a beginning knitter or who is teaching new knitters. It’s very thorough, very clear, and merges basic skills with applied practice very nicely.