As they appear

“Work stitches as they appear” is an instruction that we get asked about at the counter a lot, so here’s a picture tutorial to help.

The key to this (and to much else in knitting) is the fact that knit and purl are just mirror images of each other. When you’re shown a stitch in isolation, you can’t tell whether it was knitted or purled on the previous round or row. This’ll illustrate: take a look at the picture at the top of this post. The first three stitches on the left hand needle have their smooth faces facing us. Now we’ll turn the work around:

This is the back of the same three stitches, and their bumpy sides are facing us. Smooth on one side, bumpy on the other. Were they knitted or purled?

Here’s two more pictures. That first stitch on the left hand needle has its bumpy side facing us…

…but when the work is turned around, there’s the familiar smooth V-shaped face (the needle it’s on is in the right hand of the knitter):

Bumpy one side, smooth on the other – knitted or purled?

When a pattern tells you to “work stitches as they appear”, it’s telling you to put a bump above a bump and a smooth face on top of a smooth face. That’s all: look at the row below and keep the sequence going. In practice, this means if you want a bump facing you, purl the stitch like this:

If you want a smooth face facing you, knit the stitch.

It’s as simple as that. The brilliant thing about this reversability of knitting is that you don’t need to know what you did on the row before. You can just look at the stitch in front of you, and that tells you what to do. It’s called “reading your knitting”, and it makes everything simpler! Don’t you just love the simple things?