Knitting Nuances

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A Pattern for Trappers

I’m a Trapper

You know the stereotypical knitter? The one that non-knitters think of because they know nothing about knitters today. The little old lady sitting quietly at every family gathering, clicking away on her DPNs while she knits an endless number of wool socks? Well, I had one of those and she taught me to knit. My Aunt Lee was indeed tiny, she knit a lot of socks, and she was a thrower, which meant I was a thrower too … until I switched.

After twenty years of knitting the way she taught me, I switched to Continental. I hadn’t planned on switching, but I had always wanted to knit two-color Fair Isle with one color in each hand. I loved the grace and efficiency of having each color flow smoothly from opposite hands as needed. However, once I learned how to pick my stitches there was no going back. The subtlety of the movements were much more enjoyable to me.


Everybody Lean to the Left!

While the knit stitch in Continental is a breeze, the purl stitch is a tad trickier. The needle needs to dip below the yarn to prevent twisting the stitch. If you’ve ever watched a proficient Continental knitter you’ll see they’ve developed an instinctive finger drop for each purl stitch. This puts the yarn in just the right place.

There is, however, an easier way to purl by trapping the yarn against the left needle. It makes the purl stitch just as easy as the knit stitch – no small feat since almost all knitters find the purl stitch harder to work. There’s just one little catch – trapping your purls twists the stitch so when you turn to work to the right side, all your stitches are oriented in the ‘wrong’ direction.

This is truly a silver lining moment. You see, knitting stitches oriented in this way through the back loop (to untwist them) is also a faster and easier way to work the knit stitch! The needle enters the stitch from right to left at an easier angle and improves your knitting rhythm. It’s really a win win. The only time you really need to purl without trapping is when working certain stitch patterns that require the stitch to be oriented in the standard fashion.


This also reverses how you work k2tog and ssk decreases. No need to slip slip to work a left leaning decrease, the stitches are already reoriented. This does mean that your k2togs are now backwards but once you get the hang of it, you can anticipate these stitches and purl them in the standard way.

The Parallelity Scarf pattern includes charts and instructions for Trappers. It only seemed fair since that’s how they were knit.

Here are some relevant links for your convenience:



3 comments on “A Pattern for Trappers

  1. Pingback: K2tog and SSK (Part 2: adding efficiency) |

  2. Terry
    August 17, 2017

    Hi! I enjoy your enthusiasm & creativity! After crocheting for a decade, continental knitting came very naturally to me, (holding the yarn in the left hand & controlling the tension with the index finger is how I learned to crochet), however, like most knitters, I have searched for better ways to continental purl. I am excited about the idea of “trapping” purls & I don’t mean to be obtuse, but I can’t find the instructions on how to actually do the trapping technique. Do you have an explanation or video of how to do the actual “trappped” purl stitch?

    Thank-you for sharing your joy with knitting & your creative ideas & patterns!

    • Laura Cunitz
      August 17, 2017

      Hi there. Thanks for the nice comments. I had a much harder time finding a good video than I thought. Some videos made it look so complicated when the opposite is true. This blog has a graphics showing how the right needle goes on top of the working yarn and traps it against the needle to pull it through. This super efficient motion results in the stitch being mounted backwards which is why we need to knit it thought the back loop on the next row. Fortunately, this is also a more efficient stitch since the right needles enters the stitch from right to left which is also less convoluted than the standard knit stitch which enters left to right and requires contorting the needle a bit.

      Note this does not work when knitting in the round because purling through the back loop is never better.

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This entry was posted on December 13, 2013 by in Scarves, Showy Decrease and tagged , .

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