Purl and knit stitches are practically twins. When first learning how to knit it can be very confusing to recognize the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch. To give a better visual aid, I like to think of the worked stitches as scarves (as in something that you wrap around your neck when cold and has two ends). Stick with me, might seem a little bonkers but it really helps. Meet my friend, Little Bear Pierre:
When looking at the right side of a knit stitch up super close while spreading the stitches wide, it generally looks like a ‘V’ shape as seen above on Pierre with his bright pink scarf. While the front looks like a ‘V’ when turned around, the back of the knit stitch looks like a ‘bump’. Remember that ‘bump’.
When looking at the front side of a purl stitch, it looks like a ‘bump’. To relate it to the scarf again, this time put the scarf around your neck like a choker necklace but with the ends over your shoulders and down your back so that they meet behind you at your waist. The part of the scarf around the front of your neck looks like a ‘bump’. And now the back looks like a ‘V’. This is one of the hardest concepts to a beginner knitter. The fact that you do two different techniques to create essentially the same stitch is very confusing.
Knowing what each stitch looks like is crucial to knitting something as simple as stockinette fabric and forget about going upward and onward to cables and lace unless you master this skill. Now another time we will talk about how the purl stitch is the evil twin to knit.