Norwegian Purling

Update:  My original post from 2007 appears below.  However, to make it easier for users of mobile devices to watch the video, I am embedding a YouTube version here for you to see.  Also, “maske” is the Norwegian word for stitch in case you did not know.


Now, you may not share in the unbridled enthusiasm you are about to witness. If it turns out to be too much for you, I can only recommend that you turn away and mutter quietly to yourself “silly boy!” and go about your business.

You all know by now that I’m a relatively new knitter, though admittedly quite an enthusiastic one. In August while long-time family friends from Norway were visiting my partner’s parents, we got to spend some time with them. I’ve already posted pictures of the marvelous mittens that Berit and Turid knit as gifts for Harald and me. We enjoyed their company so much. When we were up in Lutsen with them, Berit generously offered to help me figure out how to sort a knitting problem (i.e. “knitting problem” read as “Beulah nearly destroyed a ball of wool yarn and the scarf that was taking shape at the other end of it”). Berit is an expert knitter (having done it and taught it for nearly four decades) and went to work and solved the mess in a matter of minutes. What shocked me, though, was the speed with which she knit. So she taught me how to do what I now know is called “Continental” style knitting, and which was once called “German” style knitting, at least before World War II. Having mastered Continental knit stitch, my right-hand numbness issues went away, and I could knit for long periods without any discomfort. And I knit quite a bit more quickly, too.

Now Berit also tried to show me how to purl the way she does, what I will henceforth and forevermore refer to as “Norwegian” purling. I tried to get it, but we didn’t spend much time on it. She assured me the way she purled was the common method of purling in Norway today. After they left and went home to Norway, I looked through all kinds of books, trying to find directions on how to purl the “Berit way” – all to no avail. I searched the web and found many instructions for Continental purling, but all of them were vastly different, and more complicated, than the way I saw Berit purling. I found one video for Norwegian purling, but there was no audio explanation, the video was for only one stitch, and I couldn’t figure it out from that video. Why was it so important for me to learn her particular way, you ask? What if I told you that you could learn to purl carrying the thread in the left hand, behind the work, exactly as you do for knitting in Continental style, but without moving the hands forward to form the stitch (as some Continental purl instructions recommend). For those of you who knit, is the benefit becoming clearer? To be more precise, it became obvious to me that if I could instantly change between knit and purl stitch without my hands ever leaving the needle or having to reorient anything, that it would represent a vast improvement and also provide the added benefit of more speedy knitting. Now do I have your attention? I thought so.

I wrote to Berit last week, bemoaning my lack of understanding and knowledge, and unable to find any resources to show me how to purl the way she did. And, bless her heart, do you know what she and her husband, Jan, did? They made me a digital video and burned it to a CD and sent it to me, post-haste! I got the CD (amazingly) in only a few days, on Thursday. I set every intention of sitting down with it today and figuring it out. In about 10 minutes, it finally clicked in my brain and I was able to successfully reproduce the much sought-after Norwegian purl stitch, thread in the back, no hand forward motions needed to form the stitch. I made a small gauge swatch. After several inches of that, I switched to the dreaded seed stitch, which looks so lovely but which so many people complain about making. A few more rows of that went my amazingly quickly. Then I switched to ribbing, and what a pleasure it was to instantly switch back and forth from knit to purl with only the slightest compensation from the right needle, that being whether you thread is in front of or behind the right needle as you are forming stitches. I feel like I had a knitting epiphany sitting right there on my back porch! Why are they not teaching this in any of the books or on-line resources I’ve encountered? It seems it ought to be at least taught as another option.

Of course, despite the time difference I resolved at once to call Berit in Oslo and thank her profusely for sending the video. I finally “got it” and will be eternally grateful for learning how to knit the “best and most comfortable” way (at least for me), as those in Norway knit, from her feet. As I told her on the phone, I’d kiss her a thousand times in thanks if she was here, so she better be glad she’s there! I asked Berit if I had her permission to post the video she sent me so that others I know who knit might avail themselves of the superior method, should they chose to do so. In her customarily generous way, she said I could use the video however I saw fit. So I am doing what any good and newly-minted disciple does, I’m spreading the gospel – in this case, the gospel of Norwegian purling. If you’ve never tried it, you really should. Those Norwegians, I swear, the really are the most clever people, aren’t they! So today I bless every Norwegian I see – which is pretty easy, considering I see one every few minutes! And for the rest of you who want to learn how to knit this way, I have converted the original AVI file I received into smaller files. I have a Windows Media version, and a MPG version. If these don’t work for you, let me know and I will try to work with you to figure out what version will work for you. I really want you to try this, OK? Here they are:

Norwegian Purling (Windows Media version) – 7 MB

Norwegian Purling (MPG version) – 12.7 MB

And honestly, Berit, because I know you see this blog – a thousand blessings on you and Jan. You’ll never know how grateful I am for the trouble you went to.

2 thoughts on “Norwegian Purling

  1. OMG! I learned English method first then picked up Continental method later on. I never went to Continental method because of the purl, but now I’m going to. I hate 2 x 2 ribbing but this will definitely make it easier to do. Thank you for sharing!

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