How to Knit the Knits
& Purl the Purls
'Knit the knits and purl the purls' (or 'K the Ks and P the Ps') is a fairly common phrase you'll see in knitting patterns, so I'm now going to explain what it means because it's important to understand.
The most vital part is that you recognise whether a stitch is a knit or a purl just by looking at it.
I found this very confusing when I was a beginner due to the fact that a knit stitch is the reverse of a purl stitch (and vice versa), therefore the same stitch looks like a knit from one side of the knitting and a purl from the other side of the knitting.
So when a pattern tells you to 'knit the knits' or 'purl the purls', you need to look at the stitches on the needle as you're about to knit a row i.e. look at the stitches on your left-hand needle.
A knit stitch will have a 'v' shape of yarn at the front. This 'v' will be just below where the stitch wraps around the needle.
I'm not sure where I saw it now, but I read a really handy way to remember what a knit and a purl look like, which went like this:
A knit stitch wears a v-neck sweater,
and a purl stitch wears a turtleneck sweater.
And this has stuck in my mind ever since!
Therefore, if the first stitch on the left hand needle is 'wearing a v-neck sweater', then it is a knit stitch and you knit it.
(And the confusing thing is that this knit stitch is actually the purl stitch you did last on the previous row...just reversed! It takes a bit of thinking about to get your head around it sometimes :))
Whereas, if a stitch has a 'bump' of yarn right next to the needle, just below where the stitch joins the needle, then it is a purl stitch - and was created when you did a knit stitch on the previous row!
A yarn bump = a turtleneck, so the stitch is a purl and you therefore purl it.
Hopefully the following video & photos will help this explanation seem clearer:
In the photo above, let's pretend that you've just turned the knitting over to start the next row, and this is what you see.
If you look just below the needle, you can see 'bumps' (or 'turtlenecks') of yarn. You would therefore recognise these as purls.
If the instructions therefore tell you to purl the purls, you would now be doing a purl row.
Photo by Amy Jane Gustafson.
In the photo above, however, you can see that there are yarn 'v's under the stitches on the needles, so you would identify these as knit stitches.
If the instructions therefore tell you to knit the knits, you would now be doing a knit row.
And just to reiterate the point I previously made, if you turned this knitting over, these same stitches would instead look like purl stitches...which is why this whole thing can get a bit baffling!
Hopefully I've helped you a little with this explanation though :)