Purl Front & Back (pfb, pf&b, or p1f&b) and pfbf (or pf&b&f)

Purl front and back (pfb, pf&b, or p1f&b) is a one-stitch purlwise increase. It is the counterpart to knit front and back (kfb), as the backside of pfb looks similar to kfb and vice versa. Unlike many other corresponding knit and purl increases and decreases, this one does not match exactly.

Pfb is usually done on the wrong side of the fabric. When you turn the fabric over and look at it on the right side, it looks like a kfb but the purl bump created by the increase is to the right of the stitch. In a kfb, the purl bump is to the left of the stitch.

Purl Front, Back, and Front (pfbf or pf&b&f)

Even less common that pfb is pfbf. The pfbf is a 2-stitch purlwise increase. You are making 3 stitches out of one. 

I decided to include pfbf in this tutorial because it is the same as pfb, with one extra step. 

Watch this video to learn how to do both increases:

How to pfb

  1. Purl 1 stitch like normal but don’t slide it off your left needle
  2. Swing your right needle to the back and insert it from the bottom to the top of the stitch you just purled, bringing the right needle tip in front of the left needle
  3. Purl again (Wrap your yarn counter clockwise and pull it through the stitch)
  4. Slide the stitch off your left needle

Now look at your pfb. It looks like a normal purl stitch with another purl stitch floating to the left of it. If you flip it over, it looks like a regular knit stitch with a purl stitch floating to the right of it. I say “floating” because that new stitch (the increase) does not have a stitch below it.

purl front and back (pfb)

How to pfbf

  1. Purl 1 stitch like normal but don’t slide it off your left needle
  2. Swing your right needle to the back and insert it from the bottom to the top of the stitch you just purled, bringing the right needle tip in front of the left needle
  3. Purl again (Wrap your yarn counter clockwise and pull it through the stitch) but don’t slide it off your left needle
  4. Purl into the front of the stitch again (this is just like a normal purl)
  5. Slide the stitch off your left needle

Now look at your pfbf. It looks like a normal purl stitch with 2 purl stitches floating to the left of it. If you flip it over, it looks like a regular knit stitch with 2 purl stitches floating to the right of it.* I say “floating” because the new stitches do not have stitches below them.

*Because of all the stitch twisting in this increase, the middle of the 3 resulting stitches tends to  look more like a twisted knit stitch than a purl stitch when you look at it on the backside.

purl front back front (pfbf)

Tips for pfb & pfbf

Both of these increases are born out of one stitch. As a result, it can get pretty tight working the increase(s). Here are a few ideas that can help:

  • Use needles with sharp tips. Sharp tips are great for getting into tight stitches. (The disadvantage to using sharp tips is that they split the yarn more easily than needles with blunt tips.)
  • On the row before the increase, work the stitch you will be increasing in more loosely.
  • Slide the stitch you are working into up to the tip of your needle. Since the needle is skinnier there it will give you more room in the stitch to work.

Want to Practice These Stitches?

These stitches, as well as several other less common increases and decreases, are used in the beautiful Idril sweater. The lessons in our Idril Knit Along guide you step-by-step through the pattern. Check it out at https://knitalongclub.com/course/idril/.

Idril Knit Along

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