Twist it, baby

As an adventurous knitter one of the things I have become pretty comfortable with is twisted stitches – that is, purposefully twisted stitches. I’m a pretty conventional knitter in the sense that I knit “normal” English-style, and don’t twist my stitches unless I mean to. There are, of course, knitters who knit all their stitches twisted and then purposefully untwist them (or not) on alternating rows as they please, and this works well for them. When I talk about twisted stitches, I mean that instruction that we come across to knit “through the back loop,” or as it is often noted, “ktbl” or “k1tbl.”


However, on the off chance that there are knitters out there reading this who have no idea what we mean by “ktbl” for “knit through the back loop”, I thought I’d offer a brief demonstration of this. If it’s a new term for you, it’s the sort of thing that is much easier to understand visually than descriptively. Below is a short, 3-minute video clip of me demonstrating ribbing in alternating ‘k1tbl, p1’, but I’ll show off the basics with a few photos as well. This was a fun chance to practice out a few more camera tricks and use my little point & shoot for more of the things it can do. Here we go!

Video-me explaining ktbl, below:

(I think my voice sounds a bit odd here, but that is probably due to the fact that I was lying on the floor in front of my wee camera and tripod to do this. Totally worth it, though.)

Photo-me explaining the same process from 2-D images:

We’ve got some nice ribbing going here already in ‘k1tbl, p1’. The yarn helping us out is Malabrigo Silky Merino in ‘Amoroso’. It’s a single-spun yarn which really shows off the difference between k1 and k1tbl quite well. (I’m using the Magic Loop technique to work in the round on this sample.)

Now, if we were doing a regular k1 stitch, we would move to insert the needle through the stitch knit-wise, through the ‘front’ loop, like so:


However, this isn’t a normal k1, so we are instead inserting the needle through the stitch purl-wise, through the ‘back’ of the loop, like so:


From there, we simply wrap the knit stitch (or pick, as all you super-speedy continental-knitters would do) as we normally would, and pull it off onto the right-hand needle. The result is that the knit stitch sits slightly twisted on the needles, as we have rotated it slightly:


And you’re done! That wasn’t so hard, was it?


The result is that the twisted stitches sit much more snugly and produce a more clearly defined, sturdy stitch than a regular knit stitch would. They are highly decorative, which is why they can be well-used in applying texture to stitch patterns and to swirly, twisty cables. Anything labelled as “Bavarian” is going to have whackloads of twisted stitches. (Mmmm, delicious challenge). However, twisted knits are also much less elastic than normal stitches. So, ribbing in ‘k1tbl, p1’ will still be clingy, but much less stretchy. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is just something extra to take into account when you apply twisted stitches. When applied all over a garment, you may need a few more stitches than you normally would to achieve the same size or fit.

And you know, I think they’re pretty.


One of the key things to keep in mind is how you hold your hands and fingers. You are adding more twist and tension to your knitting when you do this, so there can be added twist and tension on your hands and fingers as well. You may find yourself wanting to stop occasionally and stretch it out a bit more than you normally would, or feel your hands fatiguing a bit sooner. I know this is often the case for me.

I’ve used twisted stitches as a design feature a couple of times – for any of you who have already knitted Viper Pilots, you know there isn’t a single normal knit stitch in there. They are all twisted. I know this because after I finished them I had to remind myself that it was possible, in fact, to knit normal knits instead of always twisting them. They can be a challenge at first, but very easy to get used to.

That’s the story for today, folks! Stay tuned for Part 2 on Monday, wherein I reveal my most recent application of the k1tbl 😉 Happy Sunday!


  1. Very nice! Clear and concise, well demonstrated. (I noticed you got a bit of yarn fondling in there too, like ANY of us would do with such yummy yarn. *grin*)

    Looking forward to any further demos you might do!

  2. Now, that’s not entirely true. The sole on Viper Pilots was regular garden-variety knit stitches. I know this because for the first few rows I had to tink back after I got halfway down a needle and realized I was knitting the sole twisted!

  3. Okay Abbie, you are right on that one. I did let you have a regular knitting rest on the sole – wasn’t that nice of me? Clearly the twists addled my brain 😉

  4. I loved hearing your voice!! You don’t actually sound very ‘foreign’ to me at all your accent doesn’t seem very strong!!!
    Lovely Ktbl!! I don;t like twisted rib unless it is in the round. I hate Ptbl!!! Nice knitting!!

  5. Great tutorial! I, like 2paw above, also liked hearing your voice. 🙂 Happy Sunday!

  6. Yay! This is great. Looking forward to the big reveal tomorrow. ;^)

  7. I love how twisted stitches look. Sometimes I do it on purpose to make the stockinette stand out more.

  8. So, I have three skeins of that same Malabrigo that I’ve cast on a few different times… what are you making with yours? I could use some inspiration…

  9. Loved the tutorial – thanks! You are a wonderful instructor. Saw my first pair of Vipers in person last Wednesday at my LYS – some day I’ll tackle them – thought they were beautiful! And, like others, thought it was cool to hear your voice. Then I read the comment about your “accent” (or lack thereof) and thought “what are they talking about???” But all was clear when I realized that you are a fellow Canuck – and belated congrats on becoming Dr. Glenna C!!!

  10. A great tutorial, thank you. You are always inspiring and instructive 🙂

  11. […] published pattern for the December 2009 issue of Canadian Living magazine. Yesterday’s twisted stitch tutorial goes hand in hand with this pattern, as the ‘k1tbl, p1′ ribbing is exactly what starts […]

  12. gators_FTW · ·

    OH MAH WORD i just saw this and my life changed. i love the design of twisted stitches and today, i am going to go home, start a new scarf and do this. orange and blue of course.

  13. Thank you for the twisted rib video. I do have a question, though. when working a (Ktbl, P) rib in the round as you are showing in the video do you find that after working an inch or so that all the ribbing seems to have a slant or skew to it? I’m wondering if there is a way to counteract that, maybe every other ktbl stitch twist it the opposite way?

  14. I find that twisted rib is ideal for edgings of socks/gloves. Great videos!

  15. gators_FTW · ·

    I still havent gotten the hang of the twisted stitch but i do believe that my next scarf will be completely twisted hah see what i did there?!

  16. Thank you for the video clip – I clearly see how it’s done. Now all I need to do is find a pattern to test it on!

  17. One Handed Knitting Beth Stiles · ·

    I like the way that you discribed how to do the ribbing a different way. I will try it next time that I do a ribbing.

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