KTBL – How to knit through back loop

A step by step tutorial to KTBL knitting. As you knit through the back loop, you create a twisted stitch

A lot of patterns require you to knit through back loop – typically cables, increases, and certain rib stitches. But how do you knit it? How do you create those twisted stitches?

In this tutorial, I’m going to show exactly how to knit through the back loop. It’s actually quite easy and chances are high you accidentally found one of those stitches on your needles. If you scroll further down, then I’m going to show you some beautiful patterns you can create with stitches knit through the back loop.

ⓘ In knitting patterns, this stitch is abbreviated with Ktbl. Sometimes, you’ll also find something like “knit one twisted”, though this is much less common. There is also a corresponding Ptbl – purl through back loop.

Step by step: KTBL instructions

The knit through the back loop creates more or less the same stitch as the regular knit stitch. The difference is in the way the resulting loop will lie on your needles and it will also use a tiny bit more yarn. Here is how to Ktbl:

Hold the yarn in the back of your work as you would for a normal knit stitch.

Step 1: Insert the right needle from right to left into the back of the stitch. You can turn the work a bit to increase your vision.

Insert the needle from right to left into the back loop

Step 2: Gather the yarn with your right needle counter-clockwise and pull through.

Pulling the yarn through to knit through the back loop

Step 3: Slip the stitch on your right needle.

knit through the back loop stitch on the right needle

And that’s it! There’s really no magic to it. If you are no continental knitter, it more or less works the same. Just adjust step 2 accordingly by throwing the yarn around instead of catching it with your needle.

How to recognize a twisted stitch

A regular knit stitch on the left needle
A regular knit stitch on the left needle with a wide open loop

It’s quite easy to spot a Ktbl (or rather twisted stitch) on your needles. A regular knit stitch creates a nice big loop around ur needle. It’s wide open and is easily stretchable by inserting the needle from left to right. The loop appears to be open to the bottom.

A twisted knit stitch on the left needle
A twisted stitch (ktbl) on the left needle

The knit through back loop stitch, on the other hand, creates a loop around your needle that is twisted at the bottom. It’s quite a bit harder to insert your needles from left to right.

Difference between regular stitches and ktbl stitches

They are also visibly different when you look at your fabric. Just take a closer look at this swatch in stockinette stitch. You will see that every regular knit stitch forms little “V”, while the knit through the back loop will create a “V” where one line is considerably shorter. The whole strand appears to be twisted counter-clockwise by 30° as well.

Why is it useful? Patterns with a KTBL

Now, you might ask what is it good for? How can I fix it? Well, it’s actually quite the remarkable stitches. You know why? Because it needs a bit more yarn than the regular knit stitch – so it’s both tighter and sticks out more. Here are a couple of uses:

#1 Twisted mini cable

a swatch with bavarian mini cables knitted through the back loop
A little 1×1 inch swatch with a twisted cable pattern.

Cables are beautiful ways to bring structure into your knitting. If you want tho achieve super small mini cables, then knit every knit stitch of the cable through the back loop. That will really make them pop. I come from Bavaria, and our traditional costumes involve incredibly elaborate stockings (all knitted with 2.00 mm needles!). And almost all patterns involve KTBL stitches to create diamonds or cables. I knitted a quick example to show you.

#2 Closing the eyelets of an increase

A lot of patterns require you to “make one” and increase your row count by one stitch. Increasing always runs the risk of creating an eyelet. If you knit these twisted, you can close the hole by quite a bit margin. This is particularly useful if you have to pick up stitches (typically after you turned the heel of socks, etc).

#3 More visible ribs

the twisted rib stitch knitting pattern
A twisted 1×1 ribbing

Sometimes, when you knit a 1×1 ribbing, it almost appears like stockinette stitch because the single rows contract so much you don’t even see the gap in between. If you are looking to add a bit more structure to your knitting, then knitting all stitches through the back loop is a very viable option. The final fabric will be quite a bit less stretchy as well.

So, that’s it. That was my guide to ktbl knitting. Practice some, and I’m sure you’ll get the hang of this useful variation of the classic knit stitch very quickly.

How to knit through back loop

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