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.
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- Bring the working yarn to the back of the work (if it isn't already there).
- Enter the first stitch on the left needle from right to left and in the back.
- Wrap the working yarn around your left thumb clockwise with your right hand.
- Pull the working yarn through the loop.
- Drop the resulting stitch off the left needle to finish.
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
It’s quite easy to spot the result of a ktbl, aka twisted stitch, on your needles. A regular knit stitch creates a nice big loop around your needle. It’s wide open for you to enter coming from left to right. Using standard knitting terminology one would say, the leading leg (= the leg closer to the tip of the needle) is in front.
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 because the leading leg is in the back of the work.
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 a little “V”, while the knit through the back loop almost looks like an “X”. 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. Do 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 use cases:
#1 Twisted mini cable
Cables are beautiful ways to bring structure into your knitting. If you want to 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.
#2 Closing the eyelets of an increase
Sometimes you end with little holes in your knitting – either by accident or by designs when you knit a yarn over. If you knit the resulting stitch in the next round, you can close the hole by quite a bit of margin. But it also works when you pick up stitches (like for the gusset of socks). Then you can knit across the picked-up stitches through the backloop to avoid holes.
#3 Make your 1×1 rib stitch pop
Sometimes, when you knit a 1×1 rib stitch, it almost appears like stockinette stitch because the single rows contract so much you don’t even see the gap in between. And/or it doesn’t look very neat on top of that. In these cases, you can opt to knit all knit stitches through the back loop.
This will add quite a bit more structure and stability to the fabric. It will, however, also be a bit less stretchy. So, use your common sense whenever you want to apply this trick.
#4 Untwisting twisted stitches
The last use case is a very smart way to fix mistakes. Sometimes you end up with twisted stitches on your needle. Typically when you pick up stitches – either because your pattern asks you to do so or you dropped a stitch. And in these cases, you can untwist these stitches by simply knitting them through the back loop. You could also slip them back and forth but that takes way more time and is a bit more cumbersome.