How to P2tog tbl – Purl 2 together through the back loop

Step by step tutorial on how to P2tog tbl in knitting and an easy alternative for those who struggle with this right-leaning decrease.

One of the most difficult knitting decreases is certainly the P2tog tbl. It’s the corresponding right-leaning version of the P2tog and luckily doesn’t appear in a lot of patterns as it’s actually quite difficult to knit. In this step by step tutorial, I am going to show you exactly how to knit it.

A swatch with right-leaning p2tog tbl decreases in every purl row
A swatch where I decreases with a p2tog tbl after the 4th stitch from the left in each purl row.

I want to be honest with you, though. It requires a bit of practice to get the hang of this decrease. So, if you are feeling like you were all fingers and thumbs even though you are quite the experienced knitter, don’t believe, even for a second, you are alone with this. It probably took me 10 attempts to finally get the video for this tutorial right so it wasn’t full of curses or me splitting the yarn with my botched attempts to get it right.

the knit side of a swatch with p2tog tbl decreases on the purl side
The p2tog tbl as seen from the knit side (looks exactly like an SSK)

ⓘ In knitting patterns, the abbreviations P2tog tbl stands for Purl two stitches through the back loop. SSK and P2tog tbl will appear exactly the same on the knit side of your project.

P2tog tbl instructions

Let’s dive right into you and how exactly you knit this challenging knitting decrease.

Step 1: Prepare the two stitches you want to decrease by inserting your right needle into both and loosening them up a bit (you may want to skip this step if you are a very loose knitter).

loosen up two stitches to get ready to p2tog tbl

Step 2: Insert your right needle from left to right into the back loop of both stitches. Make extra sure you don’t accidentally split the yarn and you hit both stitches. This may require quite a bit of wiggling around, some force, and sometimes even a couple of attempts.

inserting the needles from left to right through the back loop

Step 3: Wrap the yarn around your needle counter-clockwise.

wrap the yarn around the needles counter-clockwise

Step 4: Pull the yarn through both loops and drop them (so, just like a normal purl stitch).

and pull  the yarn through both stitches to p2tog tbl

If you can’t insert the needle or pulling the yarn through is a bit troublesome, try changing to metal needles with a sharp point and knit a bit more loosely. Don’t be afraid to loosen the stitches with a little moderate force before you try to insert the needle through the back loop.

A p2tog tbl stitch on the right needle

Note: I am a continental knitter, so this is p2tog tbl continental way. If you are an English knitter, it’s more or less the same technique – the only difference is in which hand you hold your yarn – but the rest is the same.

P2tog tbl alternative

There are two alternatives to knitting the P2tog tbl. I agree it can be incredibly difficult to insert the needle through the back loop – especially if you are not knitting with very sharp-pointed needles or needles with a lot of friction (like bamboo or plastic). But that shouldn’t make you stay away from knitting patterns with this decrease. Here is an easy alternative:

Step 1: Purl one stitch like normal.

Purling a stitch for the alternative way to p2tog tbl

Step 2: Slip the stitch you just purled back on the left needle with the yarn in front.

slip the stitch back on the left needle

Step 3: Now, pass the second stitch on the left needle over the one you just purled (so a bit like when you bind off stitches).

and now pass the second stitch on the left needle over the one you just purled and slipped

Step 4: Slip the purl stitch back onto your right needle.

slip the purl stitch back on the right needle. and that's your p2tog tbl alternative

The resulting decrease will look almost exactly like a regular p2tog tbl. Due to the slipping back and forth, it’s usually a tiny bit looser (that’s why I don’t like it all that much).

What you can also do is: You can P2tog two stitches in the normal manner. And then twist the stitch clockwise with your fingers and only then slip them on the right needle. Obviously this risks dropping the stitches, but with a little practice, some knitters are actually faster than both the above version.

P3tog TBL

My personal opinion: Avoid P3tog tbl at all costs. It’s a nightmare to knit. The technique is fundamentally the same. The only difference: You have to insert your needle into three purl stitches through the back loop at the same time. In this case, you really have to focus on knitting very loosely on the row/round before, knit with very sharp needles and maybe throw in a little prayer on top of that.

You can use the slip method as well and pass two stitches over. I guess, the easiest way to knit a p3tog tbl is knitting a simple P3tog and then twisting it by hand clockwise (preferably with a third needle).

So, that’s it. That’s how you P2tog tbl. I hope I was able to show you this difficult decrease technique. Make sure to comment in case you have problems and I’ll get right back to you.

P2tog tbl knitting decrease

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