How to knit tutorial: untwisted and twisted stitches

Doing the twist!

Twisted and untwisted stitches

Everyone has to start somewhere

The first garment I knitted was a simple stocking stitch tunic with drop shoulders. It was a very straightforward design; most of you have probably made something similar – or maybe not since this was in the 1980’s! Although the tunic has long since been unravelled and reknitted I still have the pattern from Woman’s Own magazine. You can see the photo from the pattern below.

Simple hand knit tunic from Woman's Own 1980s

I was very pleased with my new tunic, but eventually I realised that something was not quite right with the stitches. They looked something like the stitches in the sample below …

Sample of Eastern style knitting showing twisted stitches

when they should have looked like the ones here.

Sample of Western style knitting showing untwisted stitches

I had knitted twisted stitches instead of untwisted ones. There is more than one way of forming twisted stitches, but without the actual garment to look at, I cannot be exactly sure how I did so.

How to knit untwisted and twisted stitches

In this post I shall explain how to knit untwisted and twisted stitches for those who knit both left- and right-handed.

Whether a stitch is twisted or not is determined by where you insert the knitting needle.

Knitting right-handed – Leading leg at the front

Just to recap, if your stitches move from the left to right needle you knit right-handed.

For now I’m going to assume that the leading leg of each stitch is at the front of the needle.

When the needle is inserted into the front of a stitch, the leading (right) leg moves away from the lagging (left) leg opening up the new stitch so it is not twisted; this is normal for Western-style knitters.

Ilustration showing that an untwisted stitch forms when you knit through the front of a stitch with the front leg leading

When the needle is inserted into the back of a stitch, the leading (right) leg moves in front of the lagging (left) leg closing up the new stitch so it is twisted; this is normal for Eastern style knitters.

Ilustration showing that a twisted stitch forms when you knit through the back of a stitch with the front leg leading

Knitting left-handed – Leading leg at the front

In comparison, if your stitches move from the right to left needle you knit left-handed. Again I’m going to assume that the leading leg of each stitch is at the front of the needle.

When the needle is inserted into the front of a stitch, the leading (left) leg moves away from the lagging (right) leg opening up the new stitch so it is not twisted.

Front leg leading, needle through front of stitch, LH

When the needle is inserted into the back of a stitch, the leading (left) leg moves in front of the lagging (right) leg closing up the new stitch so it is twisted. You’ll notice that the stitch twists in the opposite direction to the twisted stitch made by someone knitting right-handed; it is a mirror image.

Front leg leading, needle through back of stitch, LH

Knitting right-handed – leading leg at the back

Now let’s look what happens when the leading leg of each stitch is at the back of the needle.

When the needle is inserted into the front of the stitch, the leading (right) leg moves behind the lagging (left) leg closing up the new stitch so it is twisted.

Back leg leading, needle through front of stitch, RH

When the needle is inserted into the back of the stitch, the leading (right) leg moves away from the lagging (left) leg opening up the new stitch so it is not twisted; this is normal for Combination style knitters.

Ilustration showing that an untwisted stitch forms when you knit through the back of a stitch with the back leg leading

Most of us, when we are learning to knit, will have come across a stitch that sits ‘backwards’ on a needle.  And we usually work out that if we knit that stitch normally, i.e. into to front of the stitch, then the new stitch will be twisted, whereas if we insert the needle into the back of the ‘backwards’ stitch, the resulting stitch will be untwisted.

Knitting left-handed – leading leg at the back

Similarly for knitting left-handed, when the needle is inserted into the front of the stitch, the leading (left) leg moves behind the lagging (right) leg closing up the new stitch so it is twisted.

Back leg leading, needle through front of stitch, LH

And when the needle is inserted into the back of the stitch, the leading (left) leg moves away from the lagging (right) leg opening up the new stitch so it is not twisted.

Ilustration showing that an untwisted stitch forms when you knit through the back of a stitch with the back leg leading

 

Pulling it all together

Whether a stitch is twisted or not is determined by where you insert the knitting needle.

Leading leg of old stitch

Insertion of needle

New stitch

Front Front Untwisted
Front Back Twisted
Back Front Twisted
Back Back Untwisted

These ‘rules’ apply equally whether you knit left- or right-handed and whether you form knit and purl stitches.

What about you?

In the post about how stitches sit on your knitting needles I asked you to take a look at the way you knit. Let’s do the same again.

Cast on about 10 stitches and knit a few rows of stocking stitch ending with a purl row. Hopefully, you know if you knit left- or right-handed. Just to remind you again, this is not necessarily the same as being left- or right-handed; if you knit right-handed, your stitches will move from the left to the right needle whereas if you knit left-handed, your stitches will move from the right to the left needle. Before you start, is the leading leg at the front or back of the needle? Now when you knit stitches do you insert your needle into the front or back of the stitch?  Are your new stitches twisted or untwisted? Finish your knit row and turn; is the leading leg at the front or back? Purl some stitches; do you insert your needle into the front or back of the stitch when you are purling? Are your new stitches twisted or untwisted?

If your answers are: leading leg at front, needle enters the front of the stitch for both knit and purl stitches, and untwisted stitches, then you are a Western style knitter. This will be most of you.

However, if you have the leading leg at the back and your needle enters the front of the stitch for both knit and purl stitches, and twisted stitches, then you are an Eastern style knitter (and your stocking stitch fabric will look like the first sample I showed you at the beginning of this post).

If on knit rows, the leading leg is at the back and your needle enters the back of the stitch, whereas on purl rows the leading leg is at the front and your needle enters the front of the stitch, and all stitches formed are untwisted, then you are a Combination knitter.

Now some of you may see some rows with untwisted stitches and some with twisted stitches. Ideally, all your stitches ought to be the same (i.e. all untwisted or all twisted).  Aim for consistency!

Most knitters in the USA, Europe and Australia are Western style knitters; some are Combination style knitters. All produce stocking stitch with untwisted stitches. The majority of hand knit patterns published in these areas are written for Western style knitters. Combination knitters can use Western style patterns if they make minor alterations that take into account the differences in the way they knit.

Coming soon …

  • Western style knitting;
  • Combination style knitting;
  • Eastern style knitting;
  • Picking and throwing;
  • Different ways of holding yarn.

… but not all in one post, you’ll be pleased to know!

However, the next post will be far less technical; I’m teaching a sock workshop on 26 February, so I thought a post about hand knit socks would be appropriate.

Want to learn more?

Take a look at my other tutorials. Choose from:

Tutorials for knitting right-handed

You knit right-handed if your right hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you move your stitches your left to right needle as you knit.

Tutorials for knitting left-handed

You knit left-handed if your left hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and you move your stitches move from your right to left needle as you knit.

Tutorials for crocheting right-handed

You crochet right-handed if your right hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and your new stitches are on the left of your old ones.

Tutorials for crocheting left-handed

You crochet left-handed if your left hand is your working hand (regardless of which hand you use to hold the yarn) and your new stitches are on the right of your old ones.

Or maybe you’d like to come to one of my short courses or workshops or book a special personalised one-to-one tutorial.

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6 Responses to How to knit tutorial: untwisted and twisted stitches

  1. Krista 21 February 2014 at 21:25 #

    Ok, knitting = leading leg behind the needle & the yarn wraps clockwise around the needle
    purling = the leading leg is still behind the needle & I insert from left to right, wrap yarn clockwise.

    • Being Knitterly 24 February 2014 at 16:36 #

      Krista, thank you for your reply – it is so interesting finding out about all the different ways in which people knit – and there’s certainly more ways than you can find in knitting books. From your description I think you do what is known as Eastern Uncrossed style. There are quite a few references to this style on the internet, e.g. Cloopco blog written by Maja (http://cloopco.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/eastern-uncrossed-knitting-knits-and.html). She has some great photos and video clips showing how she knits. The only thing that confuses me is that you say you wrap the yarn clockwise, when anticlockwise is needed so the leading leg sits behind the needle. Or do you knit left-handed? Maja, who knits right-handed, states that she wraps the yarn clockwise, although her photos clearly show she is wrapping anticlockwise. I’m asking about because this is not the first time I’ve seen the anticlockwise called clockwise on blogs. I always refer to the view looking towards the point from the non-pointed end of the needle. I’d love it if you could throw some light on this for me!

      • Krista 24 February 2014 at 19:52 #

        I picture the clock as face up with the tip of my before coming up, like a sun dial.

      • Being Knitterly 3 March 2014 at 15:48 #

        Thank you for that clarification. All my references to clockwise/ anticlockwise are with the needle tip pointing away from me, as happens when I knit. So when you refer to “clockwise”, I would refer to “anticlockwise”. I think I need to make this absolutely clear in my blog posts, so I don’t confuse anyone!

  2. Being Knitterly 21 February 2014 at 15:49 #

    Hi Krista,
    Well the focus of this post is untwisted and twisted stitches, so I referred to Combination, Eastern and Western styles briefly, saving the details for future posts.

    When you take into account the different combinations of working into the back or front of a knit or purl stitch along with wrapping the yarn clockwise or anticlockwise, there are actually eight different ways of working stocking stitch for knitters who work right-handed. Four of them produce untwisted stitches and four twisted stitches.

    Can you give me a bit more detail? When you are about to knit is the leading leg in front of or behind the needle? You’ve already said you knit through the back loop. Which way do you wrap the yarn round the needle when making knit stitches? When you are about to purl, is the leading leg in front of or behind the needle? Do you purl through the front or back loop? Which way do you wrap the yarn when making purl stitches? Would love to know!

  3. Krista 21 February 2014 at 13:59 #

    I think you’ve completely left out Eastern style knitters. I knit through the back loop but produce untwisted fabric because of the purl.

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