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What Is KTBL? A Free Tutorial for This Easy Technique

Did you see “ktbl” in a pattern and panic a little? Don’t worry! Ktbl is the abbreviation for “knit through the back loop,” and it’s so easy that even beginners can do it.

Knit through the back loop tutorial and tips

Get a tutorial plus tips for when to knit through the back loop (ktbl).

Knitting through the back loop has a few functions, but the most obvious is that it twists the knit stitch. It’s also used for other useful techniques like increasing, neatening edges and properly mounting stitches on the needle when they get twisted the wrong way.

Ktbl is more useful than you thought, huh? Get a quick tutorial to knit through the back loop, then take a look of a few ways you can use it in your knitting.

The difference between knit stitches and knitting through the back loop

Take a look at the difference between your usual knit stitch and a knit stitch worked through the back loop in the photo above. Notice that the stitches knit through the back loop, on the top half of the swatch, have a neat little twist where one leg of the stitch crosses over the other, while the regular knit stitches just have that classic V shape.

For the usual knit stitch, most of us insert the needle from front to back as the first step. The knitting needle goes through the front of the stitch to the back like this:

The usual way of making a knit stitch

But when we knit through the back loop, we’ll insert the needle at a different angle. The right needle is inserted into the back loop of the stitch like this:

Knitting through the back loop

Inserting the needle through the back loop makes the leg of the stitch twist in a different way, causing a little criss-cross in the V shape.

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When to use ktbl

To increase

There are many different types of increases, but one increase involves knitting the stitch, leaving it on the needle, then knitting that same stitch through the back loop. This creates two stitches from one stitch. Sometimes you may also see this abbreviated as k1f&b or kf&b, which means you should knit one through the front and the back of the same stitch.

Combined knitting

Craftsy blogger Sarah was very confused when she saw ktbl show up in a pattern for the first time. That’s because Sarah is a combination knitter. These knitters knit through the back loop all the time because their stitches are mounted on the needle in a different way. You can read more about Sarah’s combined knitting here.

Decoration

You’ve already seen what knitting through the back loop does to twist a stitch. If you want to add some extra decoration and unexpected detail to your knitting, knit through the back loop to add some pretty little twists. I love the idea of adding a few rows of ktbl on the hem of a stockinette sleeve or sweater body for an unexpected change in stitch.

Neatened edges

If your stockinette stitch has loose, yucky edges, then you can add a chained edge to make it neater. Check out Solution 3: Chained Edge in the linked blog post to see how knitting through the back loop on the first stitch of wrong side rows can help form a neat edge. (There are a lot of other solutions for neat edges there, too!)

Mounting stitches properly

Have your knit stitches ever accidentally been turned around on the needle? It might be from ripping back and mounting live stitches on the needle or maybe you just dropped a stitch and placed it back on the needle the wrong way. No matter how that stitch was turned around, you can knit the stitch through the back loop to re-orient it properly on the needle.

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6 Comments

MARION MULLIGAN

I WOULD HAVE HOPED THAT A VIDEO SHOWING AN EASIER INSTRUCTION FOR THE BEGINNER WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER …WHAT DO U THINK?

Reply
Rita

I like using KTBL when I am doing a K1,P1 ribbing to start a hat, it gives it extra texture and keeps the ribbing tight even after many wears.

Reply
Rita

The picture displays exactly where you will insert your needle when KTBL. Nothing else really changes.

Reply
MARION MULLIGAN

how about a video for better descriptive processes with those stitches……

Reply
Faith

I guess I should preface this by saying that I’m not a real knitter. I learned basic knit and purl back in the 70s, made a small scarf (in a basket weave pattern, no less) and never knitted again, until I tried to remember how to do it this past summer. I have some lovely pink chenille yarn that was not working out… until my knitting experiment. When I read this, I laughed. My pink afghan is being knit entirely ktbl! Obviously, I need refreshing in the basics. My afghan is turning out okay, though (if not perfect). Because of the yarn, I can’t see the crossed legs or I would have known.

Reply
Dawn Sullivan

I have been searching the known universe for the “why” of ktbl. Thank you for explaining it so clearly! I’m definitely going to try that edge trick!

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