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Putting Stitches on Knitting Needles Correctly + Why It Matters

Have you ever noticed that something just wasn’t right with your stitches? Maybe it felt weird when you tried to knit a stitch, or maybe you noticed that the row looked a little funny. That could be the stitches are not mounted stitch properly.

Knitting stitches mounted the right way

Stitches mounted the correct way on the needle

Why your stitches might be twisted

Replacing live stitches on a needle

Sometimes we need to frog or tink stitches to go back and correct a mistake. If that’s the case, you’ll probably have some live stitches that are not on the needle and need to be slipped back on there. If you don’t pay close attention, you might accidentally mount the stitches incorrectly; then, when you go to work them, they’ll be twisted.

Transferring from a stitch holder

Stitches being held on waste yarn

Stitches held on waste yarn, ready for pick up later when the sleeve is worked

Some knitting patterns ask us to put some stitches on a holder or waste yarn. (Check out the example above from the Lace Wedge Yoke Sweater I made in Choose Your Own Sweater Adventure with Eunny Jang.)

I held some stitches for the sleeves on waste yarn, worked the body of the sweater, then went back and picked up the stitches around the arm to knit the sleeve. When I did that, it was important that I put the stitches onto the needle facing the right direction.

Knitting through the back loop

Twisted stitches most frequently happen when you’re placing stitches onto the needle, but they can also happen as you knit. If you accidentally knit a stitch through the back loop instead of through the front leg of the stitch, you’ll actually twist the stitch.

Of course, some pattern use a ktbl purposefully as a design feature. If that’s what your pattern calls for, don’t worry about the twisted stitches!

How knitting stitches should sit

Think of a stitch as having two legs. When the stitch is facing you, the leg on the right side of the stitch should sit over the front of the needle. The leg on the left side of the stitch hangs out behind the needle.

Here’s how they look when they’re sitting properly:

Knitting stitches mounted the right way

Notice that the right leg of the stitch is in front of the needle.

And here’s how they look when they’re not sitting properly:

Stitches mounted the wrong way

Check out how the left leg is sitting in front of the needle when it should be sitting behind the needle.

What happens when stitches don’t sit properly

When you try to knit, your needle won’t go from front to back quite as easily. It will probably feel a little awkward.

Knitting with stitches mounted the wrong way

If you worked that awkward row of twisted stitches, you might notice later on that the row looks a little different than the other rows.

Check out the swatch below. I’ve used gray lines to show you the row where the stitches were twisted. See how the Vs in the stitch are twisted at the bottom, unlike the other rows?

Close up of stitches mounted wrong way in the row

Twisted stitches also create a different fabric that’s not quite as smooth as most knit fabrics. Plus, it uses more yarn than a correctly knit stitch!

How to correct stitches sitting the wrong way

Fixing the stitches is simple. Just slip the stitch from your left needle to your right needle, untwisting it as you move it, then slip the stitch purlwise back to the left needle again. Then just knit the stitch as usual.

Or, you can knit the stitch through the back loop, which will instantly untwist it. Easy!

Want to learn even more about troubleshooting your knitting problems?

Check out Essential Techniques Every Knitter Should Know with Sally Melville. Sally will show you everything from the best increases and decreases for your project to picking up stitches. You’ll be able to use these techniques in any knitting project!

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Do you have any tricks for fixing twisted stitches? We’d love to hear them!

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and was updated in March 2018.


ann marie riley

I love these little instructions! Keep them coming!


They are very helpful.


I believe you can also fix a twisted stitch on your needle by knitting through the back loop instead of the front.


Love these tidbits of info. Thanks for sharing and look forward to many more!


Just knit through the back loops of those twisted stitches as you go. Much quicker than turning them around first!


i just knit them as they present but if the stitch is on the needle wrong, knit as if to knit purl wise but through the back loop. No need to turn the stitch. The resulting action and stitch are exactly as if you had turned it but without the extra step.


Hi – what kind of cast on was used in this example? It looks neater than the long tail and cable(? two needle) that I use.


Hi Michelle, it actually is the long tail cast on. Yours probably looks just as neat. We’re always harsh judges of our own knitting. 🙂

Helen (of Troy)

Long tail comes in many “flavors” The “standard” long tail cast on that YOU learned, may or may not be the same standard long tail as some one elses! There are a dozen variations–starting with: Do you position the yarn in your left hand–Sort of like a sling shot, with one hand holding both yarns, or do you hold the yarn in 2 hands, and sort of cast on to your thumb, then knit into that cast on stitch with a needle, and make a stitch, (with the yarn use held in right hand) This type of cast on is some times called the “THUMB” style of long tail… learn more here: This web page has a cast on Tutorial–with over 60 ways to cast on.. (and to bind off, and selvage stitches, and more!)


Why make something so easy to correct, so difficult – simply knit the stitch thru the back loop, which is (at that point) the right leg of the stitch.


I agree. There are plenty of cases where stitches may be mounted differently, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Combination knitters, for example, wrap all of their purls the “wrong” way. Purling that way is also often a recommendation for solving tension issues at the beginning of a row, or when switching from knits to purls, in ribbing or cables, for example.

Far better to demonstrate what to look for to make your stitches come out they way you want them, twisted or not, regardless of their mount.


To me there is not such thing as an incorrectly mounted stitch – there’s just a right and a wrong way to knit the stitches. 😉

I’m a combination knitter myself so all of my (former) purl stitches are mounted in the other direction. So the right way to knit them is through the back loop – at least if I don’t want twisted stitches which, well, I sometimes do want.


Yes, Jaden! Thanks for bringing that up. I wasn’t trying to insist that there’s a right way and a wrong way to knit. I just wanted less experienced knitters to realize why their stitches might appear twisted. That’s definitely something I had issues with when I started knitting. Perhaps I should’ve mentioned combination and other types of knitters in the post. Thanks for pointing that out!

Cynthia Stauffer

I haven’t knitted in years and would like to get back into it. But, now hearing that there is a easier way to take care of my mistakes gives me the confidence that I lacked many years ago, as a young knitter.


Sorry, I can’t ser the difference in those photos about the left and right legs…but I’m only barely a beginner


Me too, Sheri. Could someone add some lines or arrows to that image to show the difference? It’s not obvious for beginners… The one that said it is sitting correct and the one that is not look identical to me.

Helen (of Troy)

I agree with Jaden–Like a golfer, when it comes to knitting, i like to “Play it as it lays”

I think this is a skill that Combo knitters learn early.
Sherri, looking at, and learning to identify a stitch, (is it a knit stitch or a purl?) and learning to see how the stitch is mounted, is one of the skills you need to master. It’s not that hard–(well that is not true, at first it is hard) but USE and trust your eyes. LOOK at your knitting. Learn to see a twisted stitch, learn the feel of it–

Learn about combo knitting–which is a type of knitting that has some stitches mounted “conventionally” (which is really just conventional for Western knitting-) there are many ways to knit. You don’t have to change your style (but many find Combo knitting produces better ribbing!), but at least read a little about other styles.. the 3 big ones are Western, (common in Europe and North America) Eastern, (common in the East (Turkey and Mid East, North Africa, and part of South America) and Combination( found world wide, but especially in places where east meets west!)


I knit into the back too when the stitch is twisted.


I’ve been knitting and purling through the right leg of the stitch since forever! It didn’t matter whether or not it was on the front of the needle or the back. My sister recently “corrected” the way I’ve been purling since I can’t remember when. I’m still not used to it and that particular tension is much looser than what I had been doing … now I have to frog a project that is at least 1/3 done!


My stitches are always what you call backwards. It works because of the crazy way I do my knit and purl stitches. I discovered all my cousins knit this way. But it comes out untwisted when we are done. It does make it difficult to teach others how to knit though.


I learned to knit this way as well. Through the back loop. In the end, it looks “normal” and actually very polished, right? And yes, super difficult to teach someone else — especially when all of the youtube tutorials teach it the “right” way. Can get quite confusing.


When you have to put stitches on a holder at the of a sleeve do I cut the excess yarn and start with a new shank?

LInda lane

I have trouble knitting with the holding needle. Can’t get my needles held do you have a tutorial on this?


How do you avoid getting them twisted in the first place? Am I doing something wrong that causes it?
(Beginning knitter learning from the internet.)


I learned to knit through the back loop (even purls) and my projects looked “normal” once they were completed (usually simple stockinette stitch scarves). I had no idea I was knitting wrong until I started to come to more advanced patterns that called for things like ssk or tbl, because then, of course, my stitches would be twisted and wonky. It took me forever to realize why my items didn’t look right. But once I figured it out I re-taught myself to do it “the right way” and life is so much simpler! Thanks for these mini-tutorials. I truly wish I would have had these way back in the day 🙂


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