Master the Knit Through Back Loop Technique (ktbl)

Master the Knit Through Back Loop Technique (ktbl)

Knitting is an art form that offers endless opportunities for creativity with just your knitting needles. Numerous techniques allow you to create stunning textures and visual effects.  One such technique is knitting through the back loop (ktbl). What seems like a minor variation of the knit stitch actually unlocks a whole new realm of possibilities for your projects.  The knit-through-back loop technique produces a fabric with tighter and more pronounced stitches than regular knitting. In this blog, we'll explore how to knit through the back loop step by step and the type of knitted fabric it produces.

What is Knit through the back loop (KTBL)?

A helpful technique in knitting, KTBL is commonly used to add texture and interest to patterns or when specifically instructed in a pattern. Knitting through the back loop can be done with any knitting needle chosen according to the project requirement. It needs a bit more yarn than the regular knit stitch and is also tighter. All you have to do is understand what a knit stitch looks like and locate its back loop. Imagine a knit stitch like a person sitting on horseback; that is how a stitch looks on a knitting needle. The leg of the stitch away from you is the back loop. And this is where you have to knit.

If you are knitting back and forth, you work with straight or circular needles. If you are knitting in the round, with double-pointed needles (DPNs) or circulars, you can go ahead with the Knit through the back loop technique.

Make sure that you have essential knitting accessories. You will need stitch markers, a finishing needle the same size as or smaller than the knitting needle, a repair hook, a pair of scissors, etc.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to knit through the back loop:

  1. Start with the working yarn at the back of the work and the right-hand knitting needle inserted into the next stitch as if you were going to knit it regularly (through the front loop).
  2. Instead of inserting the needle from left to right through the front leg of the stitch, you will insert it from right to left through the back leg of the stitch. The back leg is the loop of the stitch that is farthest from you.
  3. With the needle inserted through the back leg of the stitch, bring the working yarn around the needle as if to knit.
  4. Use the right-hand needle to pull the loop of the working yarn through the back leg of the stitch, just like you would in a regular knit stitch.
  5. Slip the original stitch off the left-hand needle, and you have completed a knit through the back loop (ktbl) stitch.
  6. Continue knitting the next stitches following the pattern instructions or until you've completed the desired number of ktbl stitches. If you have ktbl on every row, place stitch markers.

Remember to pay attention to the orientation of the stitches on the left-hand needle as you work, especially when knitting subsequent rows. Knitting through the back loop can twist the stitch, and if you're not careful, it may affect the appearance of the fabric.

It's a good idea to practice knitting through the back loop on a swatch or sample piece before using it in a project. This will familiarize you with the technique and ensure you're comfortable executing it correctly.

Difference between regular knit stitches and KTBL stitches

Embony wood knitting needles with Symfonie yarn

Knit-through-back loop stitches look similar, but they are also visibly different when you look at your knitted fabric. While regular knit stitch forms a little V, the knit-through-the-back loop (ktbl) almost looks like an X. The yarn strand appears twisted counterclockwise. Instead, it seems like a twisted stockinette pattern but is simpler and creates denser fabric.

Why KTBL is useful?

KTBL is an easy way to twist a knitting stitch, creating unique textures.

Here are some uses of KTBL:

Fixing an Accidental Yarn Over—When you pick up stitches (for the gusset of socks), the best option is to knit across the picked-up stitches through the back loop. This will prevent pesky holes and create a beautiful textured stitch pattern in their place. This especially works when knitting lace patterns.

Enhanced Textures in Rib Stitch – When the rib stitches contract too much, knitting through the back loop makes the stitch pattern pop and look good. In fact, it will be a bit less stretchy, but it will add more structure and stability to the fabric. Using Ktbl stitches in ribbing patterns adds elasticity and structure to cuffs, collars, and edges of garments.

Untwisting Twisted Stitches - A clever way to fix mistakes is to knit through the back loop. When you knit through the stitches through the back loop, you intentionally twist the stitches, fixing the twisted stitch.

Mini Cables in Knitting Patterns - If you want to knit super small mini cables, knit every knit stitch through the back loop. The twisted effect will create a pronounced textured cable effect, but then you have a limit to the number of cable stitches. One such special technique comes from Bavaria, the biggest state in Germany, where the traditional costumes involve incredibly elaborate stockings (knitted with 2.00 mm needles with cables that do not include special cable needles or techniques). Almost all of these knitting patterns involve KTBL stitches. The knitting techniques beautifully create diamonds or cables and other textured effects. Explore more about cable knitting without a cable needle.

Structured Accessories: A go-to technique for creating sturdy hat brims, ribbed socks that stay in place, and well-defined buttonholes.

Double-Sided Projects:  The reversible nature of Ktbl fabric can benefit scarves, blankets, and even pillow covers.

So, we've discussed everything about knitting through the back loop. All you have to do now is include it in your knitting projects. Crafting sessions become all the more fun with premium knitting needles from the Lantern Moon Collection. Handcrafted from smooth ebony wood, each tool and accessory is made by skilled artisans who possess craftsmanship passed down through the generations. 

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