Wonder why your knitting never looks quite right? You may be twisting your stitches. Learn to recognize and avoid this common mistake.
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Knitting fabric with hand
Credit: homebodyfibers via Instagram

Knitting is a cherished pastime for a reason. The rhythmic motions calm the mind, and the outcome of each project is a labor of love. But even the most experienced knitters can make a mistake every now and then—like twisted stitches. It's a common error, especially when so many learn to knit from books and online sources, without an instructor (or friend or grandparent) showing you the ropes.

So, what is a twisted stitch? Your stitches should "sit" a particular way on your needle, called the "stitch mount," on both right-side and wrong-side rows.

correct stitches

Correct Stitches

Think of the stitch on the needle as having two legs, like a person on horseback. With your work facing you, and the stitches on the needle in your left hand, look closely at each stitch. The stitch sits on the needle with its right leg in front, or toward you, and its left leg in the back, away from you.

Direction of the Stitches

These stitches should be facing the same way regardless of whether you just worked a knit row or a purl row. No matter what, on the right side and the wrong side, you will insert your needle into the "leg" of the stitch that's coming over the top of the needle and is closest to you.

What if your stitches are facing the other way? The most likely culprit is that you are wrapping your yarn the wrong way around your needle on either the knit side, the purl side, or both. You should always wrap the yarn counterclockwise around your needle.

If a row of purl stitches is worked and wrapped the yarn the wrong way—which is much more common with continental knitters (knitters who hold the yarn in their left hand)—when the work is turned to knit a right side row, the stitches are facing the wrong way. This can result in this row of stitches being twisted, because when you wrap the yarn the wrong way, the stitch becomes mounted on the needle incorrectly.

incorrect stitches

Incorrect Stitches

When your stitches are mounted incorrectly, you are more likely to twist them. The stitches face the wrong way, and if you were to work the purl stitch and twist the stitch closed, the resulting stitch would be too tight and uneven.

Twisted Stitches, Explained

Below is a swatch where the purl stitches have been wrapped clockwise, resulting in the following row of twisted stitches. The fabric looks less even, and you can see those twisted rows shifting to the right just slightly.

Impact of Twisted Stitches

Twisting your stitches will affect the texture of your finished item, and also, possibly, the finished size. If you consistently twist on either a knit or purl row, your rows may elongate slightly. Your finished items may then come out too long. If you consistently twist both rows, your stitches become too tight and you may find that they are difficult to work. Your finished items may also come out too small.

Even Stitches

When you consistently wrap the yarn counterclockwise, and your stitches are always mounted with the left leg in front, your stitches will come out even. Look at the swatch below: With each stitch—each little "v" in the fabric—the sides of the stitch are the same size; they are much more even overall.

Correct Knit Swatch

Combination Knitting

"Now, hold on," you may say. "My grandmother taught me to knit, and my stitches are always mounted the other way." Grandma might be from the Middle East, Russia, or Eastern Europe—or learned to knit from someone who was. There are some regional styles that intentionally twist every stitch (eastern cross knitting), or sometimes twist one row, then untwist on the next (eastern uncrossed knitting), as part of the process.

Variations of this are commonly called combined knitting, combination knitting, or Eastern knitting. While there is nothing wrong with any of these methods, it is good to understand what it is and that you are using it intentionally. It is good practice to make sure your stitches are consistently worked the way most patterns expect them to be worked, or your results may suffer.

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