Knitting Blog

Putting Stitches on Knitting Needles Correctly + Why It Matters

Have you ever tried putting stitches on knitting needles, then noticed that something just wasn’t right? Maybe it felt weird when you tried to knit those stitches, or maybe you noticed that the row looked a little funny. That could be because when you were putting stitches on knitting needles, you didn’t mount the stitch properly.

Whether you’re ripping out your work or just transferring live stitches to a stitch holder, putting stitches on knitting needles the right way is pretty important.

Here’s a look at how the stitches should sit on your needles, plus what it looks like when they’re sitting the wrong way.

Knitting stitches mounted the right way

Stitches mounted the correct way on the needle

Why you’d need to put stitches on your needles

Live stitches

It’s painful, but sometimes we need to unravel 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. In that case, it’s important that you know which direction to put the stitches when they go back on the needle.

Stitches being held on waste yarn

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

Transferring from a stitch holder

When we’re knitting some projects, like sleeves on a sweater, the pattern might 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. (You’ll see why later!)

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

Knitting stitches mounted the right way

And here’s how they look when they’re not sitting properly. Check out how the left leg is sitting in front of the needle when it should be sitting behind the needle.

Stitches mounted the wrong way

What happens when they don’t sit properly

So how do you know if your stitches are sitting properly? One way you’ll know is that when you try to knit, the 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

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.

Continue this across the row, untwisting the stitches before knitting them.

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!

23 Comments

ann marie riley

I love these little instructions! Keep them coming!

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Wilma

They are very helpful.

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Stephanie

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

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puddles1450

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

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pdxknitterati/Michele

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

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Evelyn

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.

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Michelle

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.

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Ashley

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. 🙂

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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: https://sites.google.com/site/oftroysgoldenapples/ This web page has a cast on Tutorial–with over 60 ways to cast on.. (and to bind off, and selvage stitches, and more!)

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Fran

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.

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Lyndistine

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.

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Jaden

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.

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Ashley

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!

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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.

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Sheri

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

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Liz

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.

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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!)

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Deborah

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

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Rebecca

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!

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Linda

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.

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Rosemary

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?

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LInda lane

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

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Jennifer

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.)
Thanks!

Reply

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