Before I delve in, it may help to clarify the difference between intentional twist stitches and unintentionally twisting your stitches. It can be a little confusing with such similar names, but they are two separate techniques.
Twist stitches (the intentional kind) are a nice way to add surface texture to your knitting. The examples below show twist stitches in action (Tolland on the left, Ria on the right). There’s also a handy how-to video on our website if you’re interested in learning the basic twist stitches.
When it comes to unintentional twisting, an accidentally twisted stitch is created if the stitch is knitted through the back loop, which is one of those funny knitting techniques that can be either the result of an accident or done on purpose (it’s abbreviated in our patterns as ktbl).
I knitted up two sample swatches to help illustrate how your fabric will look if you knit through the front loops (standard stockinette) or through the back loops (twisted stockinette):
In each of the examples, I highlighted one stitch so you can compare a standard stitch and its twisted counterpart. In the standard stitch, you can see that the left leg (colored in red) and the right leg (in green) of the loop are sitting side-by-side. When it’s knit through the back loop, the right leg gets pulled across the stitch to the left side, overlapping the left leg to create a twist.
If you think you might be knitting through the back loop but aren’t sure, insert your needle into the next stitch as if you were getting ready to knit, then compare it with the photos below. The leg of the stitch that’s closest to you should run behind your right needle. If that leg of the stitch remains in front of the right needle, you’re inserting it through the back loop.
Let’s look at one more way you could accidentally twist a stitch. If your stitches slipped off the needle and you’re trying to slip them back on, it’s important to pay attention to the way they’re being returned to the needle. Take a look at the photos below for guidance. You’ll want the right leg of the stitch (again colored in green) to be closest to you, with the left leg (in red) facing away from you.
Learning to recognize the difference between standard and twisted stitches can be a little tricky, but once you get the hang of it, all your future twists will only be the intentional kind!