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twisted stiches with norah gaughan

Twisted Stitches: Why You Need to Take a Live Knitting Class

I have more or less completely taught myself to knit from tutorials on the Internet. I am constantly learning new techniques, new ideas, and new designs. It’s what I love about knitting – that there is always a new challenge. I pride myself on learning new techniques on YouTube, and was incredibly excited to get my own YouTube channel started. It’s so much fun! The Internet makes all things possible! But, apparently, it also made twisted stitches go unnoticed in my life too.

This weekend, I got a good, old-fashioned reality check from a knitting superstar, Norah Gaughan. I apparently got lazy on my purling and started to twist ALL my stitches. Not some of them. Not consciously. Just, you know, twisted all of them.

For non-knitters, this is like finding out you’ve been counting to ten wrong for the last two months and no one told you.

So here’s the deal. There’s a lot of knitting controversy around whether one knitting “style” is wrong or right. I don’t mean to imply any of that, and, in fact, I think I accidentally taught myself a new technique.

That being said, if you’re trying to do something specific, and you’re not actually doing it, you are doing something wrong, like creating twisted stitches. (It reminds me of a yoga teacher during a class once: “That’s a super cool and interesting pose, dear, but it’s not what we’re all doing.”)

During the class I took with Norah Gaughan this weekend, I knew the hexagon I was knitting wasn’t going well. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Knitting has taught me how to soldier on, to let go of perfection, so I just kept at it. Finally I had to raise my work and say, “Norah, what the heck am I doing wrong?” Here’s what I discovered:

So I had taught myself purling continental the “correct” way:

Then I just forgot? Got lazy? And I started purling this way instead:

I could tell my knitting was off when I looked at the increases and decreases of the tank top I was working on. You guessed it! I did an entire garment with my funky purl! So many twisted stitches!twisted stiches

Discovering this mistake caused me to have a slight existential breakdown. What else do I not know about knitting? What else am I doing unconsciously? Damn you, twisted stitches!

Purling the way I accidentally started to, is actually easily fixable in stockinette – you just knit through the back loop. But since I didn’t know that, all my increases and decreases were twisted.

twisted stitches increase decrease
Not a pretty decrease!

The “something is wrong” bell did go off in my head, but I couldn’t figure it out, so I kept going.

I think my new technique is definitely a design feature. And perhaps super helpful when getting through a crazy boring swath of stockinette. However, you should probably know what you’re doing as you’re doing it!

This is one of the many reasons I’m so grateful I went to Norah Gaughan’s class. Left to my own devices, I was unaware of the new techniques I was trying unconsciously, and I had developed a strange new habit. So go to classes! Learn new things, and old things you just realized you un-learned! Without an on-hand expert, it would have been way more time consuming and difficult for me to have the awareness to figure this mistake out.

Many knitters say you need to “learn to read your knitting.” This is incredibly true, but WAY harder than it sounds. Especially to those of us who love to follow directions, and aren’t so great with the spatial relations of how the yarn weaves together. The way I’ve learned to “read” my knitting is by seeing mistakes like this on a LARGE scale, like, I don’t know, creating a whole new “design feature” for a garment I made with twisted stitches.

Reading your knitting is essential! But the way for those lessons to really stick with you? Learning them in person and with the aid of a real life expert. There is just no replacing a real teacher who can teach you the things you don’t even know that you need to know! That is the inherent difficulty of the Internet, because while I hope this post finds someone else who is accidentally “purling funky,” it’s going to be way harder for them to find it when they’re unaware of what they’re doing!

Please let me know in the comments below if you know what the official name is for my “funky purling” style! Someone in my class mentioned it was the Eastern European way? Anyone know anything more specific?


I started a forum thread about this issue on Ravelry. So many people have offered great resources and insights! My personal favorite and most concise explanation came from Rox:

The Eastern purl isn’t twisting your stitches. It’s causing the new sts created on the right hand needle to have an Eastern mount. It’s the subsequent knitting of those eastern mounted sts through the front/left/trailing leg on the following row that causes them to twist as they come off the needle.

Combined knitting is when your knit sts and purl sts are worked differently (one picked/wrapped clockwise, which is Eastern; one picked/wrapped counterclockwise, which is Western). Working them Eastern or Western does not mean that your stitches will be twisted, because of it. That’s a separate issue. Being a Continental knitter is also a separate issue, because you can knit combined with the yarn in either hand. So you can knit/purl Eastern or Western, combined or not, yarn in right hand or left, and end up with twisted sts or untwisted sts.

The way you enter the sts on the left needle determines whether the sts will come off the needle twisted or untwisted.

Because your sts twist, we know that the sts were worked through the left leg. Because they twist to the right, we can tell that the left leg was hanging over the front of the needle at the time. Sts that twist left are worked while they hang over the back of the needle, and the sts are worked through the back, as well.

Thanks to everyone for their insights!


My name is Monica Rodriguez and I can’t stop fidgeting with yarn. I live in Albuquerque, NM with my husband. We belong to two terriers who manage to cuddle us just enough to keep us from revolting.

2 thoughts to “Twisted Stitches: Why You Need to Take a Live Knitting Class”

  1. So the comment you received above explaining the stitch mount pretty much says it all, I just wanted to add that some like to do the Eastern purl for its tighter tension, particularly if you’re ending up with loose sides on ribbing. For my own self, I’ve been knitting continental for a decade now and my western purl is STILL looser than my knit, so if I’m knitting stockinette flat, I end up with a ridged appearance. I went looking on ravelry and ended up finding the Combined knitters group. It was pretty exciting for me because my grandmother had taught me combined initially but as a beginner I wasn’t familiar enough with what everything was supposed to look like to understand stitch mounts and so I had the same twisted stitch problem; I stopped knitting for a few years because I couldn’t figure out increases and decreases, then picked it back up and taught myself western purl, not really ever understanding what it was I’d learned initially until I found that Ravelry group.

    1. Thanks for your insight! I’m definitely excited about learning more about “combined knitting.” As we both learned the hard way, if you don’t understand how a stitch is mounted, you can get yourself very frustrated! I’m so glad you came back to knitting.

Let me know what you think!