Twisted Stitches

Twisted Stitches have always been one of my (many) favorite hand manipulations on a knitting machine. There is a whole chapter in Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters devoted to twisted stitches as they are one of the basic ways to manipulate stitches.

By hand or machine, classic twisted stitch patterns are created by twisting pairs of stitches every two rows. The end result looks a lot like 1×1 cables, but twisted stitches are much faster and more fluid to produce. The machine knit version, by the way, looks exactly like the hand knit and you can follow hand knit charts at the machine. Take a look at the book Charted Knitting Designs by the great Barbara Walker. It has a huge chapter on twisted stitches so you will never run short of inspiration.


IMG_0239The method is pretty simple as I’ve illustrated in the video on this post. You use a pair of 2-prong transfer tools, removing the stitches on the first tool and then inserting the second tool from above. Remove the first tool, rotate the tool holding the stitches to the right or left and replace the stitches on the same two needles. (They will, of course, be on each other’s needle due to the twisting.) The  diamonds I knitted on the video are pictured at right.

When working vertical columns of twisted stitches, it doesn’t mater whether you twist the tool to the right or to the left as long as you are consistent throughout the garment. However, if you want the stitches to “travel” across the knitting – which is where twisted stitches really show off – the direction that you twist is very important. If the stitches are supposed to be traveling towards the right (as the fabric faces you on the machine), you should twist the tool to the right. When traveling left, twist to the left.

The effect is sharp and clear on the knit side of the fabric and although you can faintly make out the pattern on the purl side (sort of a ghost image) it really doesn’t show or have much character. In fact, if the pattern looks great on the purl side, you have twisted in the wrong direction as the knit side will only bear a trace of the twisting.

“Traveling” is how I describe the way the twists seem to progress across the fabric. This is accomplished by making each twist with one stitch from the previous pair and one new stitch.

I love working diamond shaped grids with twisted stitches because once I establish the first pairs of twists in the very first row. I don’t need to consult the chart again. Set up for a diamond grid by twisting pairs of stitches with an even number of stitches between them. As the stitches travel towards each other you will come to a place where you will twist the last stitch from each previously pair together. After that, they will split and travel in the opposite direction.





The blue sweater at left appeared in an early issue of Studio Design Magazine and the directions are available in the Free Stuff on my web site (  It features popcorns in the middle of each diamond and a trim at the lower edges of the garment and top of the sleeves (as an insert) that is worked with a garter bar. I think that today I would make the sweater a little more oversized and ditch the ¾ sleeves. After all, fashion changes and this was done in 1993.

pinktwistedstitches_53 copy

The pink sweater is a much more elaborate twisted stitch pattern. There are parallel trails of stitches that seem to weave through each other where they intersect. I’m sorry to say I have no idea what ever happened to the pattern for this one, but the chart and photo below should give you a pretty good idea of how those interlacements work and could be applied to any garment.

Notice how the trails of stitches seem to interweave where they cross. You can leave the centers of the diamonds plain, but sometimes they just beg for a cable or a popcorn to jazz them up!
Notice how the trails of stitches seem to interweave where they cross. You can leave the centers of the diamonds plain, but sometimes they just beg for a cable or a popcorn to jazz them up!
The arrows indicate the direction twist the tool. Notice the areas shaded blue - this is where the interlacement occurs.
The arrows indicate the direction to twist the tool. Notice the areas shaded blue – this is where the interlacement occurs.

















Author: Susan Guagliumi

I'm a machine knitter, author, gardener and pretty good cook. I live in Connecticut with my husband, Arthur.

11 thoughts on “Twisted Stitches”

  1. Great write-up. Makes me want to go try immediately. You explain very well. However, I would also like to see it–and the video is “private.” I’m sure it is just a setting in your blog program. Also, can you make the photos expand when we click on them? I’d love to see a bit more detail.

  2. Susan, I remember having the chance to admire that lovely
    blue sweater as it was modeled by you for a Hand Manipulated Stitches class in Illinois. It is still lovely: a classy, classic sweater! 20+ years have certainly flown by.

    1. Thank you! I loved that sweater too. Have no idea where it – and so many others – is at this point. Worn out? Too small? Tired of the look? Who knows! Wish I still had them all though. Seriously thinking of reuniting this one – with more ease and longer sleeves in a luscious wool that will last forever!

  3. Thanks for the expanded photo—the blue sweater edge looks almost like tassels. Elegant, understated tassels, but still, tassels!

  4. Great video Susan. I would have loved to see the knit side of the finished 3 stitch cable twist but the film cut it off. Any chance you can post a picture of that demonstrated stitch?

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