Knitting Technique: P2tog tbl (Purl 2 Together Thru Back Loops)

How to Read a Knitting Pattern with P2tog tbl

This article explains how to read a knitting pattern with the instruction “P2tog tbl”. It also explains how to purl 2 stitches together through the back loops.

Sometimes, knitting patterns will tell you specifically to purl 2 together through the back loops (P2tog tbl).

But often, the pattern writers will simply tell you to do a decrease. So here are some guidelines to tell you when a P2togTBL decrease would be appropriate.


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The P2TogTBL decrease will result in a right-leaning decrease on the other side of the fabric.

If you are working in Stocking Stitch (alternating Knit 1 row and Purl 1 row), then the “P2tog tbl” decrease would typically be used only on a Purl row.

Alternatively, it could be used to provide some texture in the knitted fabric. It depends on the knitting pattern.

How to work a P2tog tbl

A “P2tog tbl” is similar in concept to the P2tog, but it has an interesting twist to it.

A “purl 2 together through back loops” is, in my opinion, the most difficult of the decreases described in this website. It is only difficult, though, because you have to twist your fabric and needles a bit to make it happen. Fortunately, very few patterns call for this kind of decrease.

A slightly easier version of this decrease is the SSP (Slip Slip Purl).

How to do the P2TogTBL

Your target, as usual, is the next two stitches on the left-hand needle (for most knitters).

But first, fold the left-hand needle so it is behind the right-hand needle as you look at it.

Now, insert the right-hand needle into the two target stitches, from right to left (because this is a purl-type stitch). The needle will be going into the back loops of those stitches, because the back of the fabric is now facing you, because you folded the left-hand needle behind the right-hand needle.

Complete the purl stitch as usual, and at the end drop the two stitches from the left-hand needle, and position the left-hand needle in the normal manner (unfold it).

The photo shows the right-hand needle inserted into the back loops of the two stitches on the left-hand needle. The yarn is ready to be wrapped over the right-hand needle to complete the purl stitch – make sure that you don’t wrap the yarn around the left-hand needle too!

Knitting Decrease: P2TogTBL Purl 2 together thru back loops

Knitting Decrease: P2TogTBL Purl 2 together thru back loops

As indicated, this decrease is used rarely. But it is a good technique to have in your repertoire.

In this website, Bronze (or paid) members can see detailed patterns featuring P2togTBL, such as:

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2 Responses to Knitting Technique: P2tog tbl (Purl 2 Together Thru Back Loops)

  1. Tracey Johnson says:

    I understand how to p2togtbl. My problem is this:

    I am making the kitten booties from the kitten set in Bernat’s Sweet Baby Sets book (page 17).

    I have to repeat these two rows:
    1) k2tog, K9, sl1, K1, psso, sl1, TURN
    2) p2togtbl ….

    That means that the p2togtbl is right after a slipped stitch and a TURN.
    That means my yarn is attached to the left needle and I have to do the p2togtbl through a slipped stitch. It doesn’t work at all because the yarn is on the left needle which means I am trying to wrap it for the purl starting on the left.

    I have restarted these booties three times in the past few years and I always give up.

    How the heck do you do p2togtbl immediately after a turn??? I can’t find videos for this anywhere.

    Please help if you can!

    Tracey

    • admin says:

      Hi, Tracey,

      When I read your comment, and tried to picture it in my mind, my head hurt! I totally understand your frustration.

      So I hauled out my yarn and needles, and played with it a bit.

      The best answer that I can give you is to just trust it!

      Normally, when you start a purl row, your yarn is on the left-hand needle. In this case, it’s just one stitch over from where it usually is. So, just ignore that yarn for a minute, and insert your needle through the back loops of those first two stitches, the slipped one and the next one, making sure that both needle points are pointing towards you. Then wrap the yarn over the right hand needle. You will have to first go UNDER the right hand needle, moving to the right, before you can put the yarn OVER the right hand needle. At that point, you can pull the yarn through both of the stitches to the back, and drop the stitches from the left-hand needle. The yarn has to travel a bit more than usual, but it’s ok.

      At that point, you will have one stitch on your right-hand needle, you will have purled the two stitches together, and your yarn is still on the front of your work.

      And, from a completely realistic perspective, the slant of a decrease is not that significant when the decrease is done right on the edge stitches! You could probably do a P2tog instead – it would be easier, and no one is going to notice the difference except you!

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