Short rows are a great technique to add shaping and three-dimensionality in a flat piece of knitting. They are most often used to shape sock heels, add bust darts, or in other uses for improved fit. Or, they can be used for fun styling choices, like changing directions in a shawl or to add a high-low hem to a sweater. Short rows are so called because you turn the work in the middle of a row — in essence, the row you’re working on is cut short. Various techniques have been developed to eliminate holes that would otherwise develop in your knitting when you’re not working the entire row uninterrupted. These range from very simple to quite complex.
1. Wrapless a.k.a. Simple Short Rows
The easiest way to knit short rows is the wrapless method: work to the turning point, turn your work, slip the first stitch and tighten yarn, and then work the rest of the row as you would normally. When you’re working over the short-row turn on the next row, tighten yarn again to avoid a hole forming in the fabric. Although this method is very easy to work, the drawback is that there’s inevitably a little slack on the working yarn at turning points, making not-so-invisible short rows. To avoid the issue, use one of the short-row methods below.
2. Wrap & Turn
Wrap-and-turn short rows are probably the most commonly used short-row technique. It was certainly the first short-row method I encountered and was taught. It involves wrapping the working yarn around the “neck” of the stitch on the other side of the short row, then picking up or concealing the wraps on the next row by knitting them together with the wrapped stitch.
3. Yarnover Method The yarnover method is a variation of wrap-and-turn short rows. Instead of wrapping the working yarn around the stitch, work a backwards yarnover around the needle. On the return row, these two stitches are then worked together, just like in the wrap-and-turn method. For the next two methods you need removable stitch markers, safety pins, or pieces of scrap yarn to mark the turning points.
4. Japanese Short Rows This one is pretty similar to wrapless short rows. After turning the work and slipping the first stitch, you place a removable marker — not on the stitch or around the needle — but on the working yarn, then work the rest of the row as you would normally. On the return row, work to where you placed the marker and pull the marker to create a loop on the back of the work. Place the loop on the left needle and knit together with the next stitch.
5. Sunday Short Rows
The next method is called the Sunday Short Rows not because you’re only supposed to use it on Sundays but because it was developed by knitwear designer Carol Sunday. The difference to Japanese short rows is that the first stitch after turning is not slipped.
6. German a.k.a the Double-Stitch Method
In German short rows, you slip the first stitch after turning with yarn in front, then pull the working yarn to turn the slipped stitch upside down so that both “legs” of the stitch are on the needle. This makes the doublestitch (because it looks like two stitches), frequently abbreviated as DS in knitting patterns. On the return row, work the doublestitch as one stitch, through both legs. This method has become my go-to way of knitting short rows. It’s easy to execute and nearly invisible. The only drawback I can think of is that you should never ever drop the doublestitch! It’s quite impossible to get it back correctly on the needle again. Believe me, I’ve tried.
7. Shadow Wraps a.k.a. Twin-Stitch Short Rows
The twin stitch may sound similar to double stitch but these methods are completely different from one another. In shadow wraps you’re actually making two stitches from one at the turning points. On the stockinette side of the work, make a lifted increase from the stitch below the next one, and place it back on the left needle. On the purl side, slip the first stitch, make a lifted increase below that stitch, then place them both back on the left needle. On the return row, work the twin stitch as one.
Who knew they are so many short-row techniques out there! Which ones have you tried? Which one is your favorite?
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