The Beauty of Short Row Shaping

cardigan shaped with short rows, from Knitscene Fall 2018
Suzy Cardigan
Knitscene Fall 2018
Shoulders shaped with short rows

After years of knitting, I’m still amazed that you can make a fabric with only yarn and needles. And in making this knit fabric, there are a variety of techniques to shape and curve it. I love watching the transition from a flat fabric to a shaped one with a simple method called short row shaping.

Short rows as the name implies are partial rows of knitting; the work is turned before a row is completed. Because the work is turned some pattern instructions use the term “turning” for short rows. A section of the work has more rows than the other, forming curves without decreasing. A short row shaped fabric has no jagged edges that occur when binding off a series of stitches or decreasing at the edges. The work looks even, and professionally finished. A shawl collar that rolls over and stays in place is something to behold.

The short row technique commonly found in pattern instructions is the “wrap and turn”. If you only turn the knitting, a hole will appear between the stitches worked and those not worked. To prevent holes and form a smooth transition, a stitch is wrapped at the point where the work is turned, followed by hiding the wraps. Short rows can be worked on one side or both sides at the same time. A wrap and turn is worked on either the knit or purl side of the knitting.

How to Wrap and Turn on a Knit Side

Knit to the position where the work is to be turned. With the yarn in back of the needles, slip the next stitch purlwise. Bring the yarn between the needle tips to the front of the work. Slip the same stitch back to the left needle. Move the yarn to the back ready to purl the next row, and turn the work. One wrapped stitch is made.

When you have completed the required number of short rows, the wraps must be hidden so you don’t see them on the finished fabric. To hide the wraps on the knit side, work to just before the wrapped stitch. Insert the right needle under the wrap and knitwise into the stitch, knitting them together. You’ll notice that there is no hole.

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How to Wrap and Turn on a Purl Side

This is essentially the same method as for the knit side, but when wrapping the slipped stitch, the yarn is moved to the back.

Purl to the position of the turn. With the yarn in front, slip the next stitch purlwise. Move the yarn to the back between the needle tips. Slip this same stitch back to left needle. Bring the yarn to the front ready to knit the next row. Turn your work.

To hide the wraps on a purl side, insert the right needle from behind into back loop of wrap, and place it on the left needle. Purl it together with the stitch on left needle.

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Last fall, I knit the lovely cardigan pictured above from Knitscene magazine. Because the cardigan was knit from the top down on circular needles, short rows were used to shape the shoulders instead of binding off a series of stitches. Notice that the short rows are barely visible, but they create a slant where a shoulder seam would normally exist.

cardigan shoulders shaped with short rows

cardigan shoulders with short row shaping

Don’t be afraid to try the wrap and turn.  It’s simple to do and your knitting is transformed; shaped without holes and uneven edges for a beautiful finish.