Short rows… One of those knitting techniques that knitters either embrace or fear. The first time I used short rows, I didn’t know that’s what they were. I was shaping the shoulders of a sweater, and didn’t want to bind off and sew the shoulder seams (lazy knitter) so I fudged my way through, figuring out that I needed to close the gap and then do some cosmetic fiddling. The thing was, it worked. But, when I figured out later what short rows were called, and how to do them, the magic was gone. If you over-think something, it can stop working.
In theory, short rows aren’t hard to get right, even if you’re new to them. And half the time, they’re placed somewhere inconspicuous, like the heel of a sock. But, how do they look in unforgiving yarn in a field of stockinette at a crucial part of a sweater? In designing a top down raglan pullover in Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy, a yarn which I love, I wanted to shape the front neck drop with short rows. And very quickly found that my short row wrap-and-turns left something to be desired. The hard Hempathy doesn’t let any distorted stitch blend into the background, and it’s threadiness means you can see through the fabric. My short rows were gappy and distorted.
Here’s a photo of my re-learning swatch this morning. The short row turning points are down the middle. See if you can spot them. And see below for an image of the same swatch backlit. That’s another thing to check if you’re choosing a short row technique for a shawl or something open: what does it look like when looking through it?
Wrap and Turn Short Rows
This is the most typical kind of short row, probably because it’s one of the easiest to explain and learn. The Wrap and Turn part is easy. Just stop knitting or purling when you get to the end of your partial row, slip the next stitch, move your yarn to the opposite side of your work, slip the stitch back, move your yarn back its orginal spot, then turn your work.
Fixing the wrap is the part that takes a little practice. If the wrap is in garter stitch or reverse stockinette, you can ignore it, it will blend in. I tried it in seed stitch; you can pretty much ignore it there too.
But in stocking stitch, you need to pick up the wrap and work it together with the wrapped stitch. It’s not hard, but you do want to make sure you don’t twist things as you go. Purl Bee’s step-by-step photo tutorial on short rows is great.
German Short Rows
On my quest for a better looking short row, I tried German Short Rows; I found the instructions on Ravelry’s Ask a Knitter Issue 86. It’s a funny little method that isn’t too intuitive. You slip your last stitch before the turn and pull the yarn over the needle to the opposite side, distorting the legs of the mother stitch over the needle so they look like two stitches. On the return, you work those two legs together like a regular stitches. Sounds weird, works like a charm.
(I also found something called Double Stitch Short Rows at Socktopus, I think it’s the same as German).
I found this one on Socktopus, I think she may have unvented this technique. This one is nice because you do all the work at the turn. The “wrap” is actually a shadow stitch worked into the mother stitch of the turning point. But in inelastic yarn, I found the process caused the neighbor stitch to be loose. Of course, I’m sure practice would help.
Other variations of Short Rows to google:
Japanese Short Rows
Yarn Over Short Rows