Throughout this season, we’re reposting some of our favorite columns by Barbara Breiter, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Knitting & Crocheting, previously featured in our Weekly Stitch newsletter.
Short rows are partial rows of knitting. They are used to shape projects in a way that decreases or increases cannot accomplish. They can create darts in a pullover and heels of a sock. You can make wedges or "slices of a pie"; when the wedges are continually made, you have an entire "pie" and, depending upon the scale, you will have a cloth or a large circular throw. Short rows can also be used to create a bell curve, which knits up as a wonderful shawl collar on a sweater.
Don't shy away from a pattern using short rows because it just seems too complicated. Once you get the hang of it, it's no more difficult than knitting or purling.
There are two important concepts in short rows: turning and wrapping.
It may seem incorrect, but turn whenever your pattern indicates to do so. You may be at the end of a row or you may not be; if you're not at the end, turn your work just as if you were at the end of the row, and then work the next set of instructions going in the other direction. Sometimes you just have to have faith that it will turn out correctly in the end. So even if it seems totally wrong, keep going!
Wrapping prevents holes from forming. There are several ways of accomplishing this and your pattern should give specific instructions. What's important to note is that the working yarn is literally wrapped around a stitch; usually this is a slipped stitch.
An instruction may read:
Knit to last 2 sts, wyif slip next st, bring yarn to back, and slip wrapped st back to left needle. Turn.
So knit across the row until you reach the last 2 stitches of the row. With the working yarn held in front, slip the next stitch from the left to the right needle (stitches are always slipped as if to purl unless otherwise stated). Move the working yarn to the back. Now slip the stitch you just slipped and wrapped back to the left needle. Turn right there and continue on with the next set of instructions; there would be 2 stitches remaining on the left needle before you turn (one that was wrapped and returned to the left needle and one that was not worked).
Here’s another example of a different way of wrapping:
Knit to last 2 sts, wyib slip next st, bring yarn to front, turn, k the slipped st. Knit to end.
In this example, the stitch is slipped with the yarn in the back, and then the working yarn is brought to the front of the work. You aren’t slipping the slipped stitch back to the left needle so there would be only one stitch remaining on the left needle.
Usually, you eliminate the extra strand of the wrap and close off the hole the next time the stitch is worked. If it's a knit stitch, insert your needle into the wrap from front to back and then into the next stitch (the one that is wrapped). Knit the two (the stitch and the wrap) together. If it's a purl stitch, insert the needle into the wrap from back to front, then into the stitch and purl the two together.
With a little practice, you'll be able to use short rows to add shaping, curves, and more to your projects!
[Pattern pictured: Knit Short Row Scarf]