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Short row shaping seems to elicit a marmite reaction: you either love it or you hate it. I’m firmly in the ‘love it’ camp, thinking it is a great technique to use and very useful too.
So, what is it? Essentially a short row is a row which is not fully knitted, just as the name suggests. The piece of knitting is turned around before reaching the end of the row, and knitted back in the other direction.
Short rows are included in knitting patterns as a way to shape a garment, whether it is to create a curved heel in a sock or shapely bust darts in a top. The shaping works by introducing extra rows of knitting into the pattern on a horizontal plane, whereas other increases will be introducing extra stitches into the pattern on a vertical plane.
Another place that you might come across short rows is on shoulder shaping in patterns such as this man’s tank top, Maile by Woolly Thinking. They are used at the shoulders or armholes to create a more attractive cast-off edge a slanted edge, which is often cast off using a three-needle bind-off for stability.
Okay, so you knit a row, not quite to the end and turn back. But what about this abbreviation ‘w&t’?
This pattern abbreviation is all about making the finished knitting neat and tidy. The ‘t’ stands for turn, as we’ve talked about, but the ‘w’ is for wrap. This is the important bit for neatness. In order that the finished piece of knitting does not have stepped holes in it at the turning points, the yarn is passed around the next unknitted stitch.
You do this by knitting up to the point indicated in your pattern, slipping the next stitch to your working needle, passing the yarn to the front of the work (presuming you are working in knit), slipping the stitch back, turning the work and continuing to knit you pattern.
As it is often easier to see what that means, I suggest that you visit Knitty, where Bonne Marie Burns has written up a really good set of instructions with pictures, which you can see here. They include visuals that show how to pick up the wrap and turns, so as not to have holes in your finished knitting.
If you want to try out short-row shaping without the commitment of a large garment, here are some ideas.
Woolly Wormhead’s Going Straight hats (knitted sideways and great fun)
Kathryn Shoendorf’s Calorimetry headband
Lucia Liljegren’s Baby Rat pattern.
Yarnissima’s Sottopassagia socks