How To Knit Short Rows: A Simple Guide For Beginners

why use short rows in knitting

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Knitting short rows can be a little confusing for new knitters. Many people get confused by the concept, but it is actually very simple to understand. I’m going to show you how to knit short rows step-by-step, and hopefully you’ll find out exactly what they are and why so many patterns call for them!

Download short row substitution guide at the end of the article or from the sidebar.

What are short rows used for in knitting?

Short rows in knitting is a technique which allows creating different shapes, not knitting to the end of the row.

We use short rows in knitting when a pattern requires a piece of work to be smaller than the full width of the knitting. We use the technique where the garment requires shaping or an armhole or neckline. In order for short rows to be successful, there must be technique employed so that holes do not appear at the turnings where the work is turned.

  • Execution of collars of sweaters
  • Knitting various hats. As they differ in shape and are often elongated in one place and shortened in another. What happens? Only shortened rows can cope with this task. And that’s not all.
  • Tucks can also be performed using short rows. This is especially true for women. It is often necessary to tie up ready-made things, as it is incredibly difficult to fit them to the figure. And then the shortened rows come to the rescue.
  • Widely used for the visors of hats.
  • The heels of the socks are made using short rows.
  • Need to get an asymmetric thing? When knitting, shortened rows are also involved.
  • Sloping shoulder lines, round or oval neckline for your favorite jumper just need to be decorated with such knitting.
  • Knitters use this technique also for decorative purposes.

There are at least five short row techniques:

  • German short rows
  • Wrap and Turn (W&T)
  • Yarn Over Method
  • Shadow Wrap
  • Japanese Short Rows

What are German short rows in knitting?

While it is simple and yet neat short row method in knitting, we often refer it to as German short rows because German knitting books popularized it. It is a method without wrapping a stitch, but using double stitch instead after the turn. More details here.

Short Rows: Wrap & Turn

A wrap and turn is a simple way to make short rows in knitting. It is a technique used to shape garments by turning the work part way through a row, wrapping the yarn around the stitch, and then turning it back on the other side. We make wrap and turn just before turning. Read more.

Yarn over short rows

The yarn over method for knit short rows is a way of working short rows without a wrap. We position the turning yarn on the needle when work is turned, and it is in place to work together with the next stitch (and hide the hole) in the next row. Read more about yarn over short rows.

Shadow wrap short rows (twin-stitch short row)

Shadow wrap method involves a stitch right under the turning stitch to close the hole in knitting. Curious? Read here!

Japanese short rows

This short rows method involves extra tool – piece of scrap yarn or marker to put around working yarn when we turn the work. It has its pros and cons, but the result is invisible short rows. Learn Japanese short row method.

Short Rows in the round

Short rows in the round, no matter in which method is straightforward as in flat knitting, but there is a catch!

When you are knitting in the round, there will be 1 unworked short row turning point which might look awkward because you are meeting it from the other direction. How to work it off? Well, read in dedicated articles about each method because techniques on how to work them off are different.

Short Row Shoulder Slant Shaping

The easiest way to show how short rows work is shoulder slant shaping. From there you will be ready to grasp more complicated short row shaping.

The shoulder slant is the angle created between a horizontal line and a shoulder line at the neck-shoulder point.

Shoulder slant must be done. In this way, we remove the bulk in the shoulder area.


short row shoulders

How do you measure short rows for shoulders?

When you are knitting a sweater, you will come across a situation where you need to calculate shoulder slope slant. Measurement depends on the individual and garment fitting (set-in sleeve, dropped shoulder, etc.).

General recommendations are from 4-9cm (1.57 – 3.5 inches).

The longer the shoulder line, the greater the slant measurement.

Before you knew what short rows are most likely, you had done it ugly – creating steps and cutting yarn.

Short Rows Calculation

Count how many centimeters (inches) high your slope will be?

Let’s assume 3 cm (in the example below).

How many stitches there are on the needle for the shoulders? In my case, I have 27 stitches.

How many rows there are in 3 cm? In my case, I have 6 rows in 3 cm.

Now, divide 6 by 2 = 3 and we get how many short rows we need. You always divide by 2 because in 1 rows you do a short row and turn and knit to the other side. So you do 1 turn over 2 rows.

For the shoulder slope, we want to divide all stitches evenly. We have 3 turning points which will divide 27 stitches in 4 groups (basic math). So 27 stitches divide by 4 is 7-7-7-6. You can see those turning points in the picture below.

In this example I am using German short row method (sometimes referred as double stitch).

Start knitting short rows.

  1. Knit first 7 stitches. Turn.  
  2. Make a double stitch. Purl back 6 stitches. Turn.
  3. Knit 6 stitches, work off the German short row stitch, knit 7. Turn. 
  4. Make a double stitch. Purl back 13 stitches. Turn.
  5. Knit 13 stitches, work off the German short row stitch, knit 7. Turn. 
  6. Make a double stitch. Purl back 20 stitches. Turn.

That’s it, you have done your shoulder slope. Now we even out the row and knit off unworked short row stitch.

  1. Knit 20 stitches, work off the German short rows stitch, knit 6. Turn.

To knit shoulder slant on the other side start short rows from the purl side and you will get raise on the left. 
short rows knitting

In conclusion, let me answer some of the frequent questions about knitting short rows.

How do you knit a short row without wrapping it?

Use following short rows methods:

  1. Japanese Short rows
  2. Shadow wrap
  3. German short rows
  4. Yarn over short rows

Best knit short rows method?

The best short rows method is what you use more often than the other short row methods. Knowing even one method is brilliant, you can use it everywhere.

Some methods I find fiddly, for example, Japanese short rows, but I use them often because it provides invisible look and are great in 1×1 or 2×2 ribbings (any ribbing, actually).

Shadow short rows are a great alternative for invisible look.

Other easy short rows method are German short rows!

How do you prevent holes in knit short rows?

Answer is easy – use any of the short rows knitting methods discussed in tutorial and you won’t have holes in your short rows.

How to substitute W&T and German short rows? 

 Substitution guide is available for download below! 

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