Shoulder Shaping – No More Stairs!

Shoulder shaping

Recently I got an email from one of my readers and she asked to explain short rows shoulder shaping. I wrote her back and showed how I would do it. After that I thought why not to dedicate separate blog post? So here it is!

What is short row shoulder shaping?

Short row shoulder shaping is a knitting technique that creates a tailored fit in garments, particularly in the shoulder area.

 It involves working short rows across a section of the fabric to form a gradual slope, resulting in a more anatomically correct fit for the shoulder and neck areas.

Why choose short row shoulder shaping?

Short row shoulder shaping is a popular knitting technique due to its numerous benefits. One of the main advantages is that it results in a more anatomically correct fit for the garment. Traditional shoulder seams are typically straight, which can often clash with the natural curve of the shoulder. This can lead to an ill-fitting garment that is both uncomfortable and unflattering to wear.

Short row shoulder shaping offers a more customized and comfortable fit by shaping the fabric to match the curve of the shoulder. This method also helps to reduce bulk in the shoulder area, making it particularly beneficial for heavier yarns or bulkier designs. 

How to calculate shoulder slope?

Shoulder slope is an angle between the neck point and the shoulder point. There are 3 types of shoulders:

  1. Square: a straight, vertical line down from the neck to the shoulder, with no slope.

  2. Sloping: a diagonal line from the neck to the shoulder, sloping downward from the neck to the outer edge of the shoulder.

  3. Drooping: the slope is the steepest

The steeper the line, the more inches (or cm) should be added to follow the slope.

In general, a shoulder slope of approximately 1 3/4″ to 2″ (4.4 – 5 cm) is considered a reasonably standard measurement.

The longer  garment’s shoulder line (for example, dropped shoulder) the bigger shoulder slope.

short row shoulders
Shoulder Slant. Dropped shoulder sweater. The slope height is 3.14'' (8 cm). If I would have shorter shoulder seam, I would leave only 1.57 '' (4cm)

Calculate how many stitches and rows you will have for shoulders. 

Example:

Gauge 2 sts/3 rows per 1cm (0.39’’). Shoulder line 12 cm long (4.72’’), slope height 3cm (1.18’’).

Shoulder slope stitch count: 2 stitches times 12 is 24 stitches.

Row count: 3cm (1.18’’) times 3 cm slope height makes 9 rows. Round to a whole number – 8 rows  (because short rows are worked in pairs). 

Divide 8 by 2 makes 4 turning points.

You have 4 short row turning points. The last row (nr. 9) is to work all the short row stitches to smooth out the shoulder slope line. 

How many stitches between short rows?

Divide 24 by 5 (because when you put 4 turning points on the line, you will have 5 pieces, right?!) is 4.8 stitches. Usually I round down to a whole number which is 4 and remained stitches I split between outer part of the sleeve. See the picture below.

In this case we would knit the right back shoulder slope

Shoulder shaping example
Right back side shoulder shaping.
Left shoulder slope. How to split stitches for shoulder shaping with short rows

Executing short row shoulder shaping

In this example we use German short row method.

Right Back Shoulder Shaping

If you are starting from the armhole side, knit across the row to the neck hole. 

Short rows start on the wrong side. 

Row 1. Purl 18 stitches to the point D (6 stitches left unworked). Turn 

Row 2. Make German short row double stitch. Knit to the point O. Turn

Row 3. Purl 12 stitches to the point C. Turn.

Row 4. Make German short row double stitch. Knit to the point O. Turn

Row 5. Purl 8 stitches to the point B. Turn.

Row 6. Make German short row double stitch. Knit to the point O. Turn

Row 7. Purl 4 stitches to the point A. Turn.

Row 8. Make German short row double stitch. Knit to the point O. Turn 

Row 9. Purl across the row and work all the double stitches (O-S).

Left Back Shoulder Shaping

Start shaping on the right side. 

Row 1. Knit 18 stitches from the left side (O) to the point D (6 stitches left unworked). Turn on the wrong side.

Row 2. Make German short row double stitch. Purl to the point O. Turn.

Row 3. Knit 12 stitches to the point C (12 sts left unworked). Turn.

Row 4. Make German short row double stitch. Purl to the point O. Turn.

Row 5. Purl 8 stitches to the point B. Turn.

Row 6. Make German short row double stitch. Purl to the point O. Turn.

Row 7. Knit 4 stitches to the point A. Turn.

Row 8. Make German short row double stitch. Purl to the point O. Turn.

Row 9. This row is to work all the double stitches on the right side (all the way from point O).

In the picture below there is another possible version of stitch splitting for shoulder shaping.

In the picture you can see longer shoulder slant stitch distribution for knitting.

Sewing shoulder seams

When you finished shoulder shaping, there are several options how to sew them.

  1. After working off all the short row stitches, bind off and sew front and back shoulders with darning needle.

  2. Leave live stitches and use kitchener stitch to make seamless join (click the link to see kitchener stitch tutorial).

  3. Use 3 needle bind-off if you want to make visible decorative seam.

Common mistakes to avoid

Short row shoulder shaping is a valuable technique that can help you create beautifully shaped shoulders that fit your body perfectly. However, there are some common mistakes that you should watch out for when using it. 

  • Avoid creating gaps in the fabric: It’s crucial to ensure that you’re not creating any holes or gaps in the fabric when working short rows. This can happen if you’re not wrapping the yarn correctly or not picking up the wraps correctly when working the next row. Carefully follow the instructions and double-check your work regularly to catch any mistakes.
  • Don’t work too few short rows: The number of short rows you need to work depends on several factors, such as the size of your garment, the shape of your shoulder, and the yarn you’re using. If you don’t work enough short rows, the fabric won’t curve enough to fit your shoulder correctly, resulting in an ill-fitting garment. Follow the instructions carefully, measure as you go, and ensure that you’re working the correct number of short rows.
  • Avoid working too many short rows: Conversely, working too many short rows can result in an overly curved shoulder that doesn’t match the natural slope of your shoulder. This can make the garment look distorted or create a bump in the fabric. Measure as you go and check your work to ensure that you’re not working too many short rows.
  • Join the pieces correctly: Once you’ve worked your short rows, you’ll need to join the pieces together to form the shoulder seam. It’s essential to ensure that you’re joining the pieces correctly to avoid gaps or bumps in the fabric. Carefully follow the instructions and check your work as you go.

By keeping these common mistakes in mind and checking your work regularly, you can avoid some of the most common pitfalls when using short row shoulder shaping. With practice, you’ll be able to create beautifully tailored shoulders that fit you perfectly.

Conclusion

In conclusion, selecting short row shoulder shaping allows you to achieve a tailored fit, minimize bulk, and create a seamless look for your knitted garments. It is a valuable technique to master and can be applied in a wide range of knitting projects.

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