Short rows are one of my favorite subjects, so I did a happy dance when I got not one, but two short row questions. This month we’ll look at both the how and the why of short rows.
Why Wrap and Turn (When You Could Just Turn)?
I am a relatively new knitter and have a question about turning the work in the middle of a row. Some patterns call for wrapping the last stitch before turning the work, and other patterns just tell you to turn the work. What’s the point of the wrap and turn?
Welcome to the rabbit hole we call knitting! Every mistake in knitting is really an advanced knitting technique that you didn’t mean to use at that time.
When I was a new knitter, I would sometimes change directions in the middle of a row, accidentally. I would get a hole and I’d be baffled. Little did I know that I was just very advanced and doing a short row. The short row has a ton of uses (stay tuned for my next column), and it can be a wonderful thing when done on purpose.
When we turn our work and purl back, as I did here after two stitches, it looks like this:
Those two stitches are one row taller and they are no longer connected to the other stitches. They are like the new kids on the block, not quite belonging yet, and there’s a gap between them and the rest of the community (row.) When you knit across that row, that gap becomes a hole:
There are two possible reasons a pattern might simply tell you to turn your work, without a wrap and turn (w&t). One reason is that it is meant to leave a hole. I remember working a pattern years ago where the clever designer knew that knitters would question her pattern, so it included this: “NOTE: the short rows are supposed to leave a hole for a decorative element.”
The other reason is that the pattern might be in garter, where the holes are not so visible.
So what is the purpose of that wrap? Think of those lonely stitches throwing an arm around the stitch next to them to say, “We’re one of you guys, right? We belong in your community (row).”
When you work back over that row and work the wrap together with the stitch, you’ve helped to incorporate the new kids into the community, and they are all one big happy row.
Here I’ve knit a sample with a contrasting color, and you can see the turn without a wrap, and the little hole it leaves (bottom), and the turn with the wrap (top).
Since I love short rows, I couldn’t resist knitting a sample showing (from bottom to top):
- Turn (no wrap)
- Wrap and Turn
- Shadow Wrap
- German Short Row
- Japanese Short Row
What’s the difference? That’s a story for another day.
Balancing the Front and Back of a Sweater
Whenever I knit a sweater I seem to end up with the front of the sweater a bit shorter than the back (I know some people do this on purpose but I’m not one of them), and it hangs off my bust in a depressing way. How can I modify a pattern so this doesn’t happen?
I think we can all agree that the words depressing and bust should not be in the same sentence. For women of (as my mother would say) ample bosom, a sweater has to travel a longer distance from shoulder to hem when it travels over your bust than when it travels over your back. Hence the shorter front.
Take heart. I have two magical words for you: short rows. Or to be more specific, four words: short row bust darts.
Bust darts don’t add width to the front, but rather, length. They sneak a few extra rows of fabric into the bust area, creating a triangular insert.
Are Bust Darts For You?
For you, Amy, it sounds like this is exactly what the knit doctor ordered, but for those wondering if they need these miraculous short row bust darts, here’s an easy check.
Tie a string around yourself right under the bust (like where the bottom of your bra hits). Now measure from the top of your shoulder over the fullest part of your bust to the string. Measure from the same place on your shoulder down your back to the string. If the difference is less than 2 inches, then you’re not a prime bust dart candidate. If the difference is 2 inches or more, proceed to calculate your dream dart.
If there is a 2-3 inch difference between your front and back measurements, you need a dart that is 1 inch high.
If there is over 3 inches difference between your front and back measurements, you need a dart that is 2 inches high.
How to Calculate the Number of Short Row Turns (Rows)
There are 5 steps.
1. Take the height of dart and multiply by your row gauge to get the number of rows in the dart. Divide this number by 2 to get the number of turning points (T).
Example: 2″ high dart, row gauge is 8: 2 x 8 = 16 ÷ 2 = 8 turns.
How to Calculate the Width of the Dart (Stitches)
2. Measure side seam to side seam of garment and multiply by stitch gauge = A.
Example: your sweater is 17″ wide x 6 stitches per inch = 102 stitches.
3. Measure nipple to nipple (oh grow up, there’s no other way to say it), add 2″, and multiply by stitch gauge = B.
Example: your measurement is 7″ + 2 = 9 inches x 6 = 54 stitches).
[Editors’ note: We prefer the more formal “boobington to boobington.”]
Why do we add 2 inches, you ask? So that the bust dart does not come to a point right where we don’t want it coming to a point.
4. (A minus B) divided by 2 = stitches in dart (C).
Example: (102 stitches – 54 stitches ) ÷ 2 = 24 stitches in dart.
5. C ÷ T = how many stitches between each short row turn.
Example: 24 ÷ 8 = 3, so do a W & T every 3 stitches. (That means visually, there will be 2 stitches between each wrap.)
And there you have it, the recipe for no more depressed chest!
Patty in Your Pocket