Last summer I wrote about short rows. As with any great topic worth exploring, when you answer two questions, four more spring up in their place. Since I never get tired of talking short rows, here are three choice goodies from the short row mail bag.
Which Comes First?
One of the comments on your short row column had a question about which comes first—throw the yarn or slip the stitch? I’d love the answer to that one, as well.
Thanks so much,
Like so many things in knitting, it depends on what you like. The real difference comes in how you hide the wrap. Depending on your yarn and needles, you might like the look of one better than the other. You can try them both out when you swatch. (See how I snuck that s-word in there?)
The wrap is like a stitch lying on its side, so how you hide the wrap has to do with where the “leading leg” (the leg that’s closest to the top) of that wrap sits.
When you move the yarn first, and then the stitch, the “leading leg” of the wrap sits at the back, so hiding it is similar to doing an ssk.
To hide the wrap, it takes two moves, just like an ssk. First you insert the right needle tip into the wrap bottom to top and into the stitch as if to knit, and slip them both to the right-hand needle, then insert the left-hand needle into the front loops to knit them together.
This pushes the wrap to the back.
When the stitch is moved first, and then the yarn, the wrap is like a stitch lying on its side with the leading leg in the front. It’s ready and waiting for your needle.
To hide the wrap, you just enter the wrap from bottom to top, and then into the stitch as if to knit and knit them together.
This single move pushes the wrap to the back of the work.
What I like about moving the stitch first is you can hide the wrap in one move, like a k2tog. When the yarn is moved first, a lot of knitters forget to do the two-part move, and end up twisting their wrap.
Long to Short, or Short to Long?
I don’t understand when you would want to use successive short rows that decrease in length versus those that increase in length.
When I first learned short rows, they were a baffling series of instructions that I followed by rote, and magic happened. I didn’t really understand what was happening on my needle until I drew it out.
Here’s a chart showing what stitches look like when you work long to short.
Visualize this wrapped around your neck, and you’ll see a lovely shawl collar. Worked on a top-down sweater and you have yourself a shirt tail hem! That’s also the shape of a bust dart when working a bottom-up sweater.
Here’s a chart showing what stitches look like when you work short to long.
This shape can be used for a shirt tail hem if you were working bottom up, or the bust dart insert when worked top-down, to name just two.
Short rows can seem mysterious, but when you map it out to plan it out, the veil of mystery starts to fall away. Except for the black magic sorcery that comes from combining long to short, and then working short to long, that creates a short row heel. I remember the first time I knit that: When my knitting turned 90 degrees to make a heel cup, I just about fell over in my chair.
In the MDK Shop
Universal Knitting Truths
I hate wrap and turn short rows. I was told that twin stitch short rows were easy, but mine look terrible. I was recently told that I wrap my purl backwards and I’m a combination knitter. Is that part of the problem? I was told by two different knitters that I can’t do short rows that way if I’m a combo knitter. Is that true? Do I have to change the way I knit or is there a fix?
Sad Combo Knitter
Dear Sad Combo,
No need to be sad! There’s nothing you can’t do as a combo knitter. Eastern knitters and combination knitters will always have to deal with Western Knitters telling you something can’t be done. Best to just smile and nod.
Stick with me. We are going to go deep into the weeds of what makes a stitch. But if you make it out the other end, your knitting will never be the same—and that includes all you Western knitters too.
Here are the universal truths of knitting. With the understanding of these truths, you will possess knitting superpowers.
1) The direction we wrap our yarn is what seats our stitch on the needle.
2) To work a stitch open and untwisted, we must put the needle in the hole. That means working the stitch through its leading leg, the leg that’s closest to the tip of the needle.
3) Whatever stitch our needle first enters ends up on top.
These three truths are the secret to controlling our stitches. [Drops mic.]
Let’s look at the western twin stitch, or shadow wrap, first.
After you knit to your turning point, you work a right lifted increase, but inserting the tip of your right-hand needle into the purl bump below, lifting it up onto the left-hand needle and knitting it.
Then you return this “twin” stitch to the left-hand needle and turn. See how two western mounted stitches, stitches with their leading leg in front, are coming out of the same base? It’s like a little two-headed monster.
When it comes time to hide the twin stitch, since both these stitches are mounted with the leading leg in the front, and since we want our real stitch to end up on top and our twin to be pushed to the back, easy-peasy, we just do a k2tog and all looks pretty.
The issue with combo knitting is that since your un-worked stitch (gray in photo) was eastern purled on your wrong side row (yarn wrapped under the needle), it is sitting on your needle eastern, with the leading leg in the back. When you lift up your twin, knit it, and transfer it back to your left-hand needle, you have one western mounted stitch and one eastern mounted stitch.
That’s why when you come back to do a k2tog, you have a twisted stitch.
My solution, since it’s easier to have them both mounted the same way: if you are going to eastern purl your un-worked stitch, eastern knit your twin. When you lift that purl bump from the row below up to your left-hand needle, wrap the yarn OVER the needle to knit it.
Now when you come back to that spot, both your stitches are eastern.
From there it will be the same for you as when you do a western k2tog. Slip both stitches by their leading legs, to reverse the stitch mount,
Put them back on the left-hand needle and do your k2tog and voila, perfect!
Hello, is anyone still there? For those that remain, you are now endowed with the power to make your stitches be your . . . rhymes with stitches.
[Drops mic again.]