Wrap & turn is not, as it turns out, a dance move … it’s actually a solution to a cosmetic problem.
When you stop knitting before the end of a row, turn your work around, and knit back, you have worked a short row.
Short rows are used to make curves in your fabric. If you work more rows back and forth over one section of fabric, that section will be longer than the sections on either side of it. In this swatch, I’ve worked more rows in the middle.
Short rows are used for sock heels, to create curved hems, to improve neckline fit, and to add bust shaping to garments. They also appear in shawl patterns, often to offset stripes.
In each case, what’s happening is that you work to a certain point in the row or round—before the end—stop, and turn back. But as you can see in this swatch, where I’ve worked a few more rows over this previous sample, it’s a mess. There are two problems … there’s a gap created at the turn point, but also the stitch on the right-hand side of the turn point is sloppy.
The gap happens because the last stitch of that not-fully-worked-and-therefore-short row gets pulled towards its friends, away from the place in the row where the knitter stopped and turned back, creating a separation in the fabric.
The sloppiness happens for the same reasons that all edge stitches are a little inconsistent: when you work the same stitch twice in succession, the lower one tends to tighten up, and the upper one gets loose. That stitch is exactly the same as a stitch on the edge of a piece of knitting.
You hear various techniques described as “Short Rows”: wrap & turn, Japanese, yarnover, German, and Shadow. They’re all different solutions for making the transition between sections look better. We could be referring to them as “Techniques For Making Short Rows Less Gappy,” but that’s far too big a mouthful.
Let’s take a look at differences in how the various methods look and at how they work.
What’s Going On
There are two steps to these methods.
The first step is required when you do the actual turn: you make a wrap or yarnover, or place a pin, or create a doubled or shadowed stitch. Sometimes this Funny Business is done before you turn, sometimes after, but it always happens at that turn point.
The second step happens when knitting over the turn point. In essence, if knitting/purling the stitch and its associated Funny Business normally make it look worse than if you were to just do an unmodified short row turn, then there’s a step required to hide it. (For the German and Shadow methods the hiding happens automatically, which is a big part of their appeal.)
Which To Use Where
Which one works best for you depends on two things: how easy you find it to work each method, and how the results look. The key difference is whether the results are visible from the wrong side. Wrap & turn, Japanese, and Yarnover have clear “good” and “bad” sides, and so are better suited to fabrics where the wrong side won’t be seen.
For a fully reversible fabric where both sides will be seen, German or Shadow methods generally produce the best results. When working reversible garter stitch, you can also try wrap & turn, but without working/hiding the wraps.
Try different methods out on your project swatch and feel free to substitute the method you prefer.
To make a substitution, as long as you know where the turn point is, you’re golden.
Armed with this knowledge, go forth … and stop short!