Ask Patty: Gapping and Mapping
The life of a knitting advice columnist: I answer two short row questions, and two more crop up. These two are so similar, I’m going to answer them with one letter.
Short Rows in the Round (or Why You Gotta Be That Way?)
Your article on short rows reminded me of a question I had about wrap-and-turn short row. Recently I tried a top-down sweater pattern using wrap-and-turn short rows to shape the shoulder yoke. It was all going fine, until I finished the short rows and went back to knitting in the round, when I found the stitches right before the short rows were loose and elongated.
I figured I just hadn’t paid attention to my tension, so I tried again, consciously tightening up those stitches, but it didn’t work.
What am I doing wrong? Megan
When I discovered German short rows, I waved bye-bye to the wrap and turn. I think they look so much neater, with one glaring exception. I was using German Short Rows on a sock heel, but when I returned to working in the round, I ended up with a hole. I’m not talking about the gap you can get with wrap and turn, I’m talking a full-on hole!
Is it me? What gives? Lynn
Dear What Am I Doing Wrong (Megan) and What Gives (Lynn),
First of all, no, it’s not you, and you’re not doing anything wrong. It’s never you. Always remember that.
Nine times out of ten, when something doesn’t work in your knitting, it’s not you. It’s them. It’s the stitches’ fault, or rather, the anatomy of the stitches’ fault.
Can’t bind off loosely? It’s them.
Wonky ssk? It’s them.
Hole in your short row when working in the round? It is so them.
Once upon a time, I also got a gap in my wrap and turn, and I also got a hole with German short rows. I followed the directions and the directions didn’t help. So, I chucked them out and took a page from the land of infomercials and cried to the heavens, “There’s got to be a better way!”
To understand why both methods have an issue, but one leaves some loose stitches, and the other one leaves a hole, we need to look at how each method connects the worked and un-worked stitches, and if that connection is done before or after the turn.
With wrap-and-turn short rows, your connection is the wrap around the next unworked stitch, and you turn after you wrap. With German short rows, you turn first, and your connection is achieved by working your doubled stitch on the last worked stitch.
What they both have in common is the last wrap or doubled stitch was done on a WS row, but you are closing the gap (by hiding the wrap or working the doubled stitch) on a RS row.
First Up: The Humble Wrap and Turn
When you hide a wrap and turn on a knit side, you simply put your needle into the wrap and then into the stitch and knit them together. All hunk-dory, well and good, but there’s just one problem. When you return to working in the round, that last wrap is facing the wrong way, because it was wrapped on a WS row.
And nobody talks about it. It’s like some dirty little knitting secret. We have all decided that we will just hide the wrap following the same old directions and pretend we don’t see the gap. Just keep moving, show’s over, nothing to see here.
Here’s what works for me:
1. Lift the wrap over the stitch so it sits to the left of the stitch.
2. Now do an SSK with the wrap and the next stitch, slipping only the first stitch as if to knit.
Next, the Even Trickier German Short Row
With German short rows you get more than a gap, you get an actual hole. The problem is worse for German short rows because when you come at the double stitch (DS). which was created on the purl side, from the knit side, working the stitches together will not close the gap, because the gap is on the other side of the DS.
The DS at the right of the photo is worked like all the others (knitting the two legs of the DS together) and as you can see it leaves a small hole to the left. The second DS is worked with this trick:
- When you get to the double stitch, knit the first leg of the stitch.
2. Work the second leg with the next stitch, as a k2tog.
Ta-da! No hole.
So next time a pattern tells you to do something and it doesn’t look good, don’t fall into the giant knitting conspiracy of silence. Ask yourself whether there can be a better way. Your knitting will thank you for it.
In the MDK Shop
The Secret Language of Patterns
I’m wondering how you keep track of your rows, particularly where there are some of the dreaded “at the same time” instructions involved.
Counting Challenged (Liza)
I hate words. There, I said it. I feel somehow freer having admitted that. It’s true, I hate words. Years ago, I was working in a yarn store in Greenwich Village that had been featured in a photo spread in Japan. Because of that we became a bit of a tourist attraction for knitters visiting from Japan. One day I was working with a visiting knitter who was confused by a pattern. I kept making it worse with more words. Finally I realized she was used to Japanese patterns, which are all numbers on a schematic. I drew it out and she was thrilled. From that day forward I was all about mapping it out.
This is what I knit from. This coffee stained piece of pattern replaces my entire pattern for the Roselle Tee. No words, just numbers and my own symbols.
Where mapping it out REALLY comes in handy is the dreaded “at the same time.” That’s when throwing out the words is the bomb!
Take this “at the same time” for back neck and shoulder shaping. Otherwise known as blah, blah, blah.
(RS) Work to center 34 sts, attach a second ball, BO center 34 sts, work to end of the row
NOTE: Neck and shoulder shaping are done AT THE SAME TIME working both sides at once using their own ball of yarn.
Neck shaping: Bind off 2 sts at each neck edge twice.
Shoulder shaping: Bind off 4 sts at the beginning of the next 6 rows.
With a few arrows and some numbers you can make a simple map for these 7 rows of the “at the same time.”
Since you can only bind off at the start of the row, when you map it out, it’s easy to see at a glance when you’re binding off where.
Say goodbye to words, and hello to mapping!
[Editor’s note: Check out Patty’s update of these techniques here.]