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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?

Hello Patty,
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,

Dear Jan,

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?

Hi Patty,

I love your explanation of short rows and the need for them.

I don’t understand when you would want to use successive short rows that decrease in length versus those that increase in length.

Best regards,


Dear Joanne,

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
Map and plan away! And thanks for your Shop purchases—they keep everything going here at MDK.

Universal Knitting Truths

Dear Patty,

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.]

About The Author

Patty Lyons is a nationally recognized knitting teacher and technique expert. In her pursuit of training the mindful knitter, Patty is known for teaching the “why” in addition to the “how.” She specializes in sweater design and sharing her love of the much-maligned subjects of gauge and blocking.

You can find Patty at her website and on Ravelry.

Do you have a problem you’d like Patty to tackle? Write to her at



  • You make things clearer than anyone, and your pictures are also clearer than anyone else’s. Thank you, Patty, and thanks to Kay and Ann for introducing you to me. I have hated short rows forever because of how mine look (everywhere except on socks; my socks are fine). Maybe I can learn to make pretty short rows everywhere.

    • Me too! (except I don’t do socks) Now I feel like I could face up to something with short rows with a bit more gumption!

      Also appreciate the Truly Clear photos.

  • Since your topic is short rows, I’d like to ask about holes in my short row heels. Using the MDK socks book, I made my first toe up, short row heel socks. I have two perfect toes and two heels, each with a row of holes. I ripped out the heels a few times before I watched a You Tube video that suggested using a clicker to keep count and finally got through them. I was so disappointed after washing them to see the holes. Next socks I tried German short rows with same results. Next pair will be gusset heels. However, I did enjoy knitting German short rows more than the wrap and turns.

  • Thank you! Your explanations are always so helpful . . . and fun!!!!

  • Could you please do a video? Does your first example add a twist?

    • Do you meant the first example in the first letter? If you hide it as I show it won’t twist the stitch, just like an SSK is not twisted. I do have some short row videos on my YouTube channel –

  • I discovered German Short rows and use them exclusively.

  • This makes me desperately want a recipe for a short row sampler I can knit up with some good rope-y yarn. I’ve made them just according to directions in patterns (mostly the Amelia Earhart hat and a Stephen West shawl). This makes me want to have all the scenarios spelled out so I can check out all the short row anatomies.

    • Patty,

      As always, thank you for your clarity.

      Re: uses for short rows. I’ve heard of them being used to do shoulder decreases to avoid ‘steps’. Is this a good use (I wonder about any added curvature to the fabric) and what general principles one should follow if this IS a good use ( I.e. how many stitches from edge over how many rows, etc.)?

      • Short rows to replace existing shoulder bindoffs in a pattern will not add any curvature to the fabric. Short rows create a wedge of fabric (think triangle) when some stitches are worked for more rows then others. This can be added at the edge of a fabric, like a shirt tail hem, shoulder shaping, shawl collar. A bulge is created when short rows are created in the middle of the fabric. How much bulge depend on how densely they are stacked in relationship to the surrounding fabric. That’s why we swatch!

  • It’s all Greek to me:((

    • We often assume something is so complex until we pick up our knitting and try it. Did you read this column?

      I’ve used short rows in many of my video sweater classes and brand new knitters have no trouble with them. It’s when we convince ourselves that something is so mysterious and hard that it becomes hard.

      Put 10 stitches on a needle, now knit across 8 of them and turn around and purl back. That is working a row “short”. But it will leave a gap since those 2 stitches are not connected to the other 8. That’s why we work some method to connect the stitches.

      In life and in knitting, it’s important to not convince ourselves we “can’t” that it’s too hard. Pick up your needles and give it a try and you’ll find it’s one of the easier things to do in knitting.

      • Patty, I appreciate this explanation a lot, the one in the comments — I’m less excited about the whole column because I hate short rows with a burning passion. But I get what you’re saying about “I can’t” and will try not to gasp when I see short rows in a pattern.

        • Think about why you hate them. Is it because you think they are hard or you don’t like what they can do? You will eliminate a HUGE category of fabric shaping if you convince yourself you hate them. Try them. Really try, not following words on a page, but understanding them. They are dead simple, but sooo effective. I’ve used wrap and turns, german short rows and shadow wraps in my video sweater classes and every knitter who thinks they can’t do short rows or hated short rows said they love them once they understood them.

  • I think your Universal Truth of Knitting helps explain why my leftie-knitting daughter keeps twisting her stitches too! We’ll have to go check that out.

  • I have been wondering that very question myself as I’ve been working short-rows on my latest project! Thanks for the thorough answer.

  • Oh my goodness! I had no idea it was so complicated. You make it so understandable. Thank you

  • This is the best explanation (with photos) I have seen regarding short rows. Thank you Patty! I have learned so much from your columns, and I’ve been knitting for decades. You can train an old dog new tricks.

  • I just finished a cardigan sweater and it is the worst looking thing I have ever made. The one good thing is that I now know where I need to learn more and practice. Like a lot of knitters,I learned to knit when a friend showed me how to do a knit and purl stitch and that was it. Since then, what I have learned is bits and pieces from one place and another. After my sweater disaster, I decided I needed to take a beginner class and work up from there. I have taken many classes from Craftsy and some have been good and some not worth the time. I think the world would be in enormous gratitude if you would start a beginner class and take us up to advanced. Like you have stated before, if you can understand something, you can do it. There is just not enough explaining in many classes and you do a great job there. Please consider the beginner to advanced class.

    • Thanks so much. I do teach several classes that explain the why. You can find all my video classes on my website.

    • This might not be what you had in mind, but Patty teaches all over the place (including all over the place online!):

  • I’m a combination knitter, and I love that you address that in your columns! (I discovered it when a knitting friend pointed out to me that my stockinette was entirely twisted stitches, and explained what I was doing and how to fix it. I now knit through the back loop to untwist, but when I look at the sweater in question, I always feel that the twisted stitches in combination with a beautiful gradient colorway are a really elegant design feature. I have the same philosophy in knitting as I did with my flute playing as a teenager, preparing for a big recital: it’s only a mistake if you show it on your face. Otherwise, it’s ornamentation!)

  • Wow!!! Patty you are the best.

  • I love your articles, Patty! They are so interesting, well-written, and delightfully clear. Hands down, the best knitting articles I’ve ever read (and I’m a knitting nerd who’s read quite a few). Thanks for helping me to learn more about how and why things work so I can become a better knitter.

  • Thank you for this, it’s really helped me plan out mods for a short-row shaped top I am about to cast on. The pictures are so helpful!

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