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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)?

Hi Patty!

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?


Dear Michelle,

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

Hi Patty,

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? 


Dear Amy,

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

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Do you have a burning question? A myth you want busted? Email

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



  • Thank you so much! I’ve been waiting for this information for my whole (knitting) life!

    • Great concise explanation! Can’t wait to see the next article explaining the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of short rows and when to use them. Thank you for this information!

  • This is the best way to measure for bust darts that I have ever personally encountered (although I suppose there may be others equally good that I might have missed out on). It just makes so much sense to me AND is easy to understand and do. Thank you so much!.

  • I am knitting Marin Melchior’s Butterfly/Papillon right now. It looks like quite a fancy pants bit of knitting but it is really just garter short rows (plus a genius pattern designer; it is the actual knitting that is quite simple). When I was buying the materials, I commented that I prefer German short rows and the shop owner reminded me that it is garter so I do not really even need to pick up the wraps in W & T. She is correct and I have been flying through the shawl as a result. I am looking forward to a future post where you discuss the suitability of the different methods for various circumstances.

  • Thank you! This beats the heck out of “throw in some short rows, if needed.”

    • Haha haha!

  • This is brilliant! I am getting ready to knit a sweater for myself (yay), and this information will be very helpful. Patty, you are amazing, as always!

  • That was great! But I am still left wondering where/when to start putting this trapezoid of shapin in. Your excellent diagram shows it below the armhole shaping -how much below? I get that I am going to need to measure from shoulder down my bosom towards my bra band but then I get stuck. If I am putting in a 2” dart, then I am guessing I need to split the difference so it is 1” above and 1” below my “boobington” (not wishing to upset the sensibilities of the editors…)

    • For bottom up start at under bust and go from longest to shortest short row.
      Bottom up: Subtract back/ shoulder to under bust measurement from over all length garment length.

      For top down start at widest part of bust and go from shortest to longest short row.
      Top down: start them around 2” after the armhole divide (NOTE: you will be hiding
      each wrap as you pass)

  • Isabell Kraemer uses short rows on the back of sweaters. See Humulus. I’ve not been able to figure out why. Can you help?

    • If it’s a top down pattern that’s knit in the round and the neck is joined from the start, short rows are worked across the back to bring the front neck down. Our heads are mounted towards the front of our body, so by working a few extra rows across the back you will avoid that unfortunate bunching of fabric under the neck.

  • As best as I can remember, when I knit my first pair of socks the short rows at the heel turn were a simple turn, no wrap. Instead of leaving a hole when you came back to that stitch you knit it together with the next stitch on the needle and that closed the gap.

    When I do wrap and turn, it is tough to know how to treat the wrapped stitch when you get back to it on the following row. I recently consulted a video that showed that there was a different way to treat it if you were on a knit row vs if you were on a purl row. I consulted the video because most instructions tell you how to make a wrap for the wrap and turn, but they don’t tell you what to do with that wrapped stitch when you get back to it on the next row. It makes me kind of buggy.

    • Hmmm . . . I haven’t come across a pattern that doesn’t define that in the techniques (certainly not mine!). How you hide the wrap depends on whether you move the stitch first and then the yarn vs the yarn first and then the stitch. I prefer moving the stitch first and then the yarn. The wrap is basically a stitch lying on it’s side. If you think about it as entering the “stitch” (the wrap lying on it’s side) and working it together with the stitch on your needle, then the instructions make more sense and you will SEE it rather then memorizing it.

  • Patty Lyons, when is your book coming out? Have you already done an article on bust measurements and ease??

    • I have on my website. Don’t forget to send those questions in. I’m more of a video class gal then a book gal.

  • Brilliant explanation of bust darts! A lightbulb just appeared above my head.

  • This is a beautifully clear graph. I’m still not clear exactly though, how to proceed. Knit up to the the bottom of your bus line, in a bottom-up sweater. Mark off the nipple to nipple section, in this case 54 stitches. Proceed to do short rows, doing a wrap and turn every three stitches?

    • I think it might mean, on the first short row, knit the 23 and 54 sts wrap and turn the next st. Purl back across 54 center sts then wrap and turn the next st. The first (longest) short row set for a bottom up sweater front is done. The second set will wrap and turn at the stitch 3sts inside the first one (so at stitch 53?) and the next one at stitch 51?

      How to resolve the short rows on the purl side is what befuddles me completely.

      • You got it!! I have videos on hiding the wraps in both knit & purl on YouTube.

      • Thanks, Chris! I think you are right and that does make sense.

  • Thank you, Patty! I love your swatch with all the different kinds of short rows. I think German short rows are much less obvious than the traditional w&t, but now I want to try the others.

    I’ve switched to doing your one move ssk too. Still not as neat as a k2tog but better than the traditional slip, slip, knit.

  • Thank you so much for this excellent explanation. I’m going to start a pair of socks soon and will use short rows for the heel.
    I can’t believe that dress! I sew and would never make anything like that. Of course, if she were wearing a bra that might have helped.

  • I would like to chime in here simply to say that i loved that Anne Hathaway dress in concept and was supermad that her stylist didn’t do her right.

  • Excellent article. Thank-you.

  • Thank you so much for the short row bust darts information! I am one of those who is amply endowed and have only ever knit cardigans since I usually leave them open. Now I can knit pullover tops with confidence that they will fit!

    I’m curious to know if I can apply this same math to cardigans (just to even things up the next time).

    • You sure can!!

  • Another reason to love you, Patty! Thank you!

  • Fabulous! Thank you! And the pic of Anne perfection! Too bad that fancy designer didn’t have your knowledge! And that Anne didn’t have a mirror, apparently.

  • Whoa! This article was so very helpful! This is the kind of article which will help me graduate from Intermediate knitter to Expert! I will most certainly be following you Ms. Patty and the MDK articles from here on out! Thank you!

  • An off topic question … when, and why, did you change your name, from Modern Daily Knitting?
    I recently realised your articles hadn’t shown in my Google feed.
    I’m so happy you found your way back.
    Stay safe .
    God bless
    Christine in Los Angeles

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