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Today it’s our pleasure to welcome Woolly Wormhead to MDK. We’ve been WW fans forever. Woolly’s designs have always made us stop, drop, and try to figure them out—they are intriguing and full of fun for both knitter and wearer alike. Our heartiest congrats to Woolly on the publication at the end of this month of Short-Row Colorwork: The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide. We got an early look at this wonderful book; it’s a deep dive into a fascinating world and it belongs on the shelf of every curious knitter. 

Love, Ann and Kay

I couldnt tell you when I first fell in love with short rows, but it wasnt until 2006 that I started experimenting with them within my hat designs. My first book, 2007’s Going Straight, featured 24 Hats all worked sideways with short rows for shaping, cementing my fascination with them.

Fast forward ten years to my Elemental collection, where I took my fascination to another level. Id noticed a few designers exploring short rows to create beautiful colorwork designs in shawls, and I wanted to see if I could do the same with Hats.

Turning something thats two-dimensional into something three-dimensional can be a challenging task. And when the method used to create the pattern is also used to create the shaping, a shift in perspective is often required. That doesnt mean its more difficult, more that a different approach and a switch in thinking is needed.

I spent a lot of time researching, swatching, experimenting. There were a few methods I came across, the most common being swing knitting, which produces beautiful rhythmic patterns most commonly seen in shawls.

Yet its premise, which is a more organic approach based on rhythm and led by the short rows themselves, doesnt lend itself well to the one crucial thing a Hat pattern needs: crown shaping. I soon realized that I needed to go back to the drawing board and look at what I needed, rather than what the existing methods offered.

When I design a Hat, I start with the crown math. It doesnt matter which way Im knitting or constructing the Hat—it could be sideways, top-down or modular—or what the overall Hat style might be, its always the crown math that determines the overall structure and shape of the Hat.

By starting with the most challenging part, that part that requires the most consideration in terms of shaping, I can work outwards from there and always ensure a refined, well fitting hat with design elements that flow effortlessly together.

That continuity within a design, that thought process, isnt always evident. Yet it not only lends itself to a well-designed Hat and much easier pattern grading, it makes the process of knitting it smoother and more intuitive, too.

I designed Tophand the other Hats in the Elemental collection the same way. I started with the crown, worked out the short row formula for the fit I wanted, and then designed the short row patterning within that frame. Whereas swing knitting and other short-row colorwork methods are guided by the short rows themselves, my approach manipulated the short rows into a desired shape and pattern.

From there I experimented further and developed my method into a fully fledged technique with its own notations, guidelines, chart method, and more. That shift in thinking—from following the short rows to directing them—allows for a much greater range of motifs, patterns and shapes to be achieved. Short row colorwork doesnt just have to be organic leaf-like forms, it can be sharp, linear or graphic!

With my method we can take short-row colorwork beyond flat pieces like shawls, or items that need grafting like my sideways knit hats—it can be worked in the round, and used in a whole range of construction methods. Not only that, its all worked with minimal finishing. No need to join pieces; theres no seaming or extra ends to weave in.

Short rows are daunting to many a knitter, but everything is difficult until you know how. In my forthcoming book, Short-Row Colorwork: The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide, I not only explain this new method and what can be achieved with it, I cover the key skills, too.

I go in-depth on German short rows—how to knit them, how to repair them, how to graft them and even how to knit them backwards! The photographic tutorials dont stop there. I cover managing floats, knitting backwards, grafting garter stitch, and more. Everything you need to know to complete the projects and learn this technique is covered. Theres even chapters on designing with the motifs and choosing yarns.

And this is one of the great things about short-row colorwork: it is much more versatile and forgiving of different yarn pairings than most colorwork methods. Ive seen my TophHat worked in a single skein of variegated yarn and the leaf pattern is still visible! Why? Because the short rows are doing the heavy lifting, by creating movement and depth within the fabric.

Short-row colorwork produces dynamic, energetic knitting that is guaranteed to get attention. Once you have mastered my method and have learned to control the short-rows, you too will be able to create stunning knitted items that will be full of movement and color. I cant wait to see what you do with it!

About The Author

With an instinctive flair for unusual construction and a passion for innovation, Woolly Wormhead is a designer whose patterns are trusted and celebrated by knitters all over the world.


  • Thank you for Woolly Wormhead. I have made Toph for myself and for a few gifts. People cross the street to comment on my hat!!! I met Xandy Peters on the MetroNorth train because I was wearing it!! Woolly is such an interesting designer. Thank you for having her on MDK! Good luck with the new book Woolly!

    • I love your designs. I teach school so don’t have a lot of time to knit so have remained a beginner for a while. What does short row mean?

      • Absolutely stunning!!!

  • THANK YOU for having Woolly Wormhead today!!! Woolly is such an interesting designer. I have knit Toph for myself and a few gifts. People cross the street to comment on my hat. I recently met Xandy Peters on a MetroNorth train because I was wearing it!! I can’t wait for the new book and wish Woolly great success with it.

  • You know, I rarely buy knitting books anymore, but I’m gonna buy this one

    • Me, too. It is always fascinating and interesting to learn different techniques,

  • I love Woolly’s designs, but I admit they look a little intimidating. I do love a challenge! One of my favorite hats is a Woolly design. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day there was a Woolly Wormhead Field Guide?

    • Yes! Yes! A Woolly Wormhead Field Guide!

  • Wow, what beautiful designs! Thanks for this, Woolly and MDK. At my age (73) I keep making vows not to buy any more (knitting) books, but along comes yet another exception I cannot resist. I am comfortable with short rows ordinarily, but this is a whole new Wow! thing. I have to see if I can understand it.

    • I too am in my 70’s, and consider this book as an investment in keeping my brain sharp by doing puzzles. Folks, there is probably a place on your library’s web site where you can recommend that they purchase this book. Mention that it covers a unique technique, and tell them the ISBN 197004814X. (International Standard Book Number)

    • I too am in my 70’s, and consider this book as an investment in keeping my brain sharp by doing puzzles. Folks, there is probably a place on your library’s web site where you can recommend that they purchase this book. Mention that it covers a unique technique, and give them the ISBN 197004814X.

  • Hi there,

    What timing for this article!

    I am working short rows to make a toy Alpaca for the Alpaca farm up the street, with the yarn from the Jules, Penelope and Sally, some of the Huacaya Alpacas at her 130 Alpaca farm.

    The pattern, it involves short rows.

    At first, I was like, omg I said I would never do short rows again! but now, I’m like, these are okay once you get the hang of it, sort of, if you will.

    In my initial short rows, I was increasing stitches by accident. Now I get it. I see the magic. Maybe I’ll knit a pair of socks again!
    Or one of those really cool hats!

    Thank you,


  • Thank you for sharing this. You have definitely caught my interest. I will be on the watch for this intriguing book. MDK is my morning delight.

  • I first discovered German short rows when I made the Miss Grace shawl by Skeino. VeryPinkKnits has a tutorial for Miss Grace, in which she demonstrates GSR. I quite enjoyed working the motifs and I’ve done other short row projects since then. Your designs are so imaginative, I am excited to get your book and play around with your techniques. Thank you for sharing your creative genius with us!

    • Yes! That was one of my favorite shawls to knit, and the short rows became intuitive and natural after a while. I’ve eyeballed Woolly’s hats for a long time, and have a couple of their patterns, but this book is very tempting. As others have said, I love puzzles and keeping my brain in shape is part of what knitting does for me.

  • “Everything is difficult until you know how”
    Words to live by! I avoided short rows for years because they seemed intimidating. I finally took on the viral pattern for an Emotional Support Chicken which is almost all short rows! I’ll definitely be looking for this book by Wooly when it is available! Thanks for featuring it!

  • Marvelous! Note to Kay and Ann: future Field Guide? Please??

  • WW
    Can’t wait to get my needles into your new book. I have worked with short rows and welcome more knowledge. Isn’t knitting the greatest?

  • I’ve long enjoyed looking at your hats when I see them on Ravelry, yet I rarely knit them because hats completely cover my short spiky hair in a way that isn’t flattering. It’s the one time when I’m jealous of those with hair long enough to make both the hat and the wearer look great! Even so, I enjoyed your post and your beautiful knitting – it increased my appreciation of what goes into pattern writing, in addition to all of the creative work behind it. So lovely, so amazing – I’m a fan!

    • I never make hats for the same reason! But some of those shawls look beautiful and it does do your brain good to try new things…

  • I love this! I’m always drawn to new, creative techniques that make something unique—plain old garter stitch isn’t meditative for me, it’s boring! I expect I’ll be buying this book!

  • I’m not a big hat person, but that pink shawl! And the mitts!! Gorgeous!

  • I love WWH too. So ya, I ordered the book.

    Amazon gives you a peek inside. I get how she’s doing it and I’m excited to learn more and I want to support her.

    Thanks MDK for bringing this to my attention

  • I have followed Woolly and admired her work for a long time. It is so beautiful. So innovative. I just pre-ordered her book. There just may be a Woolly hat Christmas around here!

  • Wow—great designs! I’ve seen some from this book but not the shawls and cowl. All are spectacular.

  • Woolly’s designs are so amazingly innovative and fascinating. I have already pre-ordered her book and can’t wait to try them out.

  • Whoa! This is exciting and intriguing to me! Can’t wait to get this book!

  • Thank you so much for breaking down your creative process. You really show how many ways short rows can be used. I honestly had no idea! Now, I’m tempted to give the pink shawl with the navy lines a try. Perhaps it’s a good spring project to start.

  • I’ve made one of her hats like the one pictured above several times and it was so interesting and fun. Cannot wait to get my hands on this book, and hope the local indie or B&N stock it. Love her hats in general and would love to see other designs. Although I have yet to make that Rhinebeck hat!

  • Yay Woolly Wormhead!!

    I’ve only knit a few of your hats (Jester and Circle/square are 2) but love their uniqueness.

    Have just been doing some short row work myself and am enjoying it, so will definitely be grabbing this new book!

    Thanks for sharing all your time and creativity!!

    Looking forward to more.

  • I’m so looking forward to this book. I preordered it a while back, and this insight into Woolly’s thought processes in designing is fascinating. Can’t wait to dive into the book

  • Sorry, circle square isn’t Woolly Wormhead

  • So good to see a designer I have followed and admired for a long time in MDK! The colours, the elegant shapes! The techniques! The wildly creative, unexpected designs. They are so beautiful! I’ve only made her simpler hats and expect lots of restarts when I tackle a new pattern, but I have the book on order and I can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

  • My all-time favorite designer!

  • Wow your patterns are gorgeous, not only for the short row designs but I love your color choices too. Amazing work, congratulations on your book!

  • Wow these are gorgeous. I love your play with shapes and colors too, congratulations on your book!

  • I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of Woolly’s new book!

  • I’m so excited for this book!

  • This sounds encouraging enough to get me to do more colorwork and short rows-both have been challenging for me. I look forward to WW’s book and tutorials!

  • Such beautiful designs. The book is definitely one I will purchase. I actually enjoy knitting short rows. Doing them jn colorwork will be a new challenge. Many thanks.

  • Who is the designer of the teal and gold shawl at the top? I have searched all Wooly’s designs but they appear to be all hats.

  • What a wonderful book recommendation! Looks like I’ll be adding this to my knitting library. Thank you!

  • Long time fan and maker of WW patterns. Looking forward to her new book. Thanks for bringing her into the MDK contributors.

  • Is the Toph hat pattern in the book?

  • My first and best teacher had us working in the round for our first class and short rows were next and this was in 1987. I avoided them for much too long before I discovered the magic they were capable of in shaping.

  • Wow! I am so intrigued! Heading off to pre-order this book. 🙂

  • I think I was introduced to WW via a hat pattern on an MDK March Madness array of patterns (remember those??–SO much fun, but likely so much work), and have been a fan ever since!
    Very interesting article, thanks.

  • Chiming in to say welcome to MDK!
    I cannot wait to read (and knit from) your new book-
    Short rows are a marvel.

  • I can’t wait for this to come out! I’ve preordered my copy. I’ve been a Wooly Wormhead fan since I first laid eyes on their fantastic designs.

  • Can you please tell me the name the short-row shawls pictured in the title band and body of this article? I’m interested in exploring them! Thanks!!

  • Woolly! Always interested and interesting to hear you talk about your work. I have your book on backorder and look forward to getting it.

  • Wow! This is fascinating. I am pre-ordering the book. Thanks MDK for this introduciton.

  • Gorgeous

  • These are beautiful designs,very inventive and look amazing thanks for this article.

  • Mind blown. I have struggled, mightily, with short rows. This may make me reconsider their abandonment.

  • Can’t wait for your book. I have fallen in love with short rows.

  • Fires me to try a new technique! Can’t wait to start

  • ❤️ Beautiful & Brilliant
    Needlework !!

  • I ordered your book from my local independent bookstore, and I can’t wait to see it and expand my skills and knowledge about short rows!

  • I’m a beginner knitter

    • We’ve worked really hard to make this book as accessible as possible to knitters of all skill levels. Short rows aren’t any more difficult than increases or decreases, they’re just not as common and a lot of people find them intimidating, especially when patterns that use them are labelled as “intermediate” or “advanced”.

      If you can work a knit stitch and know garter stitch, you can give these a go. I’ve included tutorials for everything beyond the knit stitch itself – even the cast-ons used have photo tutorials 🙂

  • Love your work. Thank you for sharing.

  • Just came across your site and thought it was so interesting! Not ready to do this type of knitting yet but will get there.

  • Love this work! My goal is to be able to accomplish results like this. Keep on the great knitting!!!

  • Your designs for hats, where a stronger fabric is so welcome, are extraordinarily beautiful! Your creations will certainly pop even across a room, and may even be conversation starters with people we haven’t yet met.

    That has me wondering if it’s also possible to achieve similar results for other accessories using stitches that aren’t garter? Particularly in longer scarves and wraps, I love the soft drapes of non-garter stitches. I’m guessing that you prefer garter because it showcases the short-row patterning so well. Have you experimented with knit pieces that are be both drapey and short-row design-ful? I’m thinking other knitters might be very curious about your experiences.

  • I would love to attend a short row class with Woolly Wormhead. She is such a creative person!

  • Will MDK be selling this title when it becomes available?

  • THIS IS FABTABULOUS!!! I’M IN! Ms Wooly, loved your photo, it’s candid and over the top! Feels good to be on top of your mountain.

  • I lost all my email contacts and numbers. Glad I found MDK again.

  • I seldom buy knitting books anymore but just preordered this one! Love Woolly’s work & can hardly wait for the 7 May publication date – Very Excited!!

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