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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.

Not pretty.

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.

A Fix

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! 

In the MDK Shop
A weekend in Fair Isle with friends inspires a set of luminous, delightful projects by Mary Jane Mucklestone.

Wouldn’t This Come in Handy?

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About The Author

Kate Atherley is a teacher, designer, author and technical editor. She’s also the publisher of Digits & Threads, a magazine all about Canadian fibre and textile arts.


  • I’ve done enough short rows to not be afraid of them and I’ve learned I find the shadow method least bothersome. The question I always have with patterns is based on the comment at the end.
    “To make a substitution, as long as you know where the turn point is, you’re golden.”- that’s what I’m never sure of when swapping the designer’s short row method for my choice. Maybe another article about that? Please?

    • Yes, that’s my problem too.

    • I agree with KitterKnitter. I just swapped out a short row method, but followed instructions that I found for where to do the turning point. I was doing a German short row rather than a wrap and turn. An explanation of the types and where we would do this turn and why, would be very helpful. Thank you. I always learn something new here and Kate Atherley does a great job explaining.

      • YES! My hope exactly!

  • I agree with the other questions about substituting one type of short row for another. For example, I just learned how to do German short rows and prefer them to the wrap and turn method. Can they be substituted, for example, in your basic ribbed sock, Kate? (Which is my preferred sock pattern) if so, would you knit to the SSK point and do a German double stitch there instead? Seems like you would be turning one stitch earlier than the pattern indicates if so.

    • Hello Alis!

      I think we are going to cover substitutions in the future, stay tuned. To answer your specific question, though… my basic ribbed sock does not use a short-row heel turn, it’s a different beast entirely. The use of the decrease changes things completely. So for this, you couldn’t substitute, no!

      I hope that helps.


      • Thanks for your reply! I really do love that pattern. And I intend it to be my go-to pattern for the future. Looking at page 79 of your custom socks book, under turn Heel, The instructions are to “work short rows as follow.” That’s the point at which I was wondering if I could do a German short row instead of an SSK and P2 together. I completely believe you that it wouldn’t work, but am wondering why.

        • Can I be honest with you? I didn’t write it that way – that was a decision made by the book editor, which I fought hard and lost on. They’re short rows, in that you don’t work all the way across, but not Short Rows in the sense of needing something to manage the turn. The decrease solves that. If there’s no wrap and turn or yarnover or other such thing happening around the turn, then they’re not Short rows. Does that help?

  • I love German short rows, I find them almost invisible. I think I saw in a video somewhere that if the pattern is referencing a conventional w&t, you work one more stitch and then do the GSR. I have followed this suggestion and it seems to work well. In my projects I have not really needed a fanatical degree of precision so I guess I don’t know if I am wrong.

    I am going to be bold and say that most short rows don’t require the kind of precision you need to launch a rocket. The idea is to curve the fabric- for an ample bust, to raise the back of a sweater etc. If you are off by a stitch or two, it is honestly not that big of a deal. Most short rows are incremental anyway, after the first one you knit to 5 stitches before or whatever and repeat the w&t, so it is all good.

    I hope this is helpful/encouraging.

    • Your ‘precision to launch a rocket’ comment gave me a good chuckle, Deepa. So thank you for that! And thank you for the suggestions and advice on GSR

    • I agree with everything you said, Deepa. And it’s fun to play with GSR. I recently used them to make a camouflage looking piece of fabric by randomly placing GSRs to create peaks and valleys that offset each other but also maintained the rectangular shape.

    • Thank you, Deepa!

  • After years of knitting, I discovered German short rows and it was a game changer for me. Now I only use GSR.

  • This is a dumb question. I know how to wrap and turn but when do you knit the stitches where you have wrapped and turned? Usually the next row says wrap and turn again.

    • It’s when you’ve finished the short rows and knit back across them in the right direction. Hope that helps.

  • Thanks for this as always Kate. My issue is with short rows done in the round. I know there are a few articles written about this, and I have read and tried them all, but I have yet to find one that solves this problem. Depending on the yarn for how obvious the problem is, there are always holes and awkward stitches on the ones made on the purl side but picked up on the knit side. Stocking stitch done in fingering is the worst example. It drives me crazy! Any thoughts on how to deal with this?

    • I agree, since you end up having to deal with them “backwards”. I’d try German Short Rows, I think you’ll find those might be better in this situation…

  • My sister has promised me that my hatred of short rows is misplaced, and that I should just knit German short rows. This is good advice, but almost all patterns are wrap and turn, and it is in the substitution that I make errors. If we could have a tutorial about substitution and then carrying out the German short rows, I would be grateful.

  • Just another voice to say, “Yes, more of this Funny Business, please.”
    Maybe a potholder or mug rug to make with examples of each type.
    Now I’m off the search the internet archives for the old short row log cabin swatches I’m remembering…

  • Kate’s clarity, as usual, makes everything easier. There’s no mention of it, but I do hope this is/will be a part of a series. As many hours (probably) as I have pored over short row video and blog instructions, I always forget by the time necessity requires them. There is/was also at least one video? blog? on how to unpick/redo a German short row. Is it only me that seems to need that? (It required a LOT of concentration, as I remember.)

  • Thank you Deepa! In that same video she also discusses for a related issue that you need to work one stitch less for another short row instance, which always makes me forget which is which, Your words are now ingrained in my memory – one stitch MORE. Otherwise, a really excellent video (if, in fact, we are talking about one and the same.)

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