Abundance

Life with Fiber and Fiber Arts

Short Rows, in Short November 21, 2010

Filed under: how to,knitting theory,Uncategorized — Hannah Cuviello @ 5:34 pm

Apparently, it has been a while since I had time to post anything. I’m so ashamed.

Wait! I have an excuse. You see, I’ve been doing some knitting. Lots of knitting. Top Secret knitting.

Finally, I can share some of it with you all.

First, I spent some time working on this:

The “Saxony Scarf” for the Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts issue. It is knit here out of Nashua Creative Focus Chunky, but I’m working on a second one in Cascade’s 128 Superwash and it’s coming out quite lovely (pics to come).

Then, I spent rather a lot of time (well a month, I guess) working on this:

The Scavenger Skirt, knit out of Sanguine Gryphon’s beautiful Codex yarn (silk and BFL wool), was part of their recent Steampunk inspired pattern line.  So there we go. I have also been working on some Secret Knitting that will not be revealed until the end of December, and then some other stuff. What I mean to say is that I have been having all sorts of fiber fun.

  Yes, I know that I still owe some installments of the Ways of Knitting series of post, but, in my defense, I never claimed to be good at staying focussed on a single thing for a long time. In fact, I think that I clearly stated that I am quite easily and frequently distracted by shiny things.

Right now, Short Rows are particularly shiny. I have been doing rather a lot of knitting with short rows lately and have fallen quite in love with them. I know what you’re thinking: “I hate short rows; they’re dumb and futzy and not worth the trouble”.  I once thought as you do (if you weren’t thinking that, good for you; you’re already drinking the short row koolaid). Now, however, I recognize that short rows are in fact not dumb, not that futzy (almost all of the time) and really, really worth the trouble (not that they’re really any trouble). Please observe the list of things that short rows do well:

1. Make curve hugging contours in your knitting.

2.  Make circular objects without knitting in the round.

3. Make edgings go around corners.

4. Make fun squiggles and shapes in all sorts of interesting places.

5. Make socks!

And that’s just the beginning.

Today, I am going to write a little bit about the different flavors of short row treatments. First, though, the theory:

When knitting short rows, you work to almost the end of your row, then turn your knitting, leaving the remaining stitches unworked. When you first started knitting, you probably did this a lot on accident. The result is that there is a portion of your knitting that is longer (has more rows) than another portion of your knitting.  This is useful when you are trying to knit fabric to cover something that goes out in some places and not in others.

Example: Ladies, take a tape measure and measure from the top front of your shoulder to your belt, in line with where your shoulder seam (if you are wearing set-in sleeves) is. Now, measure down your front, starting at a parallel point, but making sure to measure over the bosom and keeping the tape measure next to your body. (Fellows, you can find a lady to try this on, but make sure to ask for permission first). There is probably a different in the measurements. The height from shoulder to belt is the same, but there is more surface area over the bosom than at the side. Many sweaters and shirts ride up in the front because there is not a comparable difference in the amount of fabric used to cover the surfaces. We use short rows (on purpose) to make more fabric in the areas that go out more. Isn’t that Awesome?!

   When you were a beginning knitter and did this on accident, you probably observed a hole in your knitting once you worked back across the place where the short row happened. The trick to doing short rows on purpose is finding a way to avoid the holes. This is especially important when the short rows are someplace conspicuous, like the bust of  a sweater. That is what we are talking about today.

    OK. Too much text and not enough pictures! I thought this was a yarn blog!

First, I will address what has been (I believe) the most common way to treat short rows: The Wrap and Turn.

 Many patterns that require short rows will say something like this:

“Work to 2 stitches before the end of the row ‘Wrap and Turn’ leaving remaining stitch unworked”. Shown above, the Wrap and Turn is the reason why many knitters avoid short rows (it’s OK, I have two alternatives below). In the last picture above, I have wrapped every stitch on the row, creating a pretty severe angle. I have used this technique to make slantwise pocket fronts on bottom up sweaters. Notice that each of the stitches in that row has a bit of yarn wrapped around its base (like a tiny scarf keeping its little stitch neck warm). When working back across these stitches, you will have to knit that wrap together with the stitch it is wrapping. Observe:

That’s not so bad, right? OK, I know, it’s one thing to work in wraps on the right side of the piece when they are positioned in the direction you are knitting anyway. I promise that there will be a post on what to do when things get more hairy. This post is supposed to be “Short rows in Short”, and I am doing my very best to keep it to the basics (as much as I ever do, anyway).

Moving on. The next flavor of short row, which got quite a bit of attention a couple of years ago with regard to toe up socks, is the Yarn Over Short Row. This involves no wrapping at all and is much favored by those who would rather eat nails than wrap and turn.

While there is less slipping back and forth of stitches, this method is a little futzy in its own way. That is, yarning over on the right hand needle at the beginning of the row is not what we are used to. Once all your short rows are complete, you should have what looks like lots and lots of stitches on your needle. Really, it is just pairs of stitch and yarn over.

The working in part is just as simple here as it was for the wrap and turns. You knit the YOs together with the following stitch.

Finally, we have the Minimalist Approach, so called because it involves no wrapping and no YOs. All you do is turn, then slip the next stitch and work across the wrong side to the end. If you want a steep angle (as in the swatches above) you just work to one stitch before the last turning point every right side  row. If you do this for every stitch, you will end up with this:

To avoid holes, you…well, it’s better to look at it:

 The trickiest part to this is identifying the third stitch down from the needle. Cat Bordhi (a knitting genius and one of my knitting idols) calls this stitch the “grandmother stitch”. That is, the stitch on the needle is the “daughter stitch”, the one below it is the “mother stitch” and the one below that is the “grandmother stitch”. In step two, you insert the tip of the left hand needle, from back to front, into the grandmother stitch and then knit it together with the next stitch on the needle. I may be biased (this is my short row method of choice) but I really think that this one looks the best. Of course, I might just be better at it.

So there we go. In a later post (later just like those other “Ways of Knitting” posts are coming later) I will go into doing short rows from the wrong side. Fun times! Note, the short rows in these swatches are pretty noticeable because I have worked them on every row, which drastically changes the direction of the knitting. Worked every two or four (or more) stitches, they would be far more subtle.

Of course these are not the only short row methods out there. The Japanese Short Row method is quite popular and produces lovely results. It requires the use of a safety pin, however, and once there a whole other tool involved, I’m pretty much out.

So, we go to all this trouble to prevent holes where the shore rows end. Sometimes, however, it’s just not such a big deal. For example, in the “Bathtime Blossoms” washcloth pattern set by Evelyn A. Clark.

Each of these decidedly round washcloths is actually knit back and forth using short rows. There are no wraps, however, and no YOs. There is no special picking up of stitches. It is so cleverly written, in fact, that you hardly realize you are knitting short rows at all. If all of the above futziness makes you a little nervous, this is actually a pretty good place to start (plus they make great gifts!).

So there you go. Short Rows. More on that later, until then, go get started on your holiday projects!

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5 Responses to “Short Rows, in Short”

  1. Wow!
    You’re a genius — thanks for explaining the different methods so well. I love a theoretical/analytical/academic approach to knitting myself, but am far too lazy to try it all out. thanks to you, I don’t need to!

  2. mislanitas Says:

    Thanks for a GREAT tutorial! Super clear and useful!

  3. melek Says:

    This is awesome. I’ve been searching around for different short row methods to test out and love how clearly you laid out these three. Thank you so much!

  4. neomera Says:

    I’ve always hated the w&t technique but suffered through it till I just this morning found you, and your wonderfully clear instructions. I love it! I now have options! Thank you so, so much!

  5. thebestfour Says:

    Love your blog! Short rows scared the heck out of me before. Thanks for explaining it so clearly. One question if I may? Where do I find the patterns for the round washcloths?


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