Short Rows – Part 1

So, what is all this noise about short row darts?

Shaping is vital in today’s knitting. Let’s face it, you can spend a fair bit of time knitting a sweater. You have also put some cash into buying the yarn. So you want an end product that is both flattering and wearable. All well and good IF you have the perfect figure that the designer had envisioned when writing the pattern. But for many of us, some manipulation and adjustment is needed (in the garment, not necessarily in the body!!!!).

So, what is a short row? According to Vogue Knitting, “Short rows are partial rows of knitting that are used to shape or curve sections or to compensate for patterns with different row gauges. The result is that one side or section has more rows than the other, but no stitches are decreased. This technique is sometimes called turning because the work is turned within the row.” They kind of look like this:


You are adding a piece of fabric into your knitting to change the shape or curve. If you have ever knit a pair of socks, then you have worked with short rows in the shaping of the heel. And if you want to know HOW to perform this maneuver, lots of assistance on the internet. Just google it and you will have more help than you need. But the questions I get asked have more to deal with where and how to use them.

Some of the time, short rows are used to smooth out the line of decreases on the shoulder of a sweater knit from the bottom up. Instead of that stepped line, you get a smooth one.


You can see from the above picture that you will end up with a nice straight line to sew into the other shoulder seam. The variegated yarn shows where the knitter stopped the work, then turned around mid row at least four times. The final row(s) are worked straight across, picking up the wraps as you go. (again, if you google “short row wraps”, you’ll see what I mean).


When I am knitting a sweater for myself, I need to use short rows to allow for *ahem* “the girls” to have enough room and for the fabric NOT to pull across my chest.  Imagine if you were creating from a piece of fabric, you would fold and tuck a dart on each side of the bustline to shape the front of your garment.  But knitting doesn’t work like that. Instead of folding and removing fabric, you are adding fabric. Typically, you need to start at a place about one inch (2.5 cm) left of one point, and you will go to about one inch (2.5 cm) to the right of the other. In a bottom up sweater, you are knitting to that place on the left, then turning your work, to the place on the right. You DO NOT go to the edge of your work, and turn where you traditionally turn. Next row, You knit almost to where you added the wrap and turn (usually two stitches in from there), and you turn the work.  Keep on building until you have the right shape.


As you build, your knitted piece will no longer be flat, but will have a shape to it.  You can see where the “line of stitches” has created a dart, which will add the extra fabric where it is needed.  So the bottom hem of your sweater will not rise up and look awkward.  Nor will you feel that your sweater has to have “too big” shoulders in order to accommodate a larger bust.  If you have a “widow’s hump”, you can build short rows on the back of your sweater to accommodate your shape.

Next time, I will give you a work sheet to help you sort out how to do this yourself.  And, in the meantime, google “Short row bust shaping” and start reading up on the topic. Because, after all, if you are going to take the time and spend the money, then you need to get the fit just right!

Deb White

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