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Short rows

by ysoldateague March 27, 2009


I use short rows a lot in my patterns and I’m working on one right now that uses them to shape the shoulders, but I can never decide how I prefer to write the directions for them. Like many things in knitting, the concept of working increasingly shorter or longer rows in steps is fairly simple, but not so easy to clearly explain – especially once we through different numbers for different sizes into the mix.
How I prefer to write the directions isn’t really the issue though, it’s how would you prefer them to be written? For example the beginning of the short row directions for the pattern I’m currently working on reads:

Next row: k to 4th marker, slm, k1, w+t.
Next row: k to 2nd marker, slm, k1, w+t.
Next 2 rows: k to 2nd marker, slm, k3, w+t.
Next 2 rows: k to 2nd marker, slm, k5, w+t.
Next 2 rows: k to 2nd marker, slm, k7, w+t.
Next 2 rows: k to 2nd marker, slm, k9, w+t.

And so on up to 20 + sts depending on size. The markers only serve to make the counting easier, but could cause possible confusion since there are several markers in the row, I’m not totally happy with ‘2nd marker’ as a name, since it could mean either the 2nd marker you come to (what I meant) or the 2nd marker from the beginning.

It should be reasonably obvious to most people that what’s going on here is that the short rows at either side get progressively 2 sts longer each row. This could be written like this:

Next row: k a, w+t.

Next row: k b, w+t.

Next x rows: k to wrapped st, k wrapped st, k1, w+t.

The second option is considerably shorter and also gets the idea across faster with less counting. But do you think it’s clear enough? In the past I’ve simply written ‘k to wrapped st, k2, w+t’, or for decreasing short rows ‘k to x sts before wrapped st, w+t’, but I think spelling it out slightly more helps keep exactly where you’re knitting to a bit clearer.

Second short row question. My favourite short row method for stocking st is Japanese short rows,except in cases where you’re working in the round and work back around to the pin – that can get kind of tight. In garter stitch I like to wrap my sts, but don’t pick up the wraps. Of course other knitters have other preferences, and I think a good pattern should be written in a way that makes it easy for experienced knitters to use their preferred methods while still being accessible to new knitters who haven’t had a chance to work out their own preferences. ‘w+t’ seems to be the standard abbreviation used when working short rows and do you think it’s clearer to use that and give a note about other possible methods than to spell out exactly what I prefer to do which would be wordier and offputting both to people who prefer their own method and to newer knitters who are trying to learn from a variety of sources. That simple abbreviation just seems easier to substitute if desired.

I’d love to know what you think about both of these questions, I know writing clear directions for short rows is something many designers struggle with.


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