Japanese short rows, where have you been all my life?

Do y’all know this technique? It produces nearly invisible short row shaping. Well, no, the shaping is as visible as you make it, but the wrapped stitches are nearly invisible. Because they aren’t wrapped.

I’ve been knitting a lot of longies for my boys. At the moment, I’m making a new pair of monster butt longies for Tommy.

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Monster butt longies in progress

I’m actually adapting Shannon Passmore’s Ultimate Longies pattern, because it’s terrific. Anyway, it involves a lot of short row shaping to make the bum fit over nappies. We do cloth nappies, so there’s a lot of bum to fit around. The pattern calls for standard wrap & turn short rows, which I’ve never been happy with. The stitches next to the turn point get a little distorted, and when the fabric gets stretched the wrapped stitches are pretty noticeable. This is particularly true if you’re using finer yarn, or if you’re switching colours, as I’m doing with the mouth on these longies (the mouth is a short row wedge).

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Standard short rows

A few years ago, I bought a copy of aTsarina of Tsocks pattern, and she called for using shadow stitches instead of standard short row wraps. You can find a tutorial here.

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Shadow stitch short rows

These are better, and they’re actually easier to work with (the shadow stitches are really obvious, so you’ll never forget to pick one up, or have to count from the end to figure out where the next short row should end). But the stitches are still distorted, and that bugs me.

I recently did an online course on pattern writing, and there was a lesson on lists of required skills versus difficulty ratings. The example used for a list of required skills included Japanese short rows. “Japanese short rows?!? What are those?” I thought, always excited to learn new techniques. I found this tutorial[1], and I was off.

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Japanese short rows in progress

They’re a little more work, and you need either safety pins or locking stitch markers (I tried just winging it without either, and it’s possible, but much easier to mess up). Also, a word of warning: they’re not worth the effort if you’re turning when you pick up the shorted stitches[2] (if you’re doing a short row heel or toe for a sock, say). You’re going to see where the short rows ended in that case no matter which technique you use.

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Japanese short rows (worked on the RS)

Can you spot the stitches where I turned the short rows? I can, but I have to squint. And they look just as good when you work the short rows (turning and then picking up) on the WS.

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Japanese short rows worked on the WS

So I’m pretty happy. Not entirely happy, because if you’re knitting in the round, the short rows that are turned on the WS, then picked up from the RS on the next round look a bit distorted.


  1. That tutorial got me started, but I had to figure out how to pick up “wraps” on the WS and in the round myself. It’s not entirely obvious. A better tutorial, if you can’t figure it out, is here.
  2. Yes, I was so excited I tried this on the Owlie Angel Wrap I designed (one of the Year of the Baby projects. I’ll post pictures soon, I hope). There were a lot of short rows in the bottom, which was basically a giant sock toe. It was definitely not worth it.
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