May 17, 2005
Short Row Shoulders
It seems you've been obsessed -- I mean enthusiastic -- about short rows recently, so I thought you might be able to help. I keep hearing mumblings and hush whispers about "short row shoulder shaping", yet all my patterns instruct me to shape my shoulders using stair step bind offs. What gives?
Short Rowless in Savanna
Dear Short Rowless,
I'm glad you're interested in trying something new, I think you'll like this one. Many knitters prefer to shape their shoulders using short rows. Not only does it make for a smoother angle, but it keeps the shoulder stitches "live". The shoulders can then be joined using the 3 needle bind off technique, producing a strong, neat seam.
It is true, most patterns do instruct you to shape your shoulders using stair step bind offs -- but remember, you can adapt any pattern to use short row shaping instead. It doesn't matter which short row technique you use -- Wrapped Stitch, Yarn Over, or Japanese -- pick your favorite.
In general, to adapt stair step shoulder shaping to short row shoulder shaping you'll need to:
- Work one additional row before starting the shoulder shaping. For example, if the pattern tells you to start shoulder shaping on a wrong side (WS) row, then start the short row shaping on the next right side (RS) row.
Instead of binding off the prescribed number of stitches, simply leave those stitches unworked, turning the short row at that spot. For example, if the pattern tells you to BO 4 stitches, then work until there are 4 stitches on the left needles and turn.
- Work one additional row after the shaping is completed to close the gaps caused by the short rows.
Let's look at an example. The instructions for the original pattern read:
Begin shaping the left shoulder on a WS row as follows:
Row 1 (WS): BO 4 sts, purl to end
Row 2, 4, 6 (RS): knit all stitches
Row 3: BO 4 sts, purl to end
Row 5: BO 3 sts, purl to end
Row 7: BO 3 sts, purl to end
The adapted instructions using short rows would be:
Begin shaping the left shoulder on a RS row as follows:
Row 1 (RS): Knit until there are 4 stitches on the left needle, turn
Row 2, 4, 6 (WS): purl all stitches
Row 3: Knit until there are 8 stitches on the left needle, turn
Row 5: Knit until there are 11 stitches on the left needle, turn
Row 7: knit all stitches, closing the gaps as they are reached.
Would you like to try one? Let's see who is the first to correctly adapt the shaping for the right shoulder. Here are the original instructions:
Begin shaping the right shoulder on a RS row as follows:
Row 1 (RS): BO 4 sts, knit to end
Row 2, 4, 6 (WS): purl all stitches
Row 3: BO 4 sts, knit to end
Row 5: BO 3 sts, knit to end
Row 7: BO 3 sts, knit to end
The contest starts now!
Row 1 (WS): Purl until there are 4 stitches on the left needle, turn
Row 2, 4, 6 (RS): knit all stitches
Row 3: Purl until there are 8 stitches on the left needle, turn
Row 5: Purl until there are 11 stitches on the left needle, turn
Row 7: Purl all stitches, closing the gaps as they are reached.
That should be right, although I can't say I understand it totally. I'll have to try something like this out one of these days to be sure I get it.
Since your test pattern was the exact reverse of your example one, I just copied the example answer, switching RS and WS, and knit and purl.
Posted by: Leisel | May 17, 2005 11:33:14 PM
I'm highly mathematically-challenged and so I will wait for the answer which I will print out and keep forever. I once did this short row thing so badly that I mixed up the stitches that were intended for the neckline! Don't ask me how. I've been a little frightened of short rows since - not so much the technique, but the math! So thanks for the instruction!
Posted by: erin | May 17, 2005 11:55:44 PM
I really like your blog and am grateful that you help us other knitters with good advice and hints. During the last couple of days I've used your tutorial for picking up stitches - and I must say, that's the best pick-up I've ever done. Thanks!
Since I've been focusing on edges, my mind cannot be confused by mixing in short rows at this moment... Probly helpful another time though.
Posted by: Liisa | May 18, 2005 5:43:59 AM
Thanks for the tutorial. I'm definitely going to try this on my next project! (Already stair step bound off the back of NBaT.)
Posted by: Annette | May 18, 2005 6:14:14 AM
Congratulations Leisel -- you are absolutely correct! Email me your snail-mail address and I'll send you a little prize.
Posted by: nona | May 18, 2005 8:30:19 AM
its wonderful when someone else asks the questions i'm too embarrassed to ask. i, too, have read about the short row shoulders but never quite understood. nona's blog is becoming a priceless resource.
Posted by: anna | May 18, 2005 8:32:19 AM
I had the same questions when I had to shape the shoulders of my first cotton tank. I finally got the answer from an article in the Knitty.com archives. Later, I found that Nancie Wiseman's Knitter's Handbook of Finishing Techniques also teaches how to do it.
At first it seemed complicated, but after doing it once, I can do it again without referring to the ariticle again. And I love the slanting shape of the shoulders! But I still have to explore the different style of short rows, though.
Your tutorial today is very clear. Thanks.
Posted by: Agnes | May 18, 2005 8:49:41 AM
Thank you for clearly explaining this Nona, it is so helpful!
Posted by: Purly Whites | May 18, 2005 9:24:29 AM
Woohoo! so simple! Thanks for illuminating this technique.
Posted by: Daphne | May 18, 2005 9:46:47 AM
Great instructions, Nona! This is how I do necklines, but I always feel like I'm winging it. I do my shoulders a little differently; I bind off as I go, because I prefer to seam my shoulders.
For the shoulders, I bind off the number of stitches I'm supposed to, work to the end of the row, then turn and knit to the first knitted stitch after the bindoff. I don't knit that one; I turn the work and slip that unworked stitch to the right needle and bind it off with the stitch that sticks out of the last bound-off stitch. Then I just repeat that until all the stitches are bound off. For example, on 16 sts, bind off 4, work 12 to the end. Turn, work 11. Turn, slip the unworked st to the right needle and bind it off, bind off 3 more, work 8 to the end. And so on.
Then I do the invisible seam from Katharina Buss's Big Book of Knitting, which looks nicer to me than the three-needle bindoff. Somehow I always get a big obvious valley where the seam is with that one. Any hints?
Posted by: Joan C | May 18, 2005 8:09:56 PM
Thanks for the detailed instructions on short row techniques. Until now I only used the wrap method, but didn't care for the look on stst shoulders. Today I used the Japanese method, and it looks great!
Question for you: when short rowing shoulders for the back of a garment, do you work 2 full rows to close the gaps?
For example, let's say you have 64sts on your needles. The instructions say to BO 7sts at the beginning of the next 4 rows, then 6sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows, then BO the center 24sts.
I understand how to do the short rows on each side. But after you finish the last short row turn, and then work to the end of the row closing the gaps, you still have the gaps on the other side of the neck.
1) Turn, work across the shoulder where you just closed the gaps, BO 24sts for the neck, and then continue to the end of the row closing the gaps?
2) Cut the yarn. Turn. Join 20sts in (after the shoulder sts) and BO 24sts for the neck, and continue to the end of the row closing the gaps.
#1 seems to be the easiest, but you end up working one extra row on one shoulder.
Posted by: Janice | Jun 10, 2005 2:14:21 PM
Thank your sharing your talents. I read and re-read your helps. I am practicing short rows; each one you
suggest. I want to use short rows on a top down rag neckline. Do you begin the short rows just after the setup for front, sleeve, back, sleeve, front?
Posted by: Imp Mes | Apr 9, 2008 7:14:34 AM
I'm going to carefully read your notes on short row shaping for shoulders. I'm knitting the Central Park Hoodie for my daughter and ripped out the jagged shoulder bind off. The stitches for the back are on holders and I'm getting ready to bind off for the left front and I'm real persnickity about how things look. I like the hand made not homemade look. Thanks for sharing your expertise.
Posted by: Beth Holt | Nov 1, 2010 7:35:17 PM
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