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April 08, 2005

Japanese Short Rows

nona likes to save the best for last, which means today we'll be exploring Japanese Short Rows.  Over the past few days we've seen the results of my short row experiment and taken a closer look at both the Wrapped Stitch and Yarn Over techniques.  I highly recommend trying the short row experiment for yourself -- generic directions for the short row swatch can be found here.

I first heard reference to the Japanese short row technique from a fellow knitter who attended a Lucy Neatby workshop -- I believe Lucy originated the pin trick I'll be showing you.  Additional references can be found in PGR's Knitting in the Old Way and Montse Stanley's Knitter's Handbook -- referred to as the "catch" short row technique.  nona found this technique to be very easy to execute and achieved the best overall look and feel.

Japanese Technique - Front and Back

Let's take a look at how the Japanese technique handles the turning point and closing the gap.

Turning Point
Each short row has a turning point, where the knitting is turned without completing the row. 

On the knit side:

  • Knit to the turning point in the row
  • Turn -- you're now on the purl side -- and slip the next stitch purlwise
  • Attach a pin to the working yarn -- the pin should go around the yarn, not through it
  • Continue, ignoring the pin, it won't be used until the gap is closed

Knit Turning Point

On the purl side:

  • Purl to the turning point in the row
  • Turn -- you're now on the knit side -- and slip the next stitch purlwise
  • Attach a pin to the working yarn -- the pin should go around the yarn, not through it
  • Continue -- if you flip the knitting over, you'll see the pin attached to a loop

Purl Turning Point

Closing the Gap
A gap is formed at each turning point, which is closed when the gap is next encountered.  With the Japanese technique the gap is quite noticeable.  When you reach the gap, the pin will be under the right needle.

On the knit side:

  • Knit until you reach the gap.
  • If you flip the knitting over, you'll see the pin attached to a loop behind the right needle
  • From the knit side, pull the pin and pop the pin's loop up onto the left needle.  The loop should be correctly mounted with its right leg in front.
  • Knit the pin's loop together with the next stitch.
  • Remove the pin

Knit Gap Closing

On the purl side:

  • Purl until you reach the gap -- the pin will be attached to a loop under the right needle.
  • Slip the first stitch on the left needle purlwise onto the right needle
  • Pull the pin and pop the pin's loop up onto the left needle.  The loop should be correctly mounted with its right leg in front.
  • Slip the first stitch on the right needle back to the left needle (this slipping of the first stitch is necessary to reverse the order of the stitch and the pin's loop
  • Purl the next stitch together with the pin's loop.
  • Remove the pin

Purl Gap Closing

April 8, 2005 in Tips and Techniques | Permalink


Hurrah! Thanks for mentioning that this technique is in the RD/Montse Stanley book, which I own. I will go compare your description with hers and try it out. I wonder: you could omit the pin but would have to look carefully for your loop, no?

Posted by: Daphne | Apr 8, 2005 11:44:58 AM

You did a masterful job of showing this technique!

Posted by: Margene | Apr 8, 2005 11:55:45 AM

Thank you for a wonderful demonstation.

Posted by: Hope | Apr 8, 2005 12:29:24 PM

Thank you, nona, for a very nice demonstration of short rows. I've always used what I now know is the Japanese method. I took a class in which I was told I was doing it *wrong* and should be wrapping the stitches, which I found clumsy and ugly. I'll be trying the yarn-over method just for kicks.

Posted by: Joan C | Apr 8, 2005 8:02:48 PM

Thank you for the explanation with photos. I'm definitely going to try it. Is this technique the same as a knit/purl encroachment as described at

Posted by: Lou | Apr 9, 2005 8:24:59 PM

Fantastic demo- thank you!!

Posted by: Clementine | Apr 10, 2005 2:58:09 PM

nona, you totally ROCK. Tons of people, I'm sure will benefit from you being so thorough! My favorite method is Japanese shortrows definitely!

Posted by: tania | Apr 10, 2005 8:57:20 PM

Thanks for your comprehensive look at short row techniques, Nona - I've bookmarked them :-)
Oh and the reddy/burgundy colour with the pink for the tshirt I reckon. The grey looks umm not right, maybe a bit too 80s for me (but you may want that look!)
And I love the bunny slippers. LOL

Posted by: Lynne S of Oz | Apr 11, 2005 5:44:46 AM

When closing the gap, why do you slip when on the purl side but not on the knit side?

Also, Joan C, I don't think it's the same as knit encroachment -- in that technique, you pick up the stitch below, and in this technique, you pick up the working yarn.

Posted by: Randall | Apr 17, 2005 7:31:24 AM

Thank you so much! I've been wanting to learn how to do this and had been trying to find good directions!

Posted by: Nan | Apr 27, 2005 8:32:04 AM

nona; I'm trying to use the Japanese s.r. method for doing the heel on socks (so my experimental heels don't look at all like your flat experiments). Since the heel is concave-shaped, I get a different look than yours and I think it might be because the some stitches are getting pulled. Does this method work for socks? If so, are there any adjustments that need to be made to make the shape rounded? Thanks, I really appreciate the level of detail that you go into to help other knitters understand this. Brenda

Posted by: Brenda | May 10, 2005 11:11:08 AM

nona-me again, in your instructions for closing the gap ((Slip the first stitch on the right needle back to the left needle (this slipping of the first stitch is necessary to reverse the order of the stitch and the pin's loop)), do I slip knit or purlwise from the right needle to the left? Should the legs of the stitch be opposite of "normal" after the slip, i.e. twisted with the right leg on the back of the left needle? Thanks again, Brenda

Posted by: Brenda | May 10, 2005 11:19:02 AM

I've never posted a comment on a knitting blog before, but I wanted to tell you how thrilled I am with the Japanese technique! I've always wrapped my stitches, but wasn't completely satisfied with the results. I just finished a Rowan Calmer cardy with Japanese short-rowed shoulders, and I'm so happy with the way it looks that I'm dancing on my blocking board. Thanks for sharing!!!

Posted by: Keri Clark | Jun 13, 2005 11:33:18 AM

ENFIN (at least!) short rows I can live with !!! I've just tried it on a current project and despite my obsessive/pinpointing/perfectionnist character, I'm happy with the result. Clearly beats the other techniques, and so easy to grip thanks to Nona's demo. Long life to Nona !

Posted by: knitchy | Jul 7, 2005 6:55:00 AM

Thank you a million times over! Once I took the time to actually read your directions and not assume you had left words out..

BEAUTIFUL results!

I'm so glad I don't have to look at those ugly wraps anymore!

Posted by: Tigs | Jul 27, 2005 4:03:10 AM

Thanks so much for the info about the Japenese Short Rows. My question is could they be used to knit a flat circle. For example, to knit a circle as the base for knitting a bowl? I tried doing this with double pt needles and 6 cast on sts but it is way too fiddly for me. I next tried knitting a small square and picking up sts around the sides. The thought occured to me that perhaps short rows might work here. I just can't figure out how to do it. Thanks for any help.

Posted by: Mary | Jul 28, 2005 5:53:42 AM

Let me get the knitting from the starting.

Posted by: mekala | Jan 18, 2006 11:54:57 PM

I am so thrilled to learn this technique! Thank you SO much. Your patience and teaching skills are truly remarkable and I cannot begin to even imagine how much time it must take to make samples and take such clear and detailed photos.

You're simply too good to be true!

Posted by: Mary Claire | Mar 5, 2006 2:06:12 AM

Oh Nona! Japanese rows, per your instructions, beat wrapped rows hands down (needles down?). I have a question though. I am getting stumped after I close the gap. After I have knit/purl the loop and the next stitch together, what do I do? I think I continue working that row (whatever it is, knitting or purling)all the way to the end. Do I do an entire row of knit (picking up those stitches after what was the gap (and the same with the purl side)and then do the next short row... short row knit, short row purl, close the gap knit, close the gap purl, knit a row, purl a row, and then start over? Or, do I do the same as with the wrapped rows, where I do all the short rows and then go back and pick them up after they are wrapped? (I don't think so, since you said I should close the gap every time I come to it)

Does what I'm asking make any sense at all?

Thanks so much! And I am happy to know that if Nona knits, I can figure it out too (with a little help!).
Kim in NC

Posted by: Kim | Apr 11, 2006 8:33:24 AM

Thank you for explaining this technique, Nona. I'm about to try it on a practice bootie slipper sock. The wrapped method didn't look good and I'm not sure I did the YO right but this looks easier and faster so I'm going to try it.

Hopefully I'll get it right.

BTW, I love reading your blog, you're my kind of people :D

Posted by: Chatty | Apr 19, 2006 6:38:25 AM

THanks for these directions, they look good. i am curious how it would work if you were knitting in the round tho - given there is no purl row to go back and close up with if you know what i mean. How would you close up the last gap?

Posted by: ALi | May 23, 2006 8:00:40 PM

I'd like to make a purse similar to the Sunburst Sling bags found at www.justonemorerow.com but I want to felt mine. Knowing that felting hides a multitude of sins/errors, which method of short rows do you recommend?

Please email me with the answer if you have time. [email protected]

Thanks for your time.

Posted by: Shelly | May 24, 2006 6:52:56 PM

Hi Nona -- I'm just now seeing this tutorial and would like to know, if using this technique for heels on socks, would I have lots of pins hanging on the work until I begin closing all the gaps? I'm assuming I would need to do this on each and every row of the heel... does this get to be at all cumbersom?

I'm completely new to short row heels and have spent quite a bit of time on your blog today reviewing your tutorials which have been very helpful. You can read about my first attempt at my first short row heel on today's entry of my blog at www.DancesWithYarn.com.


Posted by: Jeanie | May 28, 2006 7:51:19 PM

I was wondering the same thing, how do you close the gap when knitting in the round? Help!

Posted by: Cari | Aug 5, 2006 7:38:32 PM

This similar technique for turning short row heels is used in a creative sock book published in 2002, called "Crazy Toes & Heels", but you use those tiny hair rubber bands for markers between the stitches for the short row turns instead of pins. It is similar because it is so easy to remember where to pick up that purl bump to short row back up because you do it at the next rubber band, flick off that band and knit to the next one, and so on, so there are no pins to deal with. The URL for the book if you are interested is:


Posted by: Gabby | Sep 24, 2006 9:13:14 AM

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