How to Knit Short Rows

When you need to add shaping or a bit of curve to your pieces, short rows are a great technique. By turning the work over and adding extra rows across a section of the stitches you can lengthen certain areas to get the shape you need on your pieces.

If you’re a beginner and you’re not sure how to work short rows, or you’re looking for ways to get them done, you’ve come to the right place. Here we will look at 8 different ways of knitting short rows.

What Are Short Rows in Knitting?

A short row in knitting is a row that is not fully knitted. Hence the name “short row”. It is done by turning your work in the middle of a row and working extra rows across a  section of the stitches on the needles.

Short rows are used for adding shape to a piece in knitting. For example, you might need to shape sock heels, add curves in a sweater, shape shoulder areas, and more. This is where short rows come in.

Knitting Short Rows

1. Wrap and Turn

You may have made short rows in your project before without even knowing it. If you’re following a pattern and it instructs you to wrap-and-turn, these are short rows. Wrap-and-turn short rows are one of the most basic methods used in knitting pieces.

Here’s how to do the wrap-and-turn method

  1. Knit to the spot where you need to make the first wrap
  2. Slip the next stitch purlwise to the right needle.
  3. Move the yarn to the front between both needles
  4. Bring the slipped stitch back to the left needle
  5. Move the working yarn between the needles again
  6. Turn the work, purl side facing you
  7. You should now have one stitch that has been wrapped and be ready to purl the next stitch

These instructions are for knit side facing, you can also do purl side facing but everything will be the opposite.


2. Short Rows Without Wraps

Making wrapless short rows is one of the easier ways of working them in your pieces.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Knit to the turning point
  2. Turn your work
  3. Slip the first stitch
  4. Work the rest of your row like normal
  5. As you work over the short row turn on the next row, make sure your yarn isn’t too loose so you avoid having a hole in your piece

This is a very easy technique that creates some good looking results, but it’s not the best for every situation.

3. Yarn Over Short Rows

Yarnover short rows are similar to the wrapless method. The turning yarn is on the needle when the work is turned so that it can be worked together on the next stitch. This method makes it a  little bit easier to get rid of the hole that’s made.

To work yarn over short rows:

  1. Work to the turning point
  2. Turn the work
  3. Make a yarnover

Yarnovers can be a little bit confusing if you’re new to them. The amount of yarn that you need depends on whether the knit or purl side is facing. You will also want to close the gap to make a smooth looking transition. Watch the video below for a better explanation of how this technique is done.

4. German Short Rows

The german short row method is a favorite of many knitters because it’s easier to get the tension just right to make a seamless short row. Other methods might leave a very ugly looking row, but this one makes it easier to get perfect.

To work this technique:

  1. Knit the turning point
  2. Turn your work
  3. Slip your stitch from the left needle to the right needle purlwise with yarn in front
  4. Pull the yarn up and over the needle
  5. Continue knitting or purling

This method will create a double stitch that looks like two stitches. You should be able to easily see where this is because it will look different than your other stitches. As you work this row you will be working this double stitch as one stitch.

5. Japanse Short Rows

This one is done similar to both the yarn over and wrapless techniques. You will need a stitch marker or something similar for this method.

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Work to the turning point
  2. Turn your work
  3. Place your stitch marker on the working yarn
  4. Work the remainder of the row as you normally would
  5. When you get to the return row, work until you reach the stitch marker
  6. Slip the stitch and pull on your stitch marker and place the turning yarn on the needle
  7. Move the slipped stitch onto your left needle
  8. Knit this stitch together with the next stitch



6. Shadow Wraps

The shadow wrap is another great technique that is pretty easy and results in very neat rows.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Knit to where you need to turn
  2. Knit through the right loop into the next stitch on your left needle
  3. Place the new loop on the left needle
  4. Knit so that this loop becomes a stitch
  5. Place the new stitch back on the left needle so that you have two shadow stitches next to each other
  6. Turn your work and purl, when you reach the shadow wrap on the right side, knit the 2 shadow stitches together to close the short row

Shadow wrap short rows are sometimes referred to as twin stitches because essentially when it’s done you have to twin stitches next to each other.

7. Sunday Short Rows

This famous method name after Carol Sunday is another wrapless method similar to Japanese short rows. Many like this technique because it results in very neat and nearly invisible results compared to some other methods.

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Knit to the turning point
  2. Turn your work
  3. Place scrap yarn across your working yarn and purl back across the row
  4. Work back to the turning point until you reach the area you marked with your scrap yarn
  5. From here pull the scrap yarn until it creates a small loop
  6. Insert your left needle into the loop
  7. Pull the scrap yarn out of the loop
  8. Knit the loop together with the next stitch

8. Garter Stitch Short Rows

Some knitters struggle with making short rows in garter stitch. So we thought we’d cover that in this guide as well. The easiest method will be to use the wrap and turn technique we covered earlier.

To make short rows in garter stitch:

  1. Knit to the point where you are ready to wrap the stitch
  2. Slip the stitch from the left needle to the right needle (purlwise)
  3. Move the working yarn from the back to front
  4. Slip the stitch back onto the left needle
  5. Turn the work
  6. You should now have one stitch wrapped and ready to use on the next stitch

Short Row Shaping

These techniques can help take your pieces to the next level. With short row shaping, you can add curves to your projects by increasing or decreasing stitches to get the perfect fit.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but after you’ve gotten enough projects under your belt you will start to understand how to get the perfect fit using short row shaping techniques.

Closing Thoughts

The 8 methods we have outlined here are enough to get you started. Try one of them out the next time your pattern calls for short rows. We recommend eventually you try all of these techniques so that you can understand the limits and benefits of each one. Eventually, you will have your favorites for certain pieces, but that will come with experience!

If you have another method that you love be sure to reach out to us with a tutorial and we can try it out and add it to the list!