Short Rows: Plain Wraps

Today being Sunday it is time for Lucky Sunday chewin’ the cud (or ruminations for the fancy). I am feeling very lucky that audio books were created.  I love to read, but with knitting and dyeing the work is hands on – if I were a human/insect hybrid I’d have more than enough hands, and eyes to knit, dye, read and write at the same time.  Unfortunately for me (and fortunately for others) I am not a human size insect in the manner of Kafka and so I have to settle on doing mostly one thing at a time. Except reading.  Yay for ipods and audible (offering half price membership at the moment)!  Just finished with Book II of The Millenium Trilogy – The Girl Who Played with Fire… starting Book III today.

Some answers to my post Why I Love Handknit Socks:

  • those are all my sock patterns (thank you for the compliments!) which will be available here in February  after I get back from Cornwall and upload the pdfs.
  • I’m glad to see that it’s not just me who loves handknit socks!
  • Thank you Carrie for pointing out that woolly socks can in fact keep your toes from falling off. I’d forgotten about frostbite and that wool keeps your toesies toastie.
  • Operation Replace All Handknits with Handmades (or O!RASH for short) is an excellent idea.  Check out the Ravelry group here.
  • And mom I promise I will finish your golf socks for when you come this summer. 🙂

If you’ve knit a sock, or a jumper, or a shawlette, then you’ve most likely come across short rows in afterthought/short row heels, short row toes, raising the back of a jumper’s neckline or creating curves for shawlettes. By using a series of increasingly shorter and then longer rows, these ‘short rows’ give a garment shape. I’ve come across four methods of avoiding holes from short rows. The most common are plain wraps and yarn overs. A little less common but no less effective are Japanese short row wraps and  ‘double stitches’ as described in The Sock Knitter’s Workshop by Ewa Jostes & Stephanie van der Linden.

Apart from the double stitch method, I’ve used the other three and to be honest, I’ve never been all that happy with the results. The methods are rather fiddly (especially the Japanese short rows), and often don’t give a smooth transition between the short rows and plain knitting.  I can see in the column of knit stitches where the short rows were as the stitches don’t look the same as their non-short row cousins.

I’ve spent some time in the last month experimenting with short row wraps, and have developed/unvented a new wrap I am quite fond of.  I’m calling it ‘shadow wraps’.  But before I show my shadow wraps to you, I thought it would be useful to do an overview of the other short row methods with a mini tutorial for each one. In all the samples the wraps are made only on the right side of stockinette fabric.

Method #1:  Plain Wraps

The plain wrap is a little loop around turning stitch and one of the most common.  The instructions are usually something like “knit to blah, w&t”, with w&t not being instructions to partake in some awesome cocktail but rather  shorthand for the instructions “wrap and turn”.

Very briefly, to work a plain wrap on the knit side of the work, knit to the stitch you wish to wrap.  Bring the yarn to the front, slip the next stitch purlwise, bring the yarn between the needles from the front to the back again. Slip the stitch back to the left needle (see photo below).  This the ‘wrap’ portion of w&t.  Then you turn the work – needless to say, the ‘turn’ portion of w&t.  This sets you up to work the purl side.

To work the wrap from the purl side, purl to the stitch you wish to wrap.  Bring the yarn to the back, slip the next stitch purlwise, bring the yarn between the needles from the back to the front again. Slip the stitch back to the left needle.  Turn.  This sets you up to work the knit side.

Plain wrap

Once all the stitches are wrapped, the wraps need to be worked to make them invisible.  From the knit side, the first thing to do is reorient the stitch by slipping the wrapped stitch knitwise, then slipping it purlwise back to the left needle. This sets up the stitch to be knit through the back loop without twisting it. We’ll get to this in a sec.

Pick up the wrap with the right needle.

Picking up plain wrap

Then lift the wrap and place it to the left of the stitch it wrapped (behind it) (see photo).  Knit the stitch and the wrap together through the back loop. To work the plain wrap from the purl side is a little simpler as there is no need to reorient the wrapped stitch. Lift the wrap with the right needle and place it to the left of the wrapped stitch (behind it again) and purl the stitch and the wrap together.

Placing plain wrap

Once all the wraps are worked, the knit side looks like this (I’ve knit a few rows after working the wraps).

Worked plain wraps

And the purl side looks like this:

Back of worked plain wraps

These are great at closing holes but are fiddly to work – reorienting the stitch is annoying, picking up the wraps and placing them correctly is fiddly (wait till we get to the safety pins and Japanese short rows!).  The back side is a little ugly and puffy too since the tension is hard to control when lifting the wraps- they end up rather loose compared to the stitch it wrapped and you can see this on the back of the fabric. Still, when working garter stitch short rows these are awesome as they blend in nicely with the fabric.

Next up… Yarnover wraps