Use Short Rows to Shape Your Circular Knitting

short row shaping

We know about short row shaping, where we wrap and turn our work after knitting only part of a row, so that one side of our project gets a little extra room. You create a short row section by working only a few stitches on your project, then turning your work and working those few stitches back to the beginning. Short row shaping is how we account for human curves when we’re making a garment.

It’s one thing to work short rows when knitting flat. But as we know, most things are a little different when working in the round.

Short row shaping in the round is pretty common, when you think about it. After all, what’s the tricky part of knitting a sock? Turning the heel. Turning the heel is a direct reference to the wrap and turn technique of short rows. Of course, you may also want to use some short row shaping in a sweater or another fitted garment. In the round, short rows will make the short row segment of your knitting puff out, like the heel of a sock, rather than make the bottom edge of your knitting appear curved.

So what do you need to know about short row shaping in the round?

The most important thing to remember is that when you turn your work, and work your short row in the other direction, the regular rules of knitting in the round no longer apply. You no longer always have the right side facing you, so you’re now back in the land of flat knitting. To work stockinette, you have to purl as you work the backside of the short row. If you were working in garter stitch, you need to knit as you work the short row back to the beginning of the round. If I had to guess, I’d say this is one of the most frequent mistakes people make. We get so used to whizzing through circular projects because it’s all knitting.

When working any short row, it’s always important to do something to prevent a gap from appearing in your knitting where you turn your work. The most common technique is the wrap and turn. You knit to the point where you are supposed to turn your work. Before turning, though, slip the first stitch on the left-hand needle and wrap your working yarn around it before slipping the stitch back onto that left needle. Then, and only then, turn your work.

Now the trick on short row shaping in the round is that you also need to do a wrap and turn at the end of the return row, even if it takes you to the end of the round. It’s not like flat knitting, where there is an edge. If you forget your wraps, you will wind up with this:


Don’t forget, whenever you come back to the spot with a wrap, you need to pick that wrap up, and work it with the stitch it’s wrapping.

For a more in-depth look at all kinds of short rows, check out the FREE Craftsy class Short Rows. For a specific look at short row shaping in heels, check out the last lesson in the Knit Sock Workshop.

Turning a heel doesn’t seem quite as scary now, right?

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