Master Short Rows! Learn the Basics of the Wrap & Turn Technique

As you advance in your knitting, there will come a time when you need to conquer short rows. This design element, which creates soft angles and curves that aren’t quite as obvious or harsh as our usual increases and decreases, uses a key technique called wrap and turn.

Short Row Shawl Knitting Pattern

This Short Rows Fantasy Shawl uses short rows to create these beautiful angles.

What is wrapping and turning in knitting?

Wrap and turn (sometimes abbreviated as w and t) in knitting involves wrapping stitches with the working yarn, turning the work, and coming back to the wrapped stitches later. The wrap and turn works for anything from sock heels to shaping for accessories like the impressive shawl pictured above.

Figuring out how to do a wrap and turn in knitting can be a little frustrating at first. We’ll walk you through the wrap and turn, plus picking up the wraps later when you come back. Let’s get started!

Wrap and turn tutorial

For this tutorial, you can make a small swatch, or just work off your project.

Wrap and turn swatch

Cast on 15 stitches, then knit 4 rows of stockinette stitch to get your swatch started.

On the knit side

Step 1:

On the next right side row, knit until there are 2 stitches left (in this case, 13 stitches).

Step 2:

Now you’re ready to do the w and t on the next-to-last stitch on the knit side.

Wrap and turn on the knit side

With the yarn in back, insert your needle purlwise into the stitch you are going to wrap. (In this case, that’s the next-to-last stitch of the row.)

Wrap and turn on the knit side

Slip the stitch from the left needle to the right needle.

Step 3:

Wrap and turn on the knit side

Pull the yarn around to the front of the work.

Step 4:

Slip the stitch back onto the left needle again.

Step 5:

Wrap and turn on the knit side

Turn your work to the wrong side, preparing to work the purl row. I like to mark my wrapped stitches with a stitch marker. It’s especially handy when you’re working with dark or thin yarn, since it’s sometimes difficult to see the wraps. Before you start to purl across on the wrong side, tug on the yarn to make sure the wrap around the stitch is snug — but don’t pull too tightly, or you’ll have a difficult time picking up the wraps later. (Stay tuned for more on that!)

On the purl side

Now we’ll wrap a purl stitch.

Step 1:

Purl until there are 2 stitches left on your left needle.

Step 2:

Wrap and turn on the purl side

With the yarn in front, insert the needle purlwise into the stitch you are going to wrap.

Wrap and turn on the purl side

Slip the stitch over to the right needle.

Step 3:

Wrap and turn on the purl side

Pull the yarn to the back of the work, then slip the stitch from the right needle to the left needle.

Step 4:

Wrap and turn on the purl side

Turn your work to the right side, preparing to work another knit row. If you’re using a stitch marker like I am, mark the wrapped stitch. Just as you did with the knit w and t, tug on the yarn before you start knitting to make sure the wrap is snug.

Continuing your short rows

Wrap and turn in knitting

Repeat these steps back and forth across the rows, always knitting or purling to one stitch before the last wrapped stitch. Continue until there are only 5 stitches between the wrapped stitches.

You can already see those soft angles forming as you knit!

How to pick up wrapped stitches

If you leave your stitches wrapped, they don’t look super neat. So we’re going to work across the entire row and pick up the wraps as we knit.

Wrap and turn in knitting

If you take a look at the photo above, you can see the wrapped stitches on and to the left of the marked stitch. See how those knit stitches look like they have little scarves around their necks? Those are the wraps that we’re going to pick up.

On the knit side

Picking up wrapped stitches

When you come to the first wrapped stitch, insert the needle from front to back into the wrap

Picking up wrapped stitches on the knit side

…then into the stitch on the needle as if to knit. Knit the wrap together with the stitch on the needle.

Picking up wrapped stitches on the knit side

Repeat this across the row, picking up all the wrapped stitches.

Depending on your pattern, your knitting might start to look a little bumpy and weird. See how mine swells up in the middle? That’s a result of making all these neat angles.

On the purl side

Picking up wrapped stitches on the purl side

Purl across to the first wrapped stitch, then, with the yarn in front, insert the needle from bottom to op into the wrap

Picking up wrapped stitches on the purl side

…then into the stitch on the needle as if to purl. Purl the wrap together with the stitch. This will feel similar to purling two together.

Picking up wrapped stitches on the purl side

Repeat this across the rest of the row, picking up the wraps and purling them with the stitches.

That’s it! You’ve successfully wrapped and turned lots of stitches. 

If you want to check out more short row techniques, enroll in Carol Feller’s Essential Short Row Techniques class where you can learn about short rows in the round, as well as other short row methods and tricks.

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