A step-by-step tutorial for knitting shadow wrap short rows – plus important tips and tricks for heels, etc.
Short rows can be frustrating. Often, they are somewhat fiddly to knit and you end up with holes or unsightly stitches. But they really don’t need to be. This tutorial will show you how to knit Shadow Wrap Short Rows. It’s an ingenious technique that’s both super easy and invisible.
The basics trick: You add a lifted increase before your turn around. Later on, you decrease this extra stitch. This will, so to speak, fill the gap and create super seamless short rows. Sounds complicated? Not at all!
Let’s dive right into it!
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- Knit up to the position where you want to turn around and start your short rows.
- Pick up the right leg of the stitch one row below the next stitch on the left needle with yarn held in the back and slip that leg back to the left needle.
- Knit into this extra loop.
- Slip this extra stitch back to the left needle point-to-point.
This will create a double stitch.
- Turn around and continue purling across the wrong side until you come to the place where you want to turn around again. Tighten up a bit after the first stitch to close the gap.
Note: If you don't want to do this, skip ahead to step 12
- Slip the next purl stitch back to the right needle point-to-point with yarn in front.
- Lift the left leg of the purl bump one row below back to the left needle.
- Purl into that extra loop.
- Slip both stitches, the increase and the purl stitch you've slipped in step 8, back to the left needle.
- Turn around and continue knitting across.
- You can elect to repeat steps 1-10 however many times you like. Just stop 1,2, or 3 stitches before the double stitches you've created on either side, add another one, and turn around. Your rows will gradually become shorter.
- If you want to resolve the shadow wrap double stitches, either because you are done with your short rows OR because you want to start in the center and gradually get wider, you simply knit up to the position of the double stitch. And then you simply knit it together and continue in pattern.
- When you come across a double stitch on the purl side in the next row, you purl it together instead.
- Continue knitting in pattern.
You can use shadow wrap short rows instead of German short rows or Japanese short rows any time. The mechanics are the same - the only difference is the difficulty and the look.
In knitting patterns, you often find the abbreviation "md". This stands for "make double" and indicates that you should create a double stitch in this place and then turn around.
You can also work shadow wrap short rows from the inside. Here's an example:
- CO 21 Stitches
- Row 1-4 knit across in stockinette stitch
- Row 5: k11, md [turn around]
- Row 6: p1, md [turn around]
- Row 7: k1, k2tog, k1, md [turn around]
- Row 8: p3, p2tog, p1, md [turn around]
Alternative way to do Shadow wrap short rows on the purl side
If you follow the instructions from above, you will quickly notice that creating the shadow wraps on the knit side is fairly easy, while it can be a bit cumbersome on the purl side. There’s so much slipping involved, right?
This first method is, technically speaking, a bit twisted. However, when using a fuzzy yarn the differences are so minor that probably nobody will ever be able to tell.
Step 1: With yarn held in front, go through the full stitch one row below with your knitting needle from behind.
Step 2: Purl one stitch.
Step 3: Slip that extra purl stitch back to the left needle point-to-point.
Step 4: Later on, purl these two stitches together.
From a technical point of view, the traditional way to knit shadow wrap short rows on the purl side does not create a symmetrical stitch in the way k2tog and SSK or M1R and M1L work. That’s why I came up (well; un-vented as they say) a version that is truly symmetrical.
Step 1: With yarn in front, lift the right leg of the purl bump one row below back to the left needle.
Step 3: Slip it back to the left needle point-to-point.
Step 4: Late on, when you come across the double stitch, you need to decrease it with SSP. Slip the two stitches knitwise, slip them back to the left needle, and then purl them together through the back loop.
I would use this version to do shadow wraps on the purl side for sock heels. I do feel it looks quite beautiful and it creates somewhat denser results for me. The standard version does look quite good as well. If you are unsure, knit a swatch and see what you prefer!
If you are adding color to a shawl or some other isolated use-case where you don’t place the double stitches right next to each other, you might want to use the standard version instead. This “left-leaning” shadow wrap method does tend to create a visible wrap on the left side of the double stitch.
It’s a double edged sword. This wrap (which normally would be more on the right side of the double stitch) can help to fill in gaps if it’s in the same color. In two colors, however, it might be a bit too visible.
Shadow wrap short rows and garter stitch
When working garter stitch, you run into a problem: Suddenly there is a purl bump on the right side as well. And if you stick to the same repeat, it ends up looking a bit wonky. Not terribly so but certainly not perfect either. In this case, I propose to work the double stitches like this:
Right side turns:
Step 1: Slip the right leg of the purl bump right below the next stitch back to your left needle.
Step 2: Knit into the front loop of that stitch. This can be a bit fiddly. You can loosen the stitch up a bit with your knitting needle before.
Step 3: Later on, you knit the double stitches together.
Wrong side turns:
Step 1: Slip the right leg back to the left needle.
Step 2: Knit into the back loop of that stitch.
Step 3: Later on, knit the double stitch together.
Careful. The double stitches are a bit harder to see here as they don’t hug each other so closely. You may consider placing stitch markers if you are working with a darker yarn or a fine gauge.
If you maintain an even tension, this will create a super seamless transition. However, the wrong side will not look as neat. So be careful, your garter stitch will become a bit less reversible.
Difference between shadow wrap short rows and German short rows
Shadow wrap short rows slightly distort the row below, while German short rows affect the current row. Both create wraps on the wrong side to keep the fabric from falling apart. These wraps can be slightly visible on the sides of the double stitches.
When working German short rows, you might be able to see a slightly diagonal strand right next to the double stitch. With Shadow wrap short rows, the diagonal is one stitch below and slightly less prominent. However, the wrap itself is often a bit more visible.
In technical terms: German short rows incorporate (read shorten) the strand between two stitches to close the gap (when you pull the working yarn down, this basically wraps this strand around your knitting needle), while shadow wrap short rows reinforce the gap by adding a strand through an increase.