Japanese short rows

First of all I want to share with you a couple of lovely moments. Isabella and Ava were here on Friday and one of the places they love most is my office. Izzi loves to be the designer, sitting at the table doing her work - she already makes her own fabulous style books and her drawings show amazing perceptiveness with their well observed colour and pattern (don't mind me, I am Gigi after all - granny to the uninitiated - and so proud of them).

Ava always tries hard to do the same as her sister but, being two years younger, her attention span is much shorter so we have to find other things to interest her. As a very large box of yarn had appeared since her last visit, she was interested to know what it was for. I told her it's for my next book and that the first thing I have to do is wind some wool to knit swatches, so of course she immediately wanted to help with this. P also loves winding wool - its a man thing, don't ask - so the two of them set about the job. 
My lovely little swift
Also a lovely surprise appeared in my inbox the other day. The subject was A Song to Jean and when I opened the email it was a hauntingly beautiful song by the Norwegian singer, Ane Bruun. It was sent to me by my friend Hilde, I was so touched, so thank you again Hilde for thinking of me.

OK then, down to business. You may have noticed that from time to time I revisit my column, Ask Jean.  Today is one of those days and I'm focusing on Japanese short rows, which I believe give the very best result if you want the finish to be as near to invisible as possible.

According to the guru of knit technique, the late, great Montse Stanley, in her excellent book The Knitter’s Handbook, (which I find just as comprehensive, much more accessible and easier to handle than The Principles of Knitting, which does my back in every time I pick it up!) there are three ways of avoiding holes in short rows:
1   over - the loosest, requiring the making of an extra stitch (over), then on the long row across all stitches, the over is worked together with next stitch
2   tie - easy and quite neat, the one we know as wrapping a stitch, usually used in short-row shaping
3   catch – neatest, and one and the same as Japanese Short Rows.

Japanese short rows can be used in any situation where you might use conventional short-row shaping, such as darts, shoulders, mitred corners, ruffles, curves or medallions. 
Here’s how using stocking stitch:
On the RS row
1   knit to the turning point in the row
2   turn to WS and slip the next stitch purlwise
3   attach a pin to the working yarn (this is a helpful little trick added by Lucy Neatby) - the pin should go around the yarn, not through it
4   purl the short row back, ignoring the pin, it won't be used until the gap is closed
Knit turning point
Closing the gap
With the Japanese technique the gap is quite noticeable.
1   knit until you reach the gap, where you’ll see the pin is attached to a loop on the WS below the right needle
2   from the knit side, pull the pin and place the pin's loop up onto the left needle. The loop should be correctly mounted with its right leg in front
3   knit the pin's loop together with the next stitch.
4   remove the pin
Knit Gap Closing
On WS row
1   purl to the turning point in the row
2   turn to RS and slip the next stitch purlwise
3   attach a pin to the working yarn as above
4   knit the short row back -- the pin is attached to a loop on the WS
Purl turning point
Closing the gap
1   purl until you reach the gap -- the pin will be attached to a loop under the right needle.
2   slip the first stitch on the left needle purlwise onto the right needle
3   pull the pin and pop the pin's loop up onto the left needle.  The loop should be correctly mounted with its right leg in front.
4   slip the first stitch on the right needle back to the left needle (this slipping of the first stitch is necessary to reverse the order of the stitch and the pin's loop)
5   purl the next stitch together with the pin's loop.
6   remove the pin
Purl Gap Closing
So there you have it, virtually invisible short rows, don’t you wish you’d always known about them!
Knitter’s Handbook by Montse Stanley (David & Charles 2001) paperback


  1. Dear Jean, I'm so glad you liked the song, my friend! Thank you for sharing it with all your followers and readers! Hilde in Norway

  2. Thank you so much for this excellent tutorial. I tried this technique on some bust shaping for a pullover, and it looks great, much better than wrap and turn IMO.

    Question: if you're knitting in the round and doing short rows on opposite sides (as for bust shaping), when you close the gaps on the knit side and then continue knitting around (rather than purling back), you approach the other set of gaps and pins from the opposite side, so the gaps and the pins are to the left of the needle when you encounter them. Do you have any advice about this? I managed a sort of ssk with the stitch before the gap and the pinned loop, and it looks okay, but it seemed forced and I wasn't sure it was right.

    Thanks again!


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