Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Study in Short Rows - Hiding Holes

Short row heels (and toes!) are very popular and very simple to execute. The simplest version doesn't typically give a good fit - but this can be solved in a variety of ways, and I'll be covering how in a later post. It also isn't the easiest of heels to reinforce - the easiest is simply to knit in reinforcement thread. Slipped-stitch patterns are hard to incorporate because of the short-rowing (although it can be done).

For now, I want to share some exploring I've been doing, discovering the large variety of short-row heel scenarios out there...this post will be an introduction, with a discussion of the variety of hole-hiding techniques. I'm not going to explain them all, but will point you to where to get good info. Following posts will cover "recipes" for a bunch of different short-row heels/toes.

Short rowing, for those unfamiliar with the concept, consists of not knitting the complete row, but of turning back early. If you repeat this enough, you create what sewers call a "dart" - you pull in the sides of your knitting that are being left un-knit, causing the parts that did get knit to bump out. Gives a 3-D effect.  Here is a great discussion, with illustrations, about how short-rows work.

The problem with short-rowing is that all that turning leaves holes in your knitting, unless you employ tricks to get rid of 'em. I've found FOUR techniques for hiding the holes:
1. wrap 'n' turn,
2. dig 'n' lift (aka Japanese),
3. YO's (yarn-overs), and
4. "double stitches", "yo-yo" or "jo-jo" heels, perhaps better described as super-tight yarn-overs.

1 and 2 (and variations) are nicely described and beautifully illustrated on Techknitter's site, so I'm not going to repeat that information. Basically you create little handles at the turning points, which you then pick up and knit in as you pass over the turning points again when you're finished short-rowing. These techniques require action at the end of the row.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of them, but you should try them to see if they work for you. Many knitters use them regularly so they cannot be bad. Wrap-n-turn seems to be the default for most sock patterns I've encountered. I find both wrap-n-turn and dig-n-lift hard to do on thin, dark sock wool (I can't see well enough) and I'm not a big fan of the large number of markers required for dig-n-lift. Cat Bordhi uses dig-n-lift, although she calls it by some other name, and she is marketing a set of stitch markers bearing the entire alphabet.

The remaining 2 techniques require action at the beginning of a new row. Both are very simple, and result in easily-visible changes to your work so you can come back to the knitting later and figure out where you are.

Yarn-over short rows are easy. You start every new row with a yarn-over. The only trick is that there are 2 different kinds of yarn-over. With the knit side facing this is the usual yarn-over, and with the purl side facing you execute a "backwards" yarn-over.

 [knit side yarn-over]

 [purl-side, "backwards" yarn-over]

You yarn-over and then knit/purl the next stitch. I find I need to hold my finger in there a little to hold the YO until I've completed next st, because the YO should be tight, not floppy. The YO's create a new stitchlet, or handle, at the beginning of every row. The YO hugs close to its knitted friend, so you end up with little stitch "pairs" that are easily visible and can help you count.

When it comes time to knit over the short-rows, you will be taking action at the end of each row :
1) on the RS, separate the YO from its friend and knit it together with the stitch following it (after correcting its mount), and
2) on the WS, purl it TBL (a move I HATE) with the stitch after it.

The fourth "yo-yo heel" technique is fairly obscure; I just discovered it recently, but it works like a charm and is very easily done. It is described here, with photos, but given the lack of info out there on the InterWebs on this technique, I'm adding my own pix.

Like with the YO technique, action is taken at the start of every new row. In this case, the move is the same whether or not the knit or purl side is facing you, so there's only one thing to remember. 

Here's the deal. You slip the first st of the row PW, wyif. Then, you tug at the working yarn, hauling it backwards over the needle, tightening it so that the legs of the st below come up, and then over, the needle. Keeping the working yarn taught so the stitch stays hoiked up, you knit (or purl) the next st as per usual.

 [hauling the legs of the stitch below up over the needle.
With KS facing, the raised st has its legs crossed. Click to enlarge.]

 [raising the stitch below, on the PS. Here the raised st's legs are uncrossed.
I'm bringing the yarn forward again in prep for purling the next st.]

Just like with the YO technique, this creates a set of "paired" sts (actually they aren't paired stitches, just choked sts with both legs in the air) so it's easy to see where you've been.

In contrast to the YO technique, though, when comes time to reknit the sts, you simply knit (or purl) the two hoiked-up legs as a single st. No separating, no correcting the mount, no nuthin'. So this is really, really easy.

[time to reknit? Just treat those two little legs as one...]
I think you can tell which is my favourite!

My next post will cover shaping, so you get a 3D toe or heel that turns the corner.


  1. Thank you. I will definitely give the yarn over technique a try! L. Graham, Albany NY, USA

  2. Thank you so much! This helped a ton .