A little bit of this and, a little bit of that, makes a little bit of me.


My regular readers who knits know I use short-row technique quite often in my fiber journey EXPLORING THE POSSIBILITIES beyond the traditional methods of yarn used in Knit and Crochet.

I didn’t invent short row knitting! I find them in prints from the 19th century already mentioning ways of using short rows to give a specific shape to clothing. Short rows allows me to change the direction of knitting, creating soft curves and darts, mitered corners, vertical gathers, customize and tailor knitted garments. It’s used for toe-up socks (toe bits,) horizontal yoke, and a lot of other three-dimensional knitting! I use them typically to lengthen back of a sweater often, add darts for bust-line or hip, turn heel of a sock or shape a sweater’s neckline. They are rows that are only partially worked before turning.

A few years back, I discovered freeform fiber arts and fiber enthusiasts such as Jenny Dowde, Jane Thornley, Prudence Mapstone, Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer of Woolly Thoughts, Myra Wood…to name a few.  I was blown away.   What do you mean I don’t have to follow a pattern, I use any old bit of yarn I please all together, and I can play, play, play?  My kind of handcraft, exactly.  Since then, fiber-related freeform books, instructions, online forums, support groups are widely available.  Most of the instructions still focuses on crochet.  Crochet is a medium that lends itself well to freeforming.  I only have one live loop at a time (give or take,) so I may change direction pretty easily.  Crocheting makes squares, triangles, shells, loops–all shapes.

Knitting tends towards the rectilinear.  That’s okay.  There are ways to both work with that pattern and break it, but, its natural tendency is to have the last row be much in the shape as the first row. It has to be a little more of a conscious choice to get going in new directions.

In recently months, you have heard me referencing Swing and Jazz knitting that have gained a steady popularity.  It is a wonderfully liberating way to knit beautiful natural forms by following the colors in hand-painted yarn and changing direction when the colors change. By responding to dyer’s choices–and by making the most of curling–striping and pooling, all kinds of delightful surprises happen as I knit. I may start somewhere with a specific idea in mind, yet, find myself on another exciting path entirely.  The art of utilizing short-row technique artfully and musically.

I have yet taken a class from Ilisha Helfman, author of Jazzknitting, or an online workshop by Heidrun Liegmann, creator of Swing Knitting (at least first one I know of that presented the movement in a series of workshops.)  From the amazing work of art their pupils have created, I imagine the classes are both educational and invaluable.  There are a lot of ideas behind the structures and shapes in both Swing Knitting and Jazzknitting, but, there’s also a lot of freedom and plenty of opportunity for your own inventiveness to shine.  All you have to do is follow a few simple techniques and bring a sense of adventure to your work.

I can’t tell where exactly or when I have developed the skill set for my short-row interpretation.  It just happens…by observing people’s creations…learning from the visuals available on the web, mimicking and/or re-engineering eye-catching design elements…experimenting and playing without expectation or judgement.  Short-row technique is used in most of my mittens, scarves/shawls, dish/spa cloth, sweaters, socks, bags, hats…

A few early-on projects that came to mind instantly that may have provided me the foundation are: Laura Aylor’s famous afghan aka Lizard Ridge,

Picot Swirl Cloth by Foothills Of the Great Smoky Mountains,

and Rebecca Hudson’s Vortex Dish clothes.

I am quite a visual learner and very mathematically motivated…and find inspiring ideas through fiber artists’ stress-free creative art wear.  From simple shaping to short-row intarsia, this technique revolutionizes my knitting!

There are several ways to do short rows which I’ve probably tried most of them–wrap-and-turn, plain, yarn-over, double-stitch, Japanese, German, make 1—and the one that I prefer has changed over the years. For the last year, I’ve been a shadow wrap-and-turn girl. Why? It just seems to be the simplest method for me, never leaves a hole but a clean fabric. For toe-up socks, I prefer to do No-Wrap heels.

If you have a different preferred method by all means continue using it.    Wrapping is a bit hit and miss–it all depends on my yarn…how visible the wrap ends up being when I finally work those stitches.

Most folks find German method easier.  I will have just turned my knitting, so if I’ve been making knit stitches, my yarn is still in front. Leave it there and slip the first stitch purlwise. Now pull the yarn to the back directly over that slipped stitch. It will pull up another stitch and look like two attached stitches. When I knit that stitch, I will knit it as one stitch, going underneath the X.   Links to different short-row methods are available under my tutorials/utilities resource page.  Check them out if you are looking to try something different.  What new technique have you acquired lately…and are happy with?

In each no-rule magical play–as I try to apply to life’s path–I hold on to the seat. The only limit is how far I’ll let my imagination take me! Toss all inhibition out the window, make it up as I go. How much or how little I do is not important here–having fun and following the needles is!  Using the Japanese method, which produces a virtually invisible finish, explore ways of introducing color, shape and movement.  Discover the potential of short rows, both practically and creatively.  Try letting go and kick start your creativity; you’ll be amazed by the results.

Happy crafting and keep those creative juices running!

(still doesn’t do texting, MySpace, Twitter, StumbleUpon, DiggIt…but caved into Facebook!)

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Comments on: "Musical Waves…Magic Mesh" (11)

  1. I definitely want a short-row clinic with you Sarah ! Maybe you could offer Short-row clinics and tour around for a week ! When will you come to Napa to teach? I just kind of knit int the bottom of the stitch or something, but you call that a particular one, I just don’t know. I’m a lousy reader-learner. Your purple wave in the first photo… where did *that* come from? Wow ! I can imagine, like a quilter lays quilts about the house, that you have all kinds of nice wall hooks to drape your dozens of yarny pieces?

    • Not sure anyone would take my workshop….but it would be exceptionally fun to hang with you and knit, spin, cook, bake, hike…Jen.

      The purple lace was a test knit I did–Hana Shawl–for European Knit Designer Kristina Vilimaite last fall. It was gifted to the wife of House o Representative in Connecticut.

      In the past, I love pretty things that too are practical, functional. The block-like clothes are used often as wash cloth or trivet. It’s a nice way to test out concept, stitch, gauge.

      • :: hands up:: I WOULD TAKE YOUR CLASS !!! And, I would drive to the bay area to do it ! Surely you must know knit shop owners who would be keen on hosting a Sarah’s Purls Of Wisdom Class on Short Rows . I’m very serious. So, there you go and get to knit for politicians’ wives even ! You are celebrity status knitter girl. Oh, about stitch gauge, I am once again between a rock and a hard spot as I ripped out a day’sworth of knitting because the ‘earmuff as swatch’ idea was way too far from reality (I need to listen to you , though I resist and keep thinking I can do it without actually ‘doing it’ …;) Starting all over, redoing everything. IN fact, I hope you deleted that whole doc. I sent you , I’m rewriting based on real stitches , as that was only theoretical. Okay? In the trash it goes, you’ll get a new one as soon as this baby is ready to fly. xxxJen

      • Thanks, Jen. I know you would 😀 Maybe I’ll do that at my next trip to your area so you won’t have to drive a distance.

        No celebrity here. My daughter spent 2 weeks last summer at my friends’ Connecticut home, Lindy and Jack (who is the most lay-back politician I’ve ever met.) Tossing politics aside, we share many common life philosophy with. By days, Jack was a massage therapist and is a FedEx truck driver when the house is not in session. Funny, right! The shawl was kinda a thank-you gift for putting up and showering my daughter with a time of her life.

        You know, swatching isn’t too different than the journey of life. Things don’t always go as planned. Some good. Some not-so-good. We learn the wisdom, hopefully, through our trials. So, now, you have personally experienced it. You tasted it. You learnt based on your own experiment that gauge isn’t the same in Knitting flat versus round. The more you break it down…the more you will understand and the better sense you’ll become…the less work you will have to do to duplicate the effort. Truly, you have done well, Jen. Here’s a pat on your back, well deserved.

  2. Oh, and the crocheted and shortrow blocks are amazing AMAZING A M A Z I N G

  3. I confess, I have not yet embraced the short row. Encountering different methods of wrapping and turning early in my short row exploration just made me impatient! I need to sit down and sort my way through the different methods, but it hasn’t happened yet. When I’m done with my steeking odyssey, I will set my mind to it.

    • Actually, you have, queen of Entrelac. You just didn’t “label” it. 😀 First comes to mind is No-wrap–use in knitting Entrelac in a round.

      Short-row is one of these techniques…you either love it or hate it.

  4. AND I CAN”T BELIEVE I DIDN”T RAVE ON ABOUT THE BOOTIES AND SOCKS> sheesh. Awesomeness !

    • Thanks. They were really fun projects. Someday, I’d love to get more play time with them 😀 I’m sure I’ll…in the fall.

  5. […] the Creative side July 2, 2012 with a short burst of jazz-knitting (short-row, or swing knitting […]

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