Short Row Knitting and Dinosaur Knees

Symphony the Apatosaurus shows off his short row knitted neck curve and dimpled knees

I use a lot of short row knitting for my dinosaurs. They need curved necks and tails, head crests, neck frills and cute little dimpled knees. Short row knitting allows you to knit only part of any given row, making the piece longer or wider in one section only.

In the apatosaurus’ neck, for example, short rows on the bottom of the neck where it leaves the body allow the neck to curve upward. When we get to the head, short rows on the top of the piece let the head point downward again so the apatosaurus can easily graze on the local flora.

Short row knitting is typically done using the wrap-and-turn technique. You knit the stitches in the section you want to bulge out, wrap the yarn around the first stitch in the section you are not knitting, then turn the yarn and purl back across the short row section. When you are finished with the short rows and want to knit the entire piece again, you will pick up all the wraps and knit them along with the stitch they wrapped. This keeps you from having holes in the knitted fabric between the short row section and the rest of the piece. Here’s a tutorial in short row heel knitting for socks, a common use for the technique.

Another short row technique is to add a yarn-over between the end of the short row and the next stitch on the needle. When you knit across the entire piece, you knit or purl the yarn-over in with the non-short row stitch to avoid the hole in the fabric. This guide from Interweave shows the wrap-and-turn and yarn-over techniques, in addition to two more that I have not used.

Lately, I’ve been trying out a new (to me) short-row technique in learned from the Shark Week sock pattern by the late Lisa Grossman, the Tsarina of Tsocks*. She refers to it as the shadow-stitch-and-turn. When you reach the end of a knitted short row, pick up the loop below the next stitch on the needle, place it on your left needle and knit it. This new stitch and what was the next stitch on the needle are now a “shadow pair” and they will be knit together when you get to them again. At the end of a purled short row, you slip the next stitch to your right needle, then pick up the loop below that stitch with your left needle and purl it. Slip both stitches (the purled “shadow pair”) back on to the left needle, turn and you are ready to knit the next short row. Here’s an Interweave post showing the technique, which they refer to as the twin stitch.

I love this technique, which I find simpler and neater than the other ones I have used. I’ve been using it for all my short row knitting and I’m planning to change my patterns to use it instead of wrap-and-turn. Version 2.0 of the dinos, here I come.

*Sock pattern fans: I picked the kit up at the 2017 Fiber Festival of New England back in November. Apparently Lisa’s family and friends are continuing to sell her patterns at a select number of festivals.


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