Short Rows: Wrap and Turn Method

Short rows are used in knitting to create a curve. They are often used in sock heels and toes, sweater shaping, and to add a gentle curve to the bottom of ponchos, capes, and shawls.

Wrap and turn is probably the most common way to do short rows. There are a lot of instructions online for doing wrap and turn.

And some of them are contradictory.

The method I’ve outlined in this blog post is the method I like because:

  1. It is the most intuitive
  2. It does not twist your stitches
  3. It hides the wraps in the back of the work so that they are invisible on the front

Why Wrap & Turn?

Why not just turn?

Good question. You can do short rows by simply turning before you get to the end of the row, but you’ll end up with a hole in your work where you turned mid-row. If you are doing a felted project, this would be fine since felting will close up the hole.

For most other projects, a hole would be undesirable. Hence the wrap. The wrap tightens up the stitches so that you don’t have a hole at each turn.

There are actually 2 techniques required to completing the wrap and turn:

  1. The wrap and turn itself
  2. Picking up the wraps

Both of these techniques are demonstrated in the video and explained in the written instructions below.

Wrap & Turn Video, Including How to Pick Up the Wraps

This video demonstrates how to wrap and turn, as well as how to pick up the wraps. Below the video are step-by-step written direction.

Wrap & Turn Written Instructions

To wrap and turn when the stitch you are wrapping is a knit stitch:

  1. With your yarn in back, slip the next stitch on your left needle purlwise onto the right needle
  2. Bring your working yarn to the front
  3. Slip the stitch back to left needle
  4. Return the working yarn to the back of your work
  5. Turn your work to begin next row

To wrap and turn when the stitch you are wrapping is a purl stitch:

  1. With your yarn in front, slip the next stitch on your left needle purlwise onto the right needle
  2. Bring your working yarn to the back
  3. Slip the stitch back to left needle
  4. Return the working yarn to the front of your work
  5. Turn your work to begin next row

To pick up wraps on knit stitches:

  1. Insert your right needle into the front of the wrap, then into the wrapped stitch as if to knit
  2. Knit the wrap and stitch together

To pick up wraps on purl stitches:

  1. Insert your right needle into the back of the wrap, then into the wrapped stitch as if to purl
  2. Purl the wrap and stitch together

Alternative method to pick up wraps on purl stitches:

  1. Insert your right needle into the back of the wrap and place it on the left needle
  2. Purl the wrap and stitch together

Tips for Wrap & Turn

  • Wrap and turn is usually abbreviated w&t
  • The wrap looks like a necklace on the stitch. They are easiest to see on the knit side, so if you are working on a purl side and not sure where your wrapped stitches are, flip your work over and look on the knit side.
  • Another way to identify a wrapped stitch is to find the gaps in your work. Before you pick up the wraps, there will be a larger hole beside the wrapped stitch compared to other stitches.
  • Place a stitch marker around each wrapped stitch so that you can easily identify your wrapped stitches.
  • You want your wraps to be snug but not tight. If they are too tight, you’ll have a hard time picking them up.
  • Technically, step 4 in the “To wrap and turn…” instructions is optional, since you will position your working yarn after you turn for whatever stitch you need to do next.
  • The way I remember which way to wrap the yarn on any stitch is to remember that the working yarn always starts in its natural position (in back for knit stitches and in front for purl stitches), and you slip the stitch before moving the yarn. The rest flows naturally.

Practice Swatch for W&T

Many knitters are intimidated by the wrap & turn. If you are one of them, I encourage you to knit the following practice swatches. I’ve intentionally made them small so you can knit them quickly.

In these swatch instructions, I’ve explicitly stated where you should pick up the wraps. In most patterns, the instructions will be less explicit. For example, the pattern might say, “pick up the wraps as you knit”.

Swatch 1: Decreasing short rows (each short row is shorter than the last)

In this method, the wraps are picked up toward the end of the swatch. This is the method I’ve encountered the most in the patterns I’ve knit.

Cast on 16 stitches
Row 1: Knit across
Row 2: Purl across
Rows 3 -6: Repeat rows 1 & 2
Row 7: K12, w&t
Row 8: P8, w&t
Row 9: K7, w&t
Row 10: P6, w&t
Row 11: K5, w&t
Row 12: P4, w&t
At this point you will have 3 wrapped stitches on each side of your work and your swatch should look like Figure 1 below.
Row 13: K4, pick up the wraps as you knit the next 3 stitches, k3
Row 14: P10, pick up the wraps as you purl the next 3 stitches, p3
Bind off

Figure 1

Swatch 2: Increasing short rows (each short row is longer than the last)

In this method, the wraps are picked up as you knit each longer short row.

Cast on 16 stitches
Row 1: Knit across
Row 2: Purl across
Rows 3 -6: Repeat rows 1 & 2
Row 7: K10, w&t
Row 8: P4, w&t
Row 9: K4, pick up the wrap and knit it with the next stitch, w&t
Row 10: P5, pick up the wrap and purl it with the next stitch, w&t
Row 11: K6, pick up the wrap and knit it with the next stitch, w&t
Row 12: P7, pick up the wrap and purl it with the next stitch, w&t
Row 13: K8, pick up the wrap and knit it with the next stitch, k3
Row 14: P12, pick up the wraps as you purl the next 3 stitches, p3
Bind off

Your swatches should look like this:

Did you like this lesson? Do you want to learn even more? Consider joining the Mountain Hollow Farm Knit Along Club to become a better, more confident kniter.

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