Short Rows: Wrap and Turn Method

Short rows create a curve in your knitting. 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 complete 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. Step-by-step written directions are below the video.

Wrap & Turn Written Instructions

The key to remembering how to wrap your stitches is to realize the yarn always starts in it’s “natural” position. What I mean by that is…

  • When you knit, your yarn is naturally held in the back. Therefore, when you wrap a stitch on a knit row, your yarn always starts in the back, then you slip the stitch and bring the yarn forward between the needles to wrap it.
  • When you purl, your yarn is naturally held in the front. Therefore, when you wrap a stitch on a purl row, your yarn always starts in the front. Then you slip the stitch and move the yarn to the back between the needles to wrap it.

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 between the needles
  3. Slip the stitch back to left needle (this completes the wrap)
  4. Return the working yarn to the back of your work (this step is optional since you will position your yarn where you need it to begin working the next row)
  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. Move your working yarn to the back between the needles
  3. Slip the stitch back to left needle (this completes the wrap)
  4. Return the working yarn to the front of your work (this step is optional since you will position your yarn where you need it to begin working the next row)
  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

  • W&t is the standard abbreviation for wrap and turn.
  • 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 is 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, you pick up the wraps after completing all the short rows. 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

Wrap and turn short rows
Figure 1

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

In this method, you pick up the wraps 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:

Wrap and turn short rows

Though these 2 swatches are knit differently, they produce the same shape. If you look really closely, you can see a slight difference since the wraps were done in different locations on each swatch, but the wraps are hardly noticeable on the front (and would be even less noticeable if I had taken the time to wet block – instead of steam block – these swatches before photographing them).

Want to Try it in a Project?

Short rows are used in several of the projects in the Knit Along Club, including the popular Woodland Loafers which uses both increasing and decreasing short rows.

In the Knit Along Club, we guide you through every step of each pattern with written, photo, and video tutorials. You’ll never have to wonder if you’re doing it right! We’re there every step of the way to answer your questions.

If you are the kind of knitter who wants to finish projects faster with fewer mistakes, then join me in the Knit Along Club and take your knitting to the next level!

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