How to Use Short Rows for Shoulder and Neck Shaping

Sooo….my Fall Vest that I started knitting back in September? Yeah, well, I just recently finished it. I might have to to re-name it since it’s, you know, almost Spring now.

Tabard Vest knitting

The pattern is Tabard Vest, by Lion Brand Yarns. The front and back are worked, then seamed together at the shoulders. Collar and side button bands are then added at the end.

The pattern is beautiful and well-written, but of course, I had to make modifications. I changed up the collar, and worked and attached the pocket as I went (rather than seaming it onto the vest).  But let’s talk about how I shaped the shoulders and the back neck.

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Shaping with Stair Steps

For the shoulder shaping, the pattern calls for binding off stitches at the end of each row for a stair-step look. Once the shoulders are bound off, the pattern instructs to bind off stitches at each end of the neck to create a dip.

Stair step bind off

After the stitches are bound off, the front and back can be seamed together.

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Shaping with Short Rows Instead

Short rows can be used for So. Many. Things. Carol Feller’s book, Short Row Knits: A Master Workshop With 20 Learn-As-You-Knit Projects is an amazing resource for all things short rows.  Feller describes in great detail the different types of short rows as well as the many techniques they are used for.

Short rows are utilized for creating 3D shapes, turning a sock heel, and of course, for garment shaping.

Subbing short rows for stair steps in a pattern is easy. Instead of binding off stitches at the beginning of each row, instead, knit to the END of the row, stopping short of the number of stitches the pattern calls to bind off.

For example, if the pattern calls for binding off 3 stitches at the beginning of the row, instead, work to three stitches before the end of the row, and work a wrap & turn. Keep working this method until you end up with the same number of rows the pattern calls for.

My Tabard Vest Example

The following sample shows how I shaped the shoulders and neck of my Fall Vest, using the Small size of the Tabard Vest.

I started with 93 stitches, which is the number of stitches on your needles in the pattern before shoulder shaping. Before beginning, I marked off the center 57 stitches and the center 19 stitches. The center 57 stitches are for neck shaping and the outer 18 stitches on each side are for the shoulder shaping.

For shoulder shaping, the pattern instructs to bind off 3 stitches at the beginning of each row for 12 rows (6 right side rows and 6 wrong side rows).

My method:

Knit across to last 3 stitches, then wrap & turn.

Short Rows knitting

Work across the wrong side to last 3 stitches and wrap & turn.

Short Rows Wrap & Turn

On the next right side row, knit across the last 6 stitches; wrap & turn.

Short Rows Wrap & Turn

Continue in this manner until you have 10 short rows, with 15 stitches on each side with every 3rd stitch wrapped:

short rows

Rather than working the last 2 shoulder short rows, THEN working the neck short rows, I worked the neck shaping while I was in the middle of the last set of shoulder rows rows. Sort of like short rows within a short row. 🙂

Short Row Neck Shaping

The neck shaping is worked over the center 57 stitches. The center 19 stitches are the ones that are bound off in the pattern to make the dip in the neck.

There are 4 markers. From left to right on the right side, let’s call these markers A, B, C and D.

Short Rows
Neck shaping is worked between Markers A and D

Short rows are first made between Markers A and B, then between Markers C and D as follows:

Right side: Knit across to 3 stitches before Marker A, wrap & turn.

Short Rows

Wrong side: Purl across to 5 stitches before marker B (since the pattern called for binding off 5 stitches at neck edge); wrap & turn.

Right side:  Knit across to 6 stitches before marker A, wrap & turn.

This was for the left side of the neck. The right side was worked similarly as follows:

Wrong side: Purl to 3 stitches to Marker D, wrap & turn. (As you purl to the other side of the neck, pick up the wrap that is 5 stitches before Marker B and purl it with its stitch.)

Right side: Knit to 5 stitches before Marker C, wrap & turn.

Wrong side: Purl to 6 stitches before Marker D, wrap & turn.

Now that the neck shaping has been worked, the last set of shoulder short rows can be completed. Knit to Marker A (which is 18 stitches from the end), picking up wraps and working them with their stitches; wrap & turn (you can remove the marker also):

Purl back to Marker D, again picking up wraps; wrap & turn.

Finally, the last step is to knit back all the way to the end, while picking up all wraps on the left shoulder, then purl back to the other end, again picking up all wraps on the right shoulder.

What results is a smooth curve that can either be bound off or left with live stitches.

On my vest, I left my stitches live and used the 3 needle bind off to join the  front and back shoulders. I also used the live neck stitches to add the collar.

Tabard Vest

What do you think about this shaping method? It can be used on pretty much any pattern that calls for binding off stitches for shoulder and neck shaping. Try it out!

Happy short-rowing!

My Favorite Knitting Books (Part 1)

Knitting and books. Books and knitting. Love them both, but you know what really winds my skeins? Knitting books.

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I tried narrowing it down, but there are Just. So. Many. Great ones. So I’ll begin with 5 (plus a bonus one). For now. I will add more in future posts.

The following is a pretty eclectic list, with some books containing patterns, and others containing tutorials or stitch patterns, or a combination of everything. Some are old. Some are newer(ish). All are for the adventurous knitter.

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Short Row Knits: A Master Workshop With 20 Learn-As-You-Knit Projects

Short Row Knits
Short Row Knits: A Master Workshop with 20 Learn-As-You-Knit Projects, by Carol Feller

Short rows are some serious voodoo. They can take an angular, flat piece of knitting and transform it into something curvy and 3-dimensional. They can raise sweater necklines, provide smooth shaping, construct sock toes or heels, or form your very own stuffed Octo-buddy.

Carol Feller’s book describes in great detail several methods of knitting short rows, including wrap & turn, German short rows, and Japanese short rows. Additionally, patterns are provided to try out all these cool techniques. My favorites are my Frio hat and Claro socks.

I’ve also used short row techniques to shape the shoulders of myLion Brand Tabard Vest. (Instructions in a future post.) The pattern calls for binding off shoulder stitches; rather, I used short rows to give them a smooth curvy shape in order to make it easier to seam the front and back together.

Find the book here.

Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch

Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch, by Nancy Marchant

Nancy Marchant’s book is a must-have for anyone who loves the Brioche Stitch. She presents a brief history of the technique (if you’re into that), and clear, straightforward explanations of the terminology and methods. Helpful pictures of each step make it simple to follow along, and in no time, you be a pro at the basic stitch.

Afterwards, you’ll be able to take it up a notch with knitting brioche with two colors and increases and decreases.

Stanton Brioche Stitch
Stanton Brioche Stitch on Eira Shawl

However, my favorite part of the book is the Stitchionary. So. Many. Variations. I’ve included one (the Stanton Brioche Stitch) in my Eira Shawl.

Find the book here.

Bonus: Knitting Fresh Brioche: Creating Two-Color Twists & Turns

Once you’ve exhausted the Stitchionary of the first book, check out Marchant’s fresh variations made with increases, decreases, yarn-overs, and more. Seriously, the possibilities are endless with this entertaining stitch.

Find it at here.

Knitting from the Top

Knitting from the top
Knitting from the top, by Barbara Walker

This oldie-but-goodie from Barbara Walker is less a pattern book, and more a coffee date with a friend. Don’t be turned off by the cover. (Umm, the 70’s called…) You won’t find any line by line instructions here. What you will find, however, is Barbara’s quirky and entertaining style of writing explaining how to knit almost any garment from the top down. All you need to do is bring your yarn, needles, gauge (and maybe a calculator).

Find it at Amazon here.

New Pathways for Sock Knitters

New Pathways for Sock Knitters
New Pathways for Sock Knitters Book One, by Cat Bordhi

You think there are only a handful of ways to construct socks? Well, think again. Cat Bordhi takes the typical toe-up sock with short row heel, or cuff-down sock with heel flap and takes them to the next level. Like, to several new levels. A heel flap on the bottom of the foot or gusset shaping in atypical areas are just the beginning.

Patterns for baby socks representing each technique are included (for a quick knit to try them out), so if you’ve got tiny feet to knit for, even better.

I knit the Rushing Rivulet Socks in the book, constructed with the Riverbed Architecture, and they are some of the best fitting socks I own.

As an avid sock knitter, I know we all are passionate about our favorite method of constructing socks. Mine happens to be cuff-down. But check out this book for some crazy varieties on your favorite method.

Find it at here.

Reversible Two-Color Knitting

Reversible Two-Color Knitting
Reversible Two-Color Knitting, by Jane Neighbors

With this obscure and currently out-of-print book, you can create and design your own two-color reversible knitting patterns. Written by Jane Neighbors, it was published in 1974 and consists mostly of stitch patterns that are written out (no charts) for two-color knitting that looks similar on both sides, or both sides are attractive/interesting. There are a few patterns for items like blankets or sweaters for getting you started though.

Techniques included in the book consist of simple reversibles, chain patterns, and what is known today as double knitting.

While the book itself is not particularly attractive (most photos are in black/white), the stitch patterns are quite fun and can be used in a variety of ways. I’ve used a couple of them in my Joy Comes in the Morning and Where Feet May Fail Shawls.

Find it at here.


Well, there ya ago. Some of my favorite challenging pattern and technique books to provide a much needed kick-in-the-creative-pants.

What are your favorite knitting books?