Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tips for crocheting short rows

One of our members has recently added two free patterns to Ravelry that feature crochet short rows and we've asked her to give us some tips for this technique.

Maxine, could you first define short rows?
Short rows are deliberate partial rows that you work back and forth to shape your work. These partial rows are called short rows because they contain fewer stitches than the surrounding rows. Short rows are a fairly common technique for knitting but, until recently, have not been used very often in crochet designs. For one thing, they are more difficult to execute successfully in crochet than in knitting.

Why are short rows harder to do in crocheting than in knitting?
Because crochet stitches are so tall you have to take extra care that you don't leave gaps or puckers in the fabric when you use short rows. On the other hand, knit and purl stitches are very short so the transition from short row to regular row is easy to hide.

So just how do you work short rows in crochet?
Let me show you using the Pike Pumpkin Patch pattern as an example. In this pattern, after the initial single crochet row, you work a 3-row repeat that is two short rows followed by a regular row. In addition, the pattern uses stitches of varying heights within the row for shaping - most stitches are single crochet but some are slip stitches and one part of the pattern uses a chain stitch that actually counts as a stitch. So you're able to practice two shaping techniques - short rows plus varying stitch heights - and end up with a cute holiday decoration.

To get the most out of the rest remaining part of this blog post, you must download the pattern because I won't be including every step that's in the pattern here. (The pattern is free for anyone with the link; you don't need a login to Ravelry to download it.)

To start, make the first row of 21 sc as instructed in the pattern.

The photo below shows the completed first row. Note for all the photos - I'm a right-handed crocheter.

Turn and work the second row of 18 stitches as instructed in the pattern.

  • The first four stitches are back loop slip stitch (BLslSt).
  • The next thirteen stitches are back loop single crochet (BLsc).
  • The last stitch is a BLslSt.
The photo below shows the completed second row, with three stitches from the first row left unworked. Notice that I have placed a stitch marker in the first stitch of the row - and I'll move up this marker as work progress. Slip stitches at the beginning of a row can be difficult to locate and it's critical that you keep the stitch count accurate in this simple project. The last stitch of the row is a slip stitch to help "taper down" the height of the short row so that it's easier to eliminate any gaps or holes in the fabric when you work the regular row (the fourth row).

Turn and work the third row of 18 stitches as instructed in the pattern.

  • The first stitch of this row is a chain (ch) and it counts as a stitch.
  • The next fourteen stitches are BLsc.
  • The last three stitches are BLslSt; if you do this row correctly, the last BLslSt will end up in the stitch you marked at the beginning of the second row.
The beginning of this row is critical. This photo shows the beginning of the third row - just after you have completed the second row and turned (but in this picture I have not yet made the chain 1). Make sure that you work the second stitch of this row (the first BLsc) into the stitch indicated by the green arrow so that you skip the stitch indicated by the blue arrow.

The photo below shows the completed third row. Notice that I have placed a stitch marker in the first row of stitch of this row as well - and that the chain is counted as the first stitch. Yes, counting the chain as a stitch is completely different that normal - but the reason is to continue the "tapering down" in preparation for the regular row.

Turn and work the fourth row of 21 stitches as instructed in the pattern.

  • The first eighteen stitches are BLsc; if you do this row correctly the eighteenth BLsc will end up in the stitch you marked at the beginning of the third row.
  • The last three stitches are BLsc but are worked into the unworked stitches from the row below (the first row).
The photo below shows the completed fourth row. The tapering that you did at the end of the second and third rows is to make the "jump down" between stitch #18 and stitch #19 as smooth as possible.

Are short rows always worked like this?
No, there are other methods of working them as well. For example, the Simple Christmas Stocking pattern (also a free pattern on Ravelry) starts with a small number of stitches on the first short row and gradually adds additional stitches to each row. There are probably endless variations of how you can work short rows, limited only by imagination!

Where can I learn more about short rows?
I haven't found a lot of general information available about this technique; for the most part, you learn about it by trying patterns that use short rows for shaping. However, this is one book that I would recommend that contains a nice introduction to short rows, plus it contains a wealth of other useful crochet information. That book is The Crocheter's Skill-Building Workshop by Dora Ohrenstein; it's available to member for check-out from the Textile Center Library and was recently reviewed here on our blog.

Thanks Maxine - this sounds like a really exciting technique and we can't wait to see projects from our members that use this tips!