The u-turn of knitting...
A well-shaped shawl is a thing of beauty. Shaping is where the designer gets to strut her stuff. Anyone can knit a rectangle--and I do have several lovely wraps that are simply that--but the crescents and triangles seem to be the foundations for the real “ahh” pieces.
All knitters who hope to shape their pieces must make friends with the short row. It is exactly that--a row shorter than the full garment. It’s the u-turn of knitting: you stop and go back the other way, often zig-zagging your way across the piece much like a sailboat tacking into the wind. Short rows are a crucial element of that central magic of knitting that is the turned sock heel. Short rows make curves out of straight lines.
One of the biggest drawbacks of u-turning mid-row is that it often leaves a hole. Holes are nice, we like them; holes make lace lacey. But no one wants holes popping up in your garter stitch like mushrooms. The solution then, is a little trick known as the wrap-and-turn:
- Knit to the place where you need to turn
- Keeping the yarn in back (if you’re knitting, which in this case we are) slip the next stitch to your right hand needle without knitting it.
- Turn your work and slip your yarn (which is now in front because you’ve turned around) to the back in between your needles.
- Slip the stitch (which is now on your left needle because you’ve turned around) to the right
- Your working yarn will have done a little wrap around that slipped stitch, snuggling your short row up to the unknit stitches next to it and preventing a hole.
- Knit away on your new row, going back the way you came
Go ahead, try it. If my description befuddles you, there are a number of fine videos on the internet that may explain it--or a version of that technique--in a way that suits you better.
This pattern uses progressive short rows to create the triangular shape. The direction “knit to last stitch before turn” is the key here. A dark yarn like this makes it hard to see that “last stitch before turn” in a sea of purple garter stitch. In this case, I forgo my subtle stitch markers and use big, bright ones to guide my way.
So far, I’m really enjoying this shawl. I’ve found myself plotting which yarn to use next--something dk or larger to see what the more substantial version looks like--and that’s always the sign of a great pattern.