Japanese Short Rows

The first time I encountered the term Japanese Short Rows was on the blog if nona Knits then you can too. I was fascinated by the technique and had to try it out on a project I was working on at the time that required short rows. I decided that I liked the results, but I hated the safety pins.

Since then, every time I saw the topic of Japanese Short Rows come up on an English-language site, it always referred to the technique with the safety pins. I assumed, as well as non-Japanese knitters in general, that this was the standard short row technique used in actual Japanese patterns.


My Japanese knit and crochet pattern book collection began sometime in 2008, and it has expanded quite a bit since then with mostly newer books, but including another half-dozen books from 1967 to the mid 1980s given to me by my mom. Of the books that contain short row patterns, not a single one uses the safety pin technique.

So you may be asking, what short row technique do they use?

    Japanese Short Rows in Stockinette, as seen in Typical Japanese Patterns

  • At the short row turning point: turn your work, yarn over right side to wrong side, slip the first stitch on the left needle to the right needle purlwise while holding the yarn on the wrong side, and knit (right side) or purl (wrong side) as usual. The resulting gap at the turn is easy to see, and no stitch markers are required to indicate the turning point unless you just want to use a marker or you need to mark a specific turning point out of many.
  • On the return, knit (right) side: Knit up to the yarn over, k2tog (knit two together) the yarn over and the stitch on the other side of the gap, then continue knitting as usual.
  • On the return, purl (wrong) side: Purl up to the yarn over, SSP the yarn over and the stitch on the other side of the gap (slip knitwise, slip knitwise, return the stitches to the left needle knitwise, purl the two stitches together), then continue purling as usual.

For a visual lesson, see these YouTube videos by Pierrot Yarns. The text is in Japanese but there is no audio. It should be easy to follow what the knitter is doing, especially if you’ve already read my description.

Knit- to purl-side turn
Purl- to knit-side turn

Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly), the safety pin method is actually a variation of this, in which the end result is almost identical. For a clear visual of the safety pin short row method, see Variation 5 on Techknitting’s short row tutorial. The safety pin is a substitute for the yarn over, but it requires less yarn and it closes the gap a little tighter.

Note: There is another, possibly more common, Yarn Over short row technique in which the first stitch after the turn is not slipped. The Japanese technique is slightly different and the results are not identical.

Hopefully you will find this version of Japanese Short Rows easier to remember and work with than he safety pin version!

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Types of Seams

Japanese knit and crochet patterns are very standardized, and follow the same basic layout style that has been in place for decades. The diagrams and stitch patterns are detailed and not difficult for experienced knitters and crocheters to work from with very little Japanese language knowledge, and therefore they have the reputation of being “universal.” I agree this is mostly the case, except when it comes to seaming.

The knitting/crochet instructions have headings that look like one of the following:

編み方要点 “Stitch Points”
or まとめ方 “Summary”

They are mostly general instructions, e.g. “Cast on, then work pattern A, then pick up for pattern B, then work the edging, etc.” which come at the end of the section before the diagrams. They follow the materials list (yarns, needle/hook sizes, buttons, pins, beads, etc.), garment dimensions, and gauge information. Take a look for a moment at dancingbarefoot’s Japanese pattern-reading tutorial: Lesson 1 (a great resource, by the way). In the first image, the Stitch Points section is the one with the red X. Again, it’s generally unimportant.

The details for construction will be found in the diagrams and charts which follow the Stitch Points. One important piece of information that is not usually shown in the diagrams, however, is which method to use to put it all together. The types of seams a pattern may call for and where they go are usually listed under Stitch Points, all in Japanese. Hopefully this article will help you figure out which seams a pattern calls for, if it’s a seamed garment. (Coming soon: identifying parts of a garment, such as sleeve, shoulder, side, front, back, and so forth so you know where to actually put the seam.)

All the following seaming examples are worked on the wrong side of the garment, with right sides together, unless otherwise noted. I use U.S. crochet terms.

I have left out joining techniques for motifs, which may become a separate article when I get the chance.

とじ – toji

引き抜き編みの鎖とじ – hikinuki ami no kusari toji – slip stitch and chain seam
くさりとじ – kusari toji – chain seam

This is normally used as a side seam for an openwork crochet garment. Step 1: Start at a corner, usually the beginning or end of a foundation chain, and make the first slip stitch through both garment pieces. Step 2: Make a chain the height of the row minus one, e.g. for a dc row (normally 3 chains high) you would ch 2. Step 3:  Make a slip stitch (joining sides) through the top of the row stitches. Repeat Steps 2 and 3 until you reach the end of the seam.

引き抜きとじ – hikinuki toji – slip stitch seam

This technique is often used for attaching either knit or crochet sleeves or any curved seam, but it can also be used for side seams.
Google Search: Crochet Slip Stitch Seam

すくいとじ – sukui toji – mattress stitch seam

Mattress stitch is usually associated with seaming the sides of knit stockinette, but the same technique can be used for crochet as well.
Knitty.com: Mattress stitch tutorial

半返しとじ – han kaeshi toji – backstitch seam

This type of seam can be used for curved armhole edges instead of a slip stitch seam.
Dummies.com: Backstitch seam

はぎ – hagi

引き抜き編みの鎖はぎ – hikinuki ami no kusari hagi – slip stitch and chain seam
くさりはぎ – kusari hagi – chain seam

Notice that the names are nearly identical to the first seam listed under toji. This one is normally used as a top/bottom seam for an openwork crochet garment, typically mesh. Step 1: Start at a corner, e.g. the top of the sc or dc on the edge, and make the first slip stitch through both garment pieces. Step 2: Make a chain the width of the mesh chains below minus one. Step 3:  Skipping the first chain-space, make a slip stitch (joining sides) through the next chain-space of both garment pieces. Step 4: Make a slip stitch through the next chain-space of both garment pieces. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 until you reach the end of the seam.

引き抜きはぎ – hikinuki hagi – 3-needle bind-off (knit), slip stitch seam (crochet)

This can be done with either three needles or with two needles and a hook, depending on your personal preference. Note that the crochet version is the same as hikinuki toji above.

Tezukuritown: illustrated tutorial, in Japanese (second set of illustrations)
KnittingHelp.com: Three-Needle Bind-Off (knit version, scroll to bottom)

メリヤスはぎ – meriyasu hagi – stockinette grafting a.k.a. Kitchener stitch

This is more of an invisible join than a seam.
Tezukuritown: illustrated tutorial, in Japanese (first set of illustrations)
Knitty.com: Kitchener stitch, in English

目と段のはぎ – me to dan no hagi – vertical to horizontal seam

This is a technique for joining a top/bottom edge with a side edge of a garment.
Knitty.com: Vertical to horizontal seaming on stockinette

巻きかがりはぎ – maki kagari hagi – whip stitch or overcast seam

This is usually used for joining granny squares together, but can also be used for seaming crochet garment pieces. Sometimes you may see directions for 全目 (zenme – whole stitch), sewn through the entire top “v” (both loops) on both pieces, wrong sides together, or 半目 (hanme – half stitch), sewn through only one of the top “v” loops, pieces lying flat and touching at the seam.
Crochet Spot: How to Whip Stitch in Crochet (whole stitch version)

かぶせはぎ – kabuse hagi – ?

I’ve only seen this technique in Japanese books so I don’t know if there’s an English equivalent. The set-up resembles a 3-needle bind off, however, pass each stitch on the front needle over the corresponding stitch on the back needle using the third needle, and at the same time make a knit bind-off with the working yarn, beginning with the first two stitches.


If anyone has suggestions for additional types of seaming to add to this tutorial, finds an incorrect translation, or notices a broken link, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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Crochet Double Chain (二重鎖編み)

I had my eye on a pretty capelet crochet pattern from this Japanese pattern book (Spring/Summer Handknit Collection for Women No. 7) for a few months, but didn’t have the right yarn on hand to start it until recently. So today I took a good look at the pattern, which is pretty straightforward: Use one strand of laceweight yarn, follow the chart, add the edging. Everything is cool except for this one instruction regarding the foundation chain:

スレッドの二重鎖編みから目を拾い、模様 編みで編みます。

I showed this to my mom (Japanese native speaker) who explained, “It says to make a double chain.” Eh?

I did a quick search through the book, which had diagrams for basic knit and crochet stitches plus a few specialty stitches, but there was nothing to explain the double chain (which isn’t the same as a double crochet, just to make things clear). There were around four or so other patterns that had this same instruction.

I decided to do a search of “crochet double chain” first, and found a video or two of the single crochet foundation stitch. Okay, that could work.

I searched for “二重鎖編み” next, and some of the hits included yet more videos of the single crochet foundation, but then there was this: http://i-s.milkcafe.to/ami/var/niju-c.html
I figured this was more along the lines of what the pattern intended, but it looked fiddley to work since you have to drop the left loop to work the right loop. Then I found another link where someone did this same technique using two crochet hooks at once. I gritted my teeth, found two hooks the same size, and tried it out. Super fiddley. By the time I got to the 6th round, it finally hit me: The construction of this chain is identical to a knitted 2-stitch I-cord. OMG! I can do I-cord so much easier and faster with a pair of double-pointed knitting needles or even a knitting machine than by juggling two hooks!

So the whole point of this is to say:

二重鎖編み = Crochet Double Chain = 2-Stitch I-Cord

That is all.

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Japanese Needle and Hook Size Conversions


In Japan, as with the rest of the world, crafters typically use needles (棒針, bouhari) for knitting and hooks (かぎ針, kagibari) for crochet.

In a Japanese knit/crochet pattern, the needle/hook section is often designated with one of the following:
用具 (yougu, tools)
(hari, needle/hook)

Examples of needle/hook sizes:

  • Straight knitting needles: 針5号
  • Circular knitting needles: 針4号
  • Jumbo straight knitting needles: 棒針ジャンボ8ミリ
  • Crochet hook: かぎ針3/0号
  • Jumbo crochet hook: かぎジャンボ12ミリ or occasionally かぎJ12ミリ
  • Crochet lace/steel hook: レース針2号
  • Tunisian crochet hook: アフガン針8号

In US standard sizes, a size X needle and a size X hook would be the same, e.g. a US 6 needle and a US G-6 hook are both 4.0 mm in diameter. However, this is not the case with Japanese needle and hook sizes, e.g. a JPN 6 needle = 3.9 mm, a JPN 6/0 hook = 3.5 mm, and a JPN lace 6 hook = 1.00 mm. Both needle and hook chart conversions are listed below. Japanese needle sizes do not always have an exact equivalent in standard US sizes, in which case the closest size is listed.

Knitting Needle and Tunisian Crochet Hook Sizes – Standard

JPN needle size (号) US needle equivalent
0 2.1 mm 0 2.0 mm
1 2.4 mm 2.5 mm
2 2.7 mm 2 2.75 mm
3 3.0 mm 3.0 mm
4 3.3 mm 3 3.25 mm
5 3.6 mm 4 or 5 3.5 or 3.75 mm
6 3.9 mm 6 4.0 mm
7 4.2 mm 6 or 7 4.0 or 4.5 mm
8 4.5 mm 7 4.5 mm
9 4.8 mm 7 or 8 4.5 or 5.0 mm
10 5.1 mm 8 5.0 mm
11 5.4 mm 9 5.5 mm
12 5.7 mm 9 or 10 5.5 or 6.0 mm
13 6.0 mm 10 6.0 mm
14 6.3 mm 10 or 10½ 6.0 or 6.5 mm
15 6.6 mm 10½ 6.5 mm

Knitting Needle Sizes – Jumbo

JPN needle size (ミリ) US needle equivalent
7 7 mm 10½ 6.5 mm
8 8 mm 11 8 mm
9 9 mm 13 9 mm
10 10 mm 15 10 mm
12 12 mm 17 12.75 mm
15 15 mm 19 15 mm
20 20 mm 35 19 mm
25 25 mm 50 25 mm
30 30 mm

Crochet Hook Sizes – Standard

JPN standard hook size (号) US standard hook equivalent
2/0 2.0 mm A-0 (or 4 steel) 2.0 mm
3/0 2.3 mm B-1 (or 2 steel) 2.25 mm
4/0 2.5 mm B-1 or C-2 2.25 or 2.75 mm
5/0 3.0 mm C-2 or D-3 2.75 or 3.25 mm
6/0 3.5 mm E-4 (or 00 steel) 3.5 mm
7/0 4.0 mm G-6 4.0 mm
7.5/0 4.5 mm
8/0 5.0 mm H-8 5.0 mm
10/0 6.0 mm J-10 6.0 mm

Crochet Hook Sizes – Jumbo

JPN jumbo hook size (ミリ) US standard hook equivalent
7 7 mm K-10½ 6.50 mm
8 8 mm L-11 8.00 mm
9 9 mm M/N-13 9.00 mm
10 10 mm N/P-15 10.00 mm
15 15 mm P/Q or Q 15 or 16 mm
20 20 mm S 19 mm

Crochet Hook Sizes – Lace and Steel

JPN lace hook size (号) US steel hook equivalent
0 1.75 mm 6 1.80 mm
2 1.50 mm 8 1.50 mm
4 1.25 mm 10 1.30 mm
6 1.00 mm 12 1.00 mm
8 0.90 mm 13 0.85 mm
10 0.75 mm 14 0.75 mm
12 0.60 mm
14 0.50 mm

Edited 06-05-2011 to add straight/circular needle types, and jumbo needle and hook sizes

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Vintage Japanese Craft Book Covers

In late 2009 my mom gave me her old Japanese pattern books, containing primarily knitting and crochet projects but including other crafts such as sewing, embroidery, and cross stitch. I’ll share a few of the covers with you. Maybe in the future I’ll share photos and ads from inside the books, but not the patterns themselves.

Japanese crochet book - May 1967 - coverpublished May 1967

Red text: かぎ針編みとレース編み = Crochet and Lace.

This book originally contained 107 fashion and home decor patterns; however, patterns 2 through 8 came in a separate insert which has since been lost.

Japanese craft book - May 1968 - coverpublished May 1968

Red text: 新しいかぎ針編みと室内手芸 = New Crochet and Indoor Handicrafts.

This book contains 177 crochet, sewing, and embroidery patterns.

Japanese craft book - Dec 1968 - coverpublished December 1968

あみものと子供服 = Knitwear and Children’s Clothes.

This book contains 161 knit, crochet, and sewing patterns.

Japanese craft book - Feb 1971 - coverpublished February 1971

春のあみものと流行手芸 = Spring Knitwear and Stylish Handicrafts.

This book contains 295 knit, crochet, sewing, and embroidery patterns.


I have a few books from the glorious 80s as well, which I would enjoy sharing whenever I get around to scanning the covers!

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