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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1 Response to Japanese Short Rows

  1. textileshed says:

    Oh, my prayers have been answered. A whole blog on Japanese Knitting. Thank you, this is wonderful for a newcommer!

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