Short Row Shoulders: How to Knit Perfect Shoulder Seams

Have you ever knitted something that you hoped would be really beautiful, but the finishing techniques let you down?

That's how I used to feel about my shoulder seams.

It was like, no matter how many times I tried, I couldn't get the shoulder seams to look neat and professional. And of course, they were the areas that my eyes were constantly drawn to whenever I wore my handknits. Sound familiar?

That's why I was overjoyed when my friend, Pat, first introduced me to short row shoulders. This technique genuinely makes shoulder seams a pleasure - something that I never thought I'd say.

Short Rows Make Shoulder Seams a Dream!

Generally, most knitting patterns with seams utilise the traditional "stepped" cast-off method for creating shoulder slopes. Whilst this technique creates the angle you need, the "steps" can make the seam lumpy and it requires a certain amount of trial and error when stitching the shoulder seam to create a straight seam.

With short row shaping, you can create a beautifully smooth angle, avoiding the clunky "steps" from the cast-off method. Even better, the stitches remain live, so you can decide whether to cast off the shoulder slope and hand stitch the seam or, as I do, use a three needle bind-off. 

In today's knitting tutorial video, I will teach you:

  • How to knit short row shoulders without any holes using the wrap and turn method.

  • How to hide the wrapped stitch when you knit across it.

  • How to translate a knitting pattern from the traditional "stepped" shoulder into short row shoulders.

Short Row Shoulders Tutorial

For those of you who prefer to read written instructions, here is my method of turning regular stepped shoulder instructions into short row shoulders.

Example stepped shoulder instructions

Cast off 6 stitches st beginning of this row and following 5 alt rows.

When turning stepped shoulder instructions into short rows, you simply don't knit across the stitches that you would be casting off, creating partial rows of knitting.

Looking at these shoulder instructions, I can see that I am casting off the first 6 stitches on every WS row. To knit this as short rows, I would start on a RS row so that I don't have to knit over the stitches that should be cast-off.

Alternative short row shoulder instructions

Row 1: Knit to last 6 sts, yarn to front, slip next stitch purlwise, yarn to back, slip wrapped stitch back to left-hand needle and turn.

Row 2 (and every WS row): Purl

Row 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11: Knit to 6 sts before wrapped st, yarn to front, slip next stitch purlwise, yarn to back, slip wrapped stitch back to left-hand needle and turn.

Row 13: Knit across all sts, picking up all wraps and k2tog with the original stitch to hide it.

Try it for yourself

Next time your knitting pattern suggests that you use the step method for your shoulder shaping, why don't you update it with short rows? Not only will it look neater and more professional, but the shoulder will be much easier to seam.

I'd love to know what other techniques you struggle with or find annoying. Please share in the comments section below and if I can help, I shall create a tutorial for you!