Shaping a Bust with Short-Rows

The other day I was knitting the front to a cardigan sweater and I decided to add some short-rows to the bust area. I've done this so many times, now, that I know exactly where to place them (making adjustments for gauge, of course) and how to work them. I was so happy with myself when I realized this, that I took a moment to congratulate myself. I think I've mastered short-rows!


I've said before that the short-row knitting technique is something that will help you make your sweaters fit, and I'll say it again. In fact, I just did! If you've never done short-row bust shaping before, or if you want to improve your skills, here's some great information for you.

Shaping the Bust

Short-rows can be used to mimic the action of horizontal darts in sewing, creating a shape that more closely fits the human bust. Though knitted fabric has plenty of inherent stretch, short-row shaping can help prevent cardigans from gaping and sweater hems from riding up by adding length where it's needed—over the curve of the bust—while keeping the selvedges the same length.



Measuring Bust Ease

Try this dressmaker's trick to measure needed bust ease:
Tie a ribbon around your
natural waist. From the
highest point on your
shoulder, measure a vertical
line to the ribbon along your back and along your front, following the slope of the
bust. The difference between these two measurements is
how much length should be added with short-rows.



If you want to try adding short-row bust shaping to a sweater, first get an idea of how much shaping you'll need.

A and B cups probably don't need short-row bust shaping added to most garments; if your bust is larger than that, measure yourself to determine the length of the required bust ease in inches (see Measuring Bust Ease, at right).

Multiply the number of additional inches you need by the number of rows per inch and round to the nearest even number. This is the number of short-rows you'll need to work.

Plan to have the "peak" of the short-row pouch, or the shortest pair of short-rows, fall at the bust point (if you're not exactly sure where your bust point and a particular sweater meet, start your short-rows one to two inches before the beginning of the armhole shaping).

The longest short-rows for bust shaping should end at least one inch from the selvedges, and the shortest short-rows should be at least two inches wider than the distance between the bust points to prevent an overly peaky look.

— Erica Patberg, from knit.wear, Spring 2012

When I was first interested in learning about short-rows, I started with swatches so I could work the technique without worrying about messing up a garment. I knit just a bust section of a pullover sweater, sort of like the oval section of the illustration above left, working short rows at different intervals to see how the shaping would change. I highly recommend this swatching method to get yourself comfortable with the knitting technique. It's fun and a wonderful learning experience.

Nancie M. Wiseman's Over-Under Hat

Then, move on to a small short-row project like a hat or scarf so you can practice the technique some more. A project like Nancie M. Wiseman's Over-Under Hat from her new Knitting Daily Workshop, Short-Row Knitting is a good project to start with. It's a simple, garter-stitch hat that's knit sideways, using sets of short-rows to build the circumference of the hat. It's easy and really fun to knit.

I highly recommend Short-Row Knitting if you want to learn all about short-rows—there's so much more that short-rows can do, from neck shaping to shoulder shaping to building sleeve caps. Get yours today!


P.S. Have you used short-rows in your knitting? Leave a comment and let us know what your favorite short-row function is!

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