When thinking about a shawl design recently, I wondered if I could include a section with pairs of garter stitch rows nested inside each other, something like this:
I realized I would get that effect if I could make two short rows converge on the same stitch.
Making short rows (i.e. turning your knitting and working back before reaching the end of a row) leaves a gap where you turn, but there are a variety of 'short row' methods out there to fix that.
I didn't know if any of these methods would work when making short rows twice in the same place though. I wondered if it would leave a hole, or perhaps distort the fabric at the turning point.
Trying it out
To find out, I used a 100% wool yarn to make swatches in both stockinette and garter stitch, with double short rows using each of the following methods: Wrap and Turn, German, Yarn Over, Japanese and Shadow Wrap. (I've linked to tutorials for each of them.)
I was surprised to find that it was possible to make short rows twice in the same place and still end up with a reasonable fabric using any of the short row methods.
Some were neater than others though. I didn't like the look of the Shadow Wraps or Wrap and Turn in stockinette and the German method left a hole that's noticeable when the fabric is stretched.
I decided on the Yarn Over method for the shawl. I found it the easiest, and it looked neat. The Japanese method is probably the neatest, but you need to use some kind of pin or marker in your work whenever you turn. I'd rather avoid that if possible. The Yarn Over method is great so long as you take the yarn over the needle by the shortest route—you should be making the stitch before the yarn has gone a full turn round the needle. Otherwise take the yarn the other way round.
Closing the double gap with the Yarn Over method
When you're ready to continue onto the full-length row, knit both yarn-overs together with the following stitch. It's like a 'knit 3 together', except of course you're not decreasing any stitches, just getting rid of the yarn overs and closing the gap between the short rows and the full length row at the same time.
Using the technique
Considering how easy it is to work two short rows in the same spot, I'm surprised at how little it's used. Designing leaf or fern shapes would be easy and beautiful using double short rows. I checked through the first few pages of shawls using short rows on Ravelry and couldn't find any examples. Maybe if I'd made it through the full 70 pages I'd have found something!
My own shawl is finished, but I made it using only one color so I'm reworking the short row sections with two colors to emphasize the 'nested' construction. I'm hoping to write up the pattern in January.
If you'd asked me to guess the results of knitting double short rows before I made swatches, I'd have predicted that it would look a bit of a mess! That's one of the things I love about knitting—there are always new surprises to keep you interested.
UPDATE: I finished the two-color shawl and the pattern is available on Ravelry!