Short rowing refers to the shaping technique of using multiple partial-width courses to create fabrics with variation in the length of wales. This is achieved by knitting on only some needles at a given point in time, and putting the rest of the needles on hold. Short-row shaping requires no transfers, making it particularly efficient for mass production.
Often, short rowing is used to create non-flat fabrics; this makes '3D knitting' possible, which is a key component in the lab's autoknit program. The prototypical example of short-row shaping is the heel of a knit sock. Without any shaping, the object would be a uniform tube—which is not an ideal shape for fitting the contours of a foot. But short rowing allows us to build up more fabric at certain sections of the needle bed than others, creating areas that protrude and others that are fitted.
Short-row shaping is also used for 2-dimensional applications, such as when knitting necklines. In the case of a neckline, short rowing allows us to knit on either side of the panel and create a gap in between the two sides for the neckhole, while avoiding floats.
Successful short rowing depends on certain components in a knitting machine—one of which is a takedown mechanism that can apply a stronger downward pull at certain areas in a given course than others. Non-uniform takedown is often achieved with sinkers, which reside between adjacent needles in the bed and can be extended to pull down the loop held by the corresponding needle. While machines such as the Shima Seiki SWGN2 series have sinkers, others are only equipped with uniform takedown mechanisms, such as the Kniterate, which uses rollers. There are certain workarounds that make limited short rowing applications possible, but the lack of variable takedown across the needle bed increases the chances that the build-up in certain areas with create clumps, making short rowing more difficult.