I’ve always had trouble finding shirts long enough for my torso (I am 6′ tall). The other day, though, I was trying on one of my fitted shirts, and noticed that when I raise my arms, I show some skin around the waist– more than I would expect from just being tall. I turned to the side and discovered the culprit: my tummy. 

So, since I am knitting a new vest with allowances to cover my “new” feature, I thought I would share my test calculations and a chart for the rest of the world who may have more to cover than the pattern allows for. (I’ll be posting later this week similarly about short rows for the bust area.)

WHAT YOU NEED:  a) Your desired knitting pattern. b) For “measuring,” some item of clothing for your upper body, preferably a semi-tight shirt, and a good eye.

Put on the shirt. Make sure it is the correct length in the back. Stand in front of a mirror that shows you at least down to the waist. Stretch with your hands over your head and then put one hand down and HOLD your shirt just exactly at the place it rides up to.

Now take a good critical eye at it, turn to the side if you like, look at how much longer the shirt is in the back than in the front, and say “This shirt would be perfectly flattering if it were ___ inches longer.”

IF YOU LIKE MATH METHOD: Multiply the number of inches in your statement above by the ROW gauge of your knitting. The answer is the number of rows you should add. If the number is odd, add one to get the number of markers you should place; if even, don’t add one. Divide the number of stitches in the FRONT of your garment by the number of markers to get the number of stitches between markers. Fudge the numbers until you get a whole number of stitches in each division (one or two either way won’t matter). Place markers in front of sweater and then knit to the last marker, wrap-and-turn (removing the marker), knit to the first marker, wrap-and-turn (removing the marker), and repeat until all the markers are gone, then continue knitting around.


Use the following table for a rough estimate of number of rows to add:

Inches to add 1 2 3 4 5
gauge: 4 rows/inch 4 9 14 14 19
5 rows/inch 4 9 14 19 24
6 rows/inch 4 9 19 24 24
7 rows/inch 9 14 19 29 34
8 rows/inch 9 14 24 29 39

The next thing you’ll need is the number of stitches in the FRONT of your sweater. If you’re knitting in the round, divide the total number of stitches by 2. (For instance, if your pattern says “cast on 200 stitches and join in the round” then the front of your sweater is 100 stitches.)

I’m only writing out the numbers for multiples of 10 stitches, so if you have a number like 104, or 108, simply work with the middle 100 stitches and skip 2 (or 4) on each side.  You can move the markers to accommodate these stitches later, too. (I’ll note this when we get to it.)

How to place the markers:

First, KNIT THE BOTTOM of your sweater– the hem, or ribbing, or however your sweater starts. The short rows go just above that bit.

Start by putting a different color marker in the MIDDLE of the front, with half the stitches on each side. (If it’s an odd number, there will be one left over, and that’s okay.) If you are doing an even number of short rows, you need exactly as many markers as you’re doing short rows. If you are doing an odd number of short rows, you’ll need one fewer marker.

Consult the chart below to know how many stitches to leave between markers. Work outwards from the middle stitch and place markers at the interval given. If there is a * next to the number, that means that once you have placed all your markers, there will be some stitches left over at the end. You can either move your markers out a stitch or two to “even it out” or just leave it, it won’t hurt anything to have a few extra stitches at the side seams. (This is also where you can move the markers for those leftover stitches if you like.)

Number of stitches To add 4 rows 9 rows 14 rows 19 rows 24 rows 29 rows 34 rows 39 rows
90 18 9 6 4* 3* 3 2* 2*
100 20 10 6* 5 4 3* 2* 2*
110 22 11 7* 5* 4* 3* 3* 2*
120 24 12 8 6 4* 4 3* 3
130 26 13 8* 6* 5* 4* 3* 3*
140 28 14 9* 7 5* 4* 4 3*
150 30 15 10 7* 6 5 4* 3*

Easy example of placing markers (one that comes out even):

Easy example of how to place markers:
I am working a sweater with 180 total stitches. I need to add 9 rows of short rows.
I will need 8 markers plus one different color for the middle marker.
There are 90 stitches in the front of the sweater, so I place the middle marker (MM) with 45 stitches on each side.

I consult the chart to see that I need to place markers every 9 stitches, so I start counting out from the middle marker and placing markers every 9 stitches. There’s no star, so when I’m finished, there will be 9 stitches remaining on each side.

Another example (that doesn’t come out even):

I am working a sweater with 200 total stitches and need 14 rows of short rows.
I will need 14 markers plus one different color for the middle marker.
There are 100 stitches in the front of the sweater, so I place the MM with 50 stitches on each side.
The chart says to place markers every 6 stitches, so I start doing that– after I have placed all 14 markers, I have 11 stitches remaining. If I think it looks odd, I can move the last two pairs of markers out 1 or 2 stitches each (so instead of 6, 6, 11 at the end I’d have 7, 7, 9). It’s all a matter of personal taste and judgement and what looks nice.

OK, the markers are placed, NOW WHAT:

Take out the middle marker.

Knit your sweater in pattern (meaning, according to the directions) until you reach the very last marker.

When you get to the stitch before the marker, wrap and turn, and remove the marker.

Continue knitting in pattern back along the reverse side until you come to the very first marker, then wrap and turn and remove that marker.

Keep knitting back and forth, knitting to the first/last remaining marker, and removing each marker as you wrap and turn at that marker. When no markers remain, your short rows are complete, and you can continue knitting the remainder of your sweater.

At least, up to just below the bust line, if you’re doing short rows there…