N is for Nupps

Nupp. Rhymes with soup.

Now that we have the tough part out of the way, lets talk about those cute little bobbles typical of Estonian lace. Nupps are a nice way to add some texture to an otherwise open, lacy shawl. How you make them is super simple. One one row (usually the right side knit row) you make a bunch of stitches out of one stitch. Then on the next (wrong side purl) row, you turn that bunch of stitches back into one stitch.

See, this is the problem with theorists, they often ignore the practical issues behind their simples processes!

The most common way to do the first part, making one stitch into many, is to knit into the stitch, don’t slip it off the needle, do a yarn over, and knit in again. You can add as many yo k1 to the end as you want, giving an odd number of stitches. How many you want to do is a matter of personal preference, and will depend on the yarn you use. For a laceweight, seven stitches (4 knits separated by three yarn overs) is usually ideal, for thicker yarns five is better, and for cobweb-thin yarns you might want to bump it up to 9.

It’s the next step, however, that usually turns a nupp into a nope. How on earth do you purl 7 stitches together? The usual advice is to make sure your nupps stitches are nice and loose, but as a tight knitter I’ve never quite achieved that level of zen. Luckily there are a couple of ways around this.

Crochet hook method: Knitters become quite adept at manipulating yarn with the tips of needles, but knitting a nupp can stretch this skill to breaking point. Even if you manage to get your right needle through all the nupp stitches, you might not have the leverage to get the yarn back through without stitches slipping off your needle tips. Instead, try a crochet hook. You want a hook big enough to grab the yarn, but no bigger. The smaller the crochet hook, the easier it is to get through the stitches. To crochet your nupp, slide the hook into the stitches from the right, just like you would with your needle. Grab the working yarn and pull it back through the stitches, and the sit the loop of yarn on your hook over your right needle. A little tug to make sure everything is neat and off you go.

Part of the beauty of this is that it uses a staple of the knitters arsenal, the crochet hook. A great tool for provisional cast ons, dropped stitches and now nupps. I assume you have one to hand at all times. And you knit and wash gauge swatches. And you only have one project on the go at once. Oh, you’re not that knitter? You don’t happen to have a crochet hook in your hotel room? Then you’re going to need another method.

Slipped stitch method: It used to be the case that if you wanted a right leaning decrease, you knit two stitches together, and for a left leaning decrease, you would slip one stitch knitwise, knit the next stitch, and then pass the slipped stitch over the knitted stitch. Then a new left-leaning contender joined the field, the slip-slip-knit. For this, you slip the first stitch knitwise, then slip the second stitch knitwise, and knit the two together through the back loop. There are advantages and disadvantages to these two left leaning decreases, but the key thing is that they both have the same ultimate result. The same stitches will be in the same order, twisted the same way, no matter which method you used.

To purl the nupp, you can just reverse this logic. Instead of trying to purl all the stitches, just slip them, purlwise. Slip all but the last stitch of the nupp (so if you have 7 stitches, slip 6), then purl that last stitch. Now you can, at your leisure, slip the preceding stitches back over the purled stitch to form the nupp. You don’t even have to do them all at once. You can do them in small groups, or even one at a time if you’re so inclined.

I tend to prefer this method because it doesn’t break my flow as much as finagling with a crochet hook would.


2 thoughts on “N is for Nupps

  1. Oh also, I’ve heard people using cable needles move the stitches back down into the cable (which ic thinner) and then it’s easier to purl them all together.

  2. Love it! As an addendum to the second method you can slip some if the stitches, purl the last 2/3 together then slip the rest over. Or even purl2or 3 together twice then slip them over, though that’s a little bulkier.