Tiny Bubbles (actually not so tiny!)

I’ve been playing with knitted “bubbles” lately and having such fun! This is a technique you can add to almost any stockinet sweater pattern without affecting the gauge very much at all because the texture just pops right up on the surface of the fabric. 

I’ll share some of the other color and texture variations I have been playing with in some future blog posts, but for now, this is how I knit bubbles that are the same color as the background fabric. It is the easiest way to start! 

My sweater and matching scarf were knitted with a discontinued Silk City yarn called “Wooly” (75% merino wool and 25% nylon), a slightly thick and thin boucle’ with 850 yards/pound. The overall effect is softer – and the bubbles are bigger – than the yellow sample below, which was knitted with Cascade “220 Worsted”.  I have included the yellow sample here because I think it is easier to see detail and because you might like the stronger effect for yourself.

The worsted bubble stands out much more than the “Wooly” bubbles do so keep that in mind when you choose your yarn. As usual, the sweater, scarf and yellow swatch were all worked on my beloved mid-gauge machine; the “Wooly” at stitch size 9 and the worsted at stitch size 7.

Some suggestions: First, knit some samples first so you are familiar with the method before committing to a whole sweater. Second, knit the back of your sweater first so you can double check the placement of the bubbles and adjust as needed to avoid any embarrassing placements on the front! I placed my bubbles pretty randomly, but kept an eye on row counts for the armholes and neckline on my schematic and made sure I didn’t create any visually or physically difficult placements.

Thirdly, this method uses Bridging to interrupt the rows. You must turn off your row counter before beginning a bubbled row and then turn it back on and advance it by 1 at the completion of the row. Some of my rows have two or more bubble in them so this was really important for keeping track of the row count for the garment pieces.

Lastly, you might be used to less wrapping when increasing and decreasing with short rows, but the wraps are what retain the shape of the bubbles and are important to the overall structure of the fabric.

The following directions for Bubble Knitting begin with the  carriage on the right side (COR) only to simplify writing the directions to share. You can work this technique from either side, but I did find it easiest to keep track of things by always starting on the right one less place to get lost in a mess of my own making!

These are some of the abbreviations in the directions:

WP, UWP, HP Working Position, Upper Working Position and Holding Position

NDL or NDLS needle/needles

KW  knit and wrap (NOTE: this is not knit, wrap and knit back, which is more commonly used.)

COR, COL  carriage on right or left

Watch how easy it is!

How to knit bubbles:

Begin with the COR, set to hold needles in HP. Each bubble begins with 3 working NDLS. Decide where you want to position your bubble and then hold all NDLS to the left of those center 3 bubble NDLS. Knit to the left and wrap the first NDL in HP (i.e. KW). Now hold all NDLS to the right of those center 3 NDLS and KW. Only 3 NDLS remain in WP.

*Return 1 NDL on the side opposite the carriage to UWP and KW* until 7 NDLS are in WP and COR. Then *hold 1 NDL on side opposite the carriage and KW* until only the original 3 NDLS remain in WP and COR. (Keep in mind that the bubbles can be wider than 7 NDLS, but make sure there are an odd number of NDLS working before you begin putting NDLS back into HP so the carriage is always on the correct side to complete the bridging.)

Nudge all NDLS to the left of the bubble to UWP and knit 1 row to the end of the row. Restart RC and set carriage to knit all NDLS and continue knitting to the next bubble placement. If you want to work more than one bubble in the same row, only nudge to UWP the NDLS between the first bubble and the second and the center 3 NDLS of the next bubble to UWP, KW and then hold all NDLS to the right of the second bubble to continue working as before.

By the time you have worked one bubble you will understand why it is so important to turn off the RC before each bubble row. Otherwise, the RC will tell you terrible lies and be totally unreliable. It won’t matter if you are knitting a scarf but it will a problem for sizing sweater pieces.

I’ve worked through some other great variations that I will share with you soon! In the meantime, get comfortable with the basic method and have some fun! At the very least knit yourself a funky scarf.

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