I hope you enjoyed playing with the 3-D bubbles I posted about last time. As promised, here are some variations that might be fun to try. I’m currently working on a multi-colored bubble sweater for Machine Knitting Monthly and will share photos when I finish……which might take a little longer than usual with gardening season upon us. It feels so good to be back outside!!

Before I get into bubble specifics, let me give you an update on the availability of the specialty tools on the web site. Some are gone forever but I do still have some double latch tools:  2×2 for both standard and chunky machines and 1×1 for mid-gauge and chunky. I have good stock on the beading tools. For transfer tools there are 5-prong tools for standard gauge; 4-prong for mid-gauge and 5 and 8-prong tools for chunky. Once they are gone, they are gone for good so don’t wait to long if there are any tools you think you might be needing in the future!

Chained Bubble

This first variation just adds some simple chaining to the bubbles I showed you last time. I worked out the directions for chaining the work right on the machine – the way you would for an edging by bringing the needles out to holding position with the stitches in the hooks of the needles and then working a latch tool cast-on behind the stitches. I manage this best from left to right and got around the awkwardness of working right to left by leaving a very long tail at the left to begin with and then working the second row of chaining (after the bubble) from left to right with that tail.

After I did this a number of times, I had one of those moments of clarity when I realized that the easiest way to do this is after the work is off the machine with either a latch tool or a crochet hook. I think that, going forward, this is how I will do it, but I have included the directions for chaining on the machine for those of you who are crochet phobic – and because I had already written out the directions.

Knit up to the point where you want to insert the first chain-outlined bubble. Bring the needles out to holding position (HP) with the stitches in the hooks of the needles – not behind the latches. This is easier said than done if you have the machine mounted with ribber clamps, but quite doable with a flat mounted machine. With the same or a contrasting yarn, pull out a length of yarn 2-3 times the width of the knitting and let it remain at the left side while you work the first chain with the yarn coming from the ball/cone. Begin on the left end of the bed, using the latch tool to work a row of chaining across the needle shafts, behind the fabric. At the right end of the work, remove the last stitch from its needle, slip the ending chain loop onto the needle and then return the stitch to the needle. Cut the chaining yarn.

Next, work the bubble as described in the previous blog post with the background yarn or a third color as I did here, ending the bubble on the left side (if you began on the right). Repeat the chaining directions  above, using the reserved length of yarn. Note that the yarn you use for bridging the bubble will not show between the rows of chaining on either the knit side (above left photo) or purl face (at left) of the fabric.

Reverse Stockinette Bubbles

If you are handy with a garter bar, you might want to try turning the work over so that the bubbles appear as purl stitches on a knit background. Knit up to the start of the bubble, ending carriage on right (COR). Do not cut the main yarn (MY). Use a garter bar to turn the work over and free pass the carriage to the left end of the bed. Knit 1 row of the contrast color (CC) across all the needles, ending COR to begin shaping the bubble as before, ending COL. Cut the CC, rethread with main color and knit 1 row across all needles. Turn with the garter bar and continue knitting.

I think that the reverse side of this is also interesting – it gives you a recessed knit bubble on a purl background (below). I think that we sometimes overlook the beauty of the reverse face of knitted fabrics.

“Arrowhead” Bubbles

Rather than working a contrasting bubble color across the width of the entire fabric, you can knit a stripe leading up to the bubble from one side or the other. This is how I worked the two bubbles pictured at left.

Work fabric up to the bubble position, ending COR. Cut the MY and rethread with the CC. Place all needles to the left of the 7 bubble needles into HP and set the carriage to hold needles in HP. Knit 1 row and wrap. Hold all needles to the right of the center 3 bubble needles (5 needles remain in WP), knit 1 row to the right and wrap. Hold 2 needles at left , knit and wrap. This brings you back to just 3 WP needles at the center of the bubble and you can continue shaping the bubble in the usual way. Be aware that in order to end on the right side, the last row of the bubble will differ slightly from the others you have done. You’ll need to return all the needles at right to UWP when COL and there are either 4 or just 2 needles remaining in WP. Cut the CC and free pass COL.

This method leaves you lacking two rows at the left of the bubble, which will be filled in now. Rethread the carriage with the MY and hold the 7 bubble needles as well as all needles to the right of them. Knit two short rows over the needles at the left (KWK) and then continue knitting over all the needles. For a single bubble here or there in a fabric, you may not need to do these compensating short rows, but if there are a number of bubbles, it could skew the fabric if you don’t.

In my sample above, I worked the chaining after the work was off the machine. If you choose to work the chaining on the machine, make sure you work both rows (beginning and eding) to include all 7 bubble needles.

The last sample (below) shows an arrowhead bubble with purl stitches on a knit background, which requires two turns with a garter bar. You will need to cut the yarn after each step in order to have the yarn on the correct side for each step. Instead of chaining, this bubble is outlined by the dotted line that results from reversing the stockinet stitches. 

More Variations?

Keep in mind that the bubbles can be bigger or smaller than the 7 stitches I have used throughout these samples. Forming bubbles right on the edge of the fabric might create an interesting edge (that may or may not roll – give it a try!). Think about using a finer yarn for the bubble than you do for the background fabric, lifting stitches and rehanging them, cabling the center stitches, altering the shape of the bubble by working more/less rows in each step (multi-wrapping the adjoining needles if necessary) or  binding off and then casting back on the 7 bubble stitches at the middle of the bubble for a peek-a-boo effect. In short, start asking yourself my favorite question: What if I…….?

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