As part of a continuing series, I'll be highlighting different special stitches and motifs. You may also want to read my previous spotlights on the Horizontal Chain Stitch, Cable Stitches, and Increasing and Decreasing Stitches.
Bobbles are a fun embellishment to add to any blanket or knitting project! You'll find them in standard knitting and crochet, as well as in loop yarn finger-knitting, but the techniques to achieve the bobble 'look' can be quite varied.
First, what is a bobble? Wikipedia has a very good description:
Depending on the look knitters are trying to achieve, bobbles may also be called bubbles, pom-poms, popcorn a variety of names, but the look of them is typically achieved in a similar fashion. While I described the bobble as an 'embellishment' above, these textural features are usually knitted in-situ, rather than added on afterwards.
The basic technique of creating bobbles involves stacking stitches (or increasing and decreasing stitches), with the end result being a raised texture of a bump (or bubble) that sticks out from your knitting surface. Bobbles can vary in size and shape, and may form a hollow on the back of your knitting, depending on the the bobble technique used.
Single column bobbles ('Classic bobbles')
The type of bobble I use most commonly in my knitting patterns has the classic 'bobble' look: A round raised ball that sits above the flat knitting surface.
Patterns with classic bobbles: Cozy Pom-Pom Throw Blanket, Sampler Style Baby Throw Blanket, Irish Aran Tree of Life Cable Knit Blanket, Hexagon Honeycomb Bee Blanket, Easier Hexagon Honeycomb Bee Blanket, Honeycomb Rivet Blanket, Flowered Vines Blanket, Bunny Tails Blanket, Southwest Lace Blanket, Footprints Baby Blanket
The technique for creating this type of classic bobble with loop yarn involves creating a chain of loops, which is then folded forward and tucked into the base of the first stationary loop in a purl stitch. You may choose to increase or decrease the number of stitches in the chain to make your bobble bigger or smaller.
This video from Alize Yarns demonstrates how to create a classic bobble with loop yarn, beginning from the 19:55 mark. (Note that the audio for this video is in Turkish, but I will describe the technique in more detail below).
The blanket in the video is a sampler-style/quilt style blanket with different squares of texture made up of different stitch combinations and patterns. One of these squares has a pattern of staggered bobble stitches.The knitter in the video begins her square with a row of knit stitches. For her second row, she knits one knit stitch. The second stitch in this row will be a bobble stitch.
Beginning at around the 21:05 mark, the knitter pulls a working loop through the stationary loop in a knit stitch. Next, she pulls a second working loop through the previous loop, once again in a knit stitch. Finally, she repeats this process a third time, pulling another working loop through the previous loop in a knit stitch. (She then tears out the stitches and repeats the process to emphasize the technique). Basically, she has created a chain of four stitches, made of the stationary loop, plus three knit stitches.
For the next step, at the 21:46 mark, she holds the top loop of the chain and folds the chain forward and at 21:53, pushes the top loop of the chain through the centre of the bottom stationary loop (the loop of the previous row). At 21:57, you can see that loop poking out from the back of the project. This loop will be the stationary loop that you will knit through on the next row.
The knitter continues the row with three knit stitches, then another bobble stitch, then three more knit stitches. Continuing to the next row, she performs a row of knit stitches, taking care (at 23:15 and 23:25) to include the loops from above the bobble stitches of the previous row (these loops tend to stick backwards rather than up, so it can be easy to miss them!).
To modify the size of your classic bobble, you can make your chain longer (instead of pulling three extra loops through your stationary loop, try pulling four or five loops loops through). If you have downloaded any of my patterns that have bobbles in the designs, you will notice that I vary the size of my bobbles to create the specific look I am going for. My Footprints Baby Blanket pattern is a good example of this:
In this pattern, I used bobbles to represent the toes in the footprints. To emphasize their larger size, I opted to make the bobbles for the big toes slightly larger.
Another similar, but typically larger type of bobble is the 'bubble' stitch texture. Bubbles differ from bobbles in that they tend to be larger and wider, and their raised texture creates a hollow on the back side of the knitting surface. They may be more of a highlight texture, or multiple bubbles may be combined over the knitting surface to create an undulating or puffy texture.
A few examples of bubble-type texture are my Squishy Bubbles Baby Blanket:
and my Fortune Cookie Blanket:
You'll notice that these two examples have very different looks. The basic technique of creating a bubble involves increasing stitches to increase the volume of yarn (so that it sticks out from the surface) and then later decreasing stitches to 'close' the bubble.
There are many different textures and looks you can achieve with bubble stitches, by varying the number of increased/decreased stitches, the width and height of your bubble, and the use of different stitches (knit, purl, etc.)
Yarnspirations has a couple of good 'bubble-type' bobble stitch patterns. The first is their Bernat Alize EZ Bobble Scarf. Here's a video explaining the pattern and this bobble technique:
At about the 5:50 mark, to create the bobble, the knitter increases by two loops (for a total of three loops) . Working left-to-right, she then adds a knit stitch to each of those loops (stacking stitches in a similar way as with the classic bobbles above, but using three columns of stitches instead of one). Working right-to-left, she knits three stitches again. She then reduces by two loops back to one stitch.
Once she proceeds to the next row (not shown in video), she will incorporate the bobbles by using the final reduced loop, and the bobbles will stick out from the surface of the project.
Another example of this type of bobble (bubble) stitch is in Yarnspiration's Bernat Alize EZ Multi Textured Blanket pattern. At about the 12:39 mark, you will see the knitter perform the bobbles.
I hope this tutorial helps you become more confident with making bobbles and experimenting with how to create different shapes of knitting texture!