Wednesday, May 11, 2011

For the love of "nupps"

So I've already started my second shawl. It is the Triangular Summer Shawl from Nancy Bush's "Knitted Lace Of Estonia." I am making this as a gift for my partner's Mom, Nancy. Below is a picture of what the finished shawl will look like...

What I'm discovering with this project, and the last one, is that I'm really loving knitting lace. This is coming as a revelation to me as I avoided it for so long. I thought it would be too involved or fiddly. How would I keep track of where I am in the pattern? What if I drop a stitich? But by taking my time, learning the techniques involved and picking up tips from other knitters sharing their experience, I'm now wondering why I waited so long to try it?!

Part of what I'm really having fun with on this shawl is the inclusion of the "nupp" (rhymes with "soup"). A nupp is a bobble-like feature that adds depth and texture to the shawl. They are used frequently in Estonian shawls. In the case of this shawl in particular, it makes up part of "lily of the valley" pattern.

A traditional nupp is started on the front and finished on the back . It is made by knitting into a stitch but leaving it on the left needle. Then do a YO. Then knit again into the same stitch, then do a YO, etc. Your last stitch will be a knit stitch and you will end up with either 5, 7 or 9 loops (your pattern will tell you how many) on your right needle, all originating from the one stitch on the left needle. Then remove the stitch from the left needle and continue with the pattern as usual. When you turn your work and purl across the back you will be faced with those groupings of loops. You will need to "close" the nupp by purling all 5, 7 or 9 loops together. This can be a tricky maneuver if you've made those loops too tight. That is why you need to take care when making the nupp on the front side to not only keep the tension loose but actually pull the loops a little with your right needle. This will assure that they'll be loose enough to allow you to purl them together. Nancy Bush demonstrates how easy the technique can be in this video.

My first attempts at making nupps were not very fun. In fact it was plain time-consuming and frustrating. I found that is was almost impossible to get my right needle into all the loops. So I looked into how others were doing them and found that people have come up with all kinds of "cheats" to making nupps in different ways. Some use crochet hooks to close the nupp. Some close the nupp on the front side instead of waiting to do it on the back. Some slipped the first half of the stitches to the right needle, purled what was on the left and then slipped the remaining stitches over. These all produced similar looking nupps. But after watching Nancy's nupp lesson, I found that I was able to purl them together easily. And now that I can make them without any trouble, they have become a fun element that I look forward to. And I like knowing that I am making them in the traditional Estonian way.

Here is a sneak peak of where I am on the shawl now. I sorta sloppily pinned it out to show the pattern a bit and you can see how the nupps are beginning to form the lily of the valley pattern.

You will no doubt notice that I have two lifelines across the work. I suppose there is really no reason to have two, but it's a habit I've gotten into. When I get to the point that I am ready to add a new one, I take out the one that is further back and make it the newest lifeline. Though I hopefully will never suddenly realize that I had so many mistakes that I'd need to frog back to the second lifeline, I figure it certainly doesn't hurt to have that double protection...just in case...

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