The Yang and Yin of Lace

This is one of my first posts on the TU Fiber Arts blog after I was brought on as a contributor in 2010, and one that I’m still quite proud of. Not much has changed. I still love knitting lace, and I still hate nupps. Enjoy!

In yoga we’re encouraged to acknowledge the poses that we find challenging and to safely explore ways to overcome those challenges. The best way to do that is with practice. We revisit and embrace that which challenges us, even if each embrace is momentary, until one day we just sort of connect with it and then we feel like old friends.
This is great advice and I apply it to many parts of my life, including my knitting.
Last time we looked at cables, a technique that I love because they look so nice and I enjoy doing them. This time around we’ll take a look at a technique that I find a little more frustrating to do, but one that I am still fascinated and intrigued by and continue to revisit every so often just to try and develop a better relationship with it.

That technique is the nupp. Pronounced “noop”, it is a common element in many lace designs from the Estonian region. On paper, it doesn’t look hard. You increase several times into the same stitch, creating three, five, seven, or more stitches out of just one. On the next row you decrease by knitting or purling all of those stitches back together into one.

Check out this video from to see how it’s done. Nancy Bush (no relation that I know of) makes it look SO easy!

It forms a neat little cluster of stitches that adds a beautiful visual contrast to the openness of lace. Nupps look like this…

Sounds easy, right? Well, give it a try. Some may find it easy and some may find it difficult, particularly on the decrease row. I have no problems with the increasing or with knitting or purling three stitches together. I can even manage five with a little effort. It’s when the nupp decrease involves seven or more stitches that it really drives me batty! No matter how loosely I make them, I always have difficulty keeping the yarn on the working needle as I try to pull it through all those stitches.

I’ve heard several suggestions for alternatives including combinations of decreases (slip 3 purlwise wyif, p2tog, psso for the 5 stitch nupp decrease) and even replacing the nupps with beads. If one wanted to, one could even skip the nupp entirely. As knitters that is certainly our choice and I avidly support just doing your own thing if it suits you. But there’s no harm in giving it a try is there?

If you want to read more or if you want to try out some great nupp filled lace patterns check out ”Knitted Lace of Estonia” by Nancy Bush.

This book is very well written and gives a fascinating history of the Estonian region and the lace shawls for which it is famous. There are a few shawl patterns in this book that I’d love to try and some day I will, complete with the nupps.

For now, I’m content with my occasional visits with the nupp on a practice piece until we get more comfortable with each other.

WYIF : with yarn in front

PSSO : pass slipped stitch over

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: