Estonian lace, and conquering the nupp

Today I had a nice quiet day ahead of me with both children at school and nothing on my calendar.  Everyone has been sick for the past week except me and I needed a restful day.  What better way to get rest, than to knit Estonian lace for the first time?

This is a Nancy Bush pattern, Ulla’s Scarf, from Ann Budd’s “Knitted Gifts” book.  I am using Knit Picks Palette in white, with US size 5 needles.  


I cast on and was quite relaxed while making the lace border.  It seemed straightforward enough.  However, as I started to approach the lines in the charts with the nupps, I started feeling nervous.  Anyone who has knit lace or has looked into it will know that a nupp is a little knitted nubbin – consisting of knittng/making yarn overs FIVE times into one stitch, then purling those 5 stitches together coming across the back.  I have heard so many complaints from lace knitters about nupps.  I feared them and they actually stopped me from casting on this scarf many times.  


Oh goodness, please ignore the dirt under my fingernail.  I’m a mother, OK?

Anyway, that little blob of yarn there is a nupp.  And I used to be afraid of them, but no more.  I have learned two secrets to knitting them without fear.  One is to knit the 5 stitches as loosely as you can, like obscenely loose.  Then as you come across the back side and need to purl them all together, don’t even try with your regular sized needle.  Grab the tiniest sock needle you own (I think mine is seriously a 000, what on earth I was planning to knit with a size 000 needle, I have no idea, but the thought of it makes me slap-happy) and tuck it into all 5 of those stitches, grab your working yarn with the end of it and hold it tight, then just purl that nupp with the skinny needle, and slip back on to your right hand  needle.  Piece of cake.  Well, not as easy as purling one stitch with normal sized yarn and regular sized needles, but it is a good way to not fear the nupp.  



I love lily of the valley and it would look all wrong without the nupps.  I am glad I figured out how to make peace with them.



  1. shellssells

    I do believe some people use a crochet hook to purl their nupps as well. I just use whatever needle I am using for the scarf, however, I agree. As loose as possible. Ridiculously loose. When you think it is loose enough, make it a little looser.

    • I have a set of tiny stainless crochet hooks, I will have to give that a try as well. I am just relieved that they are not nearly as bad as I’d previously thought. Opens up a whole new world of patterns to me!

      • shellssells

        The only trouble I sometimes have when making the super loose nupps is making sure I haven’t purled in stitches from the surrounding two stitches when I purl back through. Since they get a bit loose too by default, sometimes it is easy to purl the next stitch in with it too. I am so glad you’ve found your way to deal with them because I do believe that they give a piece so much additional beauty and interest.

        And I totally get the “I am exhausted, I am going to sit right here on the couch and knit complicated lace.”

      • I noticed that too, about the neighboring stitches. In this pattern they are yarn overs so they are super loose. I’m really careful to count everything before I purl it. Also, I’m really glad you understand my reasoning! 😀

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