How to Knit Nupps

I have been knitting a lot of nupps recently, and in the process came across almost every problem known to knitters, so thought I might put my knowledge to use…!!

The basic idea is simple enough.  To knit a nupp you knit a stitch as normal, but don’t slip the old stitch off the needle. Instead you leave it on and make a yarn over.  Then you repeat the stitch-and-yarn-over steps twice more, followed by a final stitch and slip the loop off.  This means you have 7 loops on the receiving needle from the one stitch.  On the return row, these 7 loops are purled together to get back to the single stitch.


But there are pitfalls for the unwary….

Practicing nupps

Nupps are much easier to do with thin yarn than with thick.  I would start off with lace weight, or at the thickest, 4 ply/fingering.  Anything thicker is very tricky.  And the needles you would use for lace – the pointier the better!  Personally I use my Signature Art’s stilettos, but Addi lace are OK too.  Whereas most lace can be done successfully with any needles, nupps really do need sharp points for ease of purling those 7 loops together.

Cast on 9 sts and work a few rows, about an inch, ending with 4 rows in stocking stitch.  (You want enough fabric there to be able to pull it down easily.)  You work your nupp on the ‘right’ side – with the front of the piece facing you at the start of the row.

Knit 4 sts and make the nupp on the fifth.  The rest of the row will be knit.

The key to this part of the nupp is three-fold:

  • the loops must be loose but not too loose
  • the loops must all be the same size
  • the 7 loops must not cross each other, but lie next to each other in the needle

As you make the loops, the original stitch will grow, taking yarn from the sts on each side of it.  This is normal.

On your return row, purl up to the nupp.  (On an Estonian lace edging  the rest of the row will be knit, but you still purl the nupp loops.)  For the nupp itself, you will be purling those 7 sts together – not difficult but tricky!

The best way for making sure that you get inside all 7 loops is to stick the needle in parallel to the full needle.  (Usually when you knit or purl, the needle goes in at an angle.)  This is so much easier with a pointy needle!  As you stick the needle in, pull the fabric down with the hand holding the receiving needle to make those loops as big as possible.  This is something which is easier to do than to explain!

Don’t expect to get much more than the very tip of the needle through all the loops (which is why nupps are easier with thin yarns than thick).  Once you have to through, wrap the yarn round the tip in the usual way, but make sure you hold it fairly tightly – you do not want it to slip off as you draw the needle back.

The step of drawing the needle with its ‘new’ loop back through the 7 loops is something which needs practice!  The needle is not at the usual sharp angle, and it is all too easy to drop the new loop.  If that does happen, pull the receiving needle right out and start the stitch again.  There is a definite knack to this step – it will come as your hands learn what to do.  If it isn’t working go and do something else for a bit – getting frustrated will only make things worse!!

Once you have successfully drawn the new loops through, slip the 7 loops off the full needle, and give the working yarn a tug – you want this stitch to be fairly tight.  As you do this, again use the hand holding the receiving needle to hold the fabric round completed nupp.

If you have made sure that the 7 loops were lying flat, the nupp should be a neat, round ball.  At this stage don’t worry if it seems to be at the back of the fabric – once you have washed the piece you can make sure they are sitting in the right place.

For your practice piece, work 2 more rows in stocking stitch, then on the next row work k3, MN, k1,MN, k3.  Work the next row in purl (finishing the nupps, then on the next row work k4, NM, k4.  On this row you will find out that working a second nupp one stitch along from another worked immediately below brings its own challenges!  Work a few rows in stocking stitch and then try the nupps above yarn overs shown in the chart.  Cast off and have a good look at your work.  Then wash the piece and, before you dry it, have another look.  This is the time to push the nupps to the front of the work if you need to.

The Chart

Note that the set up rows are not charted, and ODD NUMBERED ROWS ONLY ARE CHARTED.  Return rows are all purl, with the nupps being p7tog.

  • row 1  k
  • row 2 and all alternate rows  p
  • row 3  k4, MN, k4
  • row 5  k
  • row 7  k3, MN, k1, MN, k3
  • row 9  k4, MN, k4
  • row 11  k
  • row 13  k
  • row 15  k2tog, k3, yo, k4
  • row 17  k2tog, k2, yo, k1, yo, k2, k2togtbl
  • row 19  k2tog, k1, yo, k1, MN, k1, yo, k1, k2togtbl
  • row 21  k2tog, yo, k1, MN, k1, MN, k1, yo, k2togtbl
  • row 23  k

What Can Go Wrong

Errors on the first row of the nupp:

1.  The loops can be too tight.  This makes it difficult (read impossible!) to get the needle in on the next row to p7tog.  Concentrate on wrapping loosely next time.

2.  The nupp looks messy with some loops bigger than others.  This happens when the loops are of different sizes – in particular the ‘knit’ loops and the ‘wrap’ loops are different sizes.  Again, more concentration and practice will sort this out.

3.  The nupp generally looks a mess with loops crossed.  This happens when the loops are not lying flat, but are crossed over each other.  Take care to make sure they are next to each other on the needle as you do the first row.  (Note that this happens most often when the loops are not of the same size).

Errors on the second row of the nupp:

4.  Long loops caused by not getting the needle through all 7 loops when p7tog.  You cannot see exactly where the needle is going, so you have to work by faith!  Pulling the fabric down helps to get the needle through all 7 loops, as does having the loops loose enough, and the needle sharp enough.  Practice at getting the needle in parallel to the full needle also helps.  If it happens, catch the long loop on the next row, twist it, and knit it together with the stitch above the nupp.

5.  Loosing a stitch on the row because you have taken 8 loops into the nupp, not 7.  It is very easy to take the following stitch in with the 7 nupp loops, especially when you have a lot of stitches on the needle.  To stop this happening, pull the stitches left on the full needle back away from the nupp.  Get into the habit of looking at exactly what is happening as you knit the nupp, and be aware of what your pattern should look like.  If it happens, on the next row pick up a loop in the row below and do the required action into the back of it.


as in all pattern work of any kind, fudge is your friend!  It almost certainly will not be noticeable in the final piece….!!

error 1 is where 8 loops were taken not 7, and 1 stitch was made in the purl row; error 2 is where a loop was missed and knitted together with the next stitch; error 3 is where loops were crossed when making the nupp. Note that only error 3 is really noticeable in the final piece.

36 thoughts on “How to Knit Nupps

  1. I think I have met my match in nupps Liz! Thankfully I have never been in love with bobbles or bubbles or nupps! BUT, it IS a great explanation. There is a video (on the Interweave site I think) which shows one being made but you really need your photographs as well for it to make sense.

    1. I must admit to thinking that photos are ultimately more useful than a video, because you can look at them for a long time and see everything happening at that stage. In a video, it all happens in real time, and although it is possible to pause a video, it is difficult to pause it at exactly the right stage.

      The other thing is that in a close up photo the way one uses ones hands is immaterial – in a video that bit is much more obtrusive, even if they are not always in sight.

  2. Thanks for going into nupp-production in such detail – there are even more pitfalls than I had imagined. I’ll return to this post whenever a nuppy project rises to the top of my queue. Really, so many ideas are duking it out to be next in queue that I can’t say when I’ll get to the nupps. . .

  3. Hi Liz,
    I have been taught to knit nupps by an Estonian lady and she “prepares” the nupps on the wrong side row by doing the k, yo, k, yo, k there and doing the knitting together from the right side.
    A good tip for all of us that have problems with missing one of the loops when knitting together.
    Lots of love from a very snowy Sweden// Kerstin

  4. Oh wonderful! Thanks for the permission to fudge – that’s some of the best advice I had on my first ever “real” job. If it looks right, it’s fine, no? Of course all of these errors are fine as long as you notice at the time, my nupp problem is not noticing a dropped loop until many rows & nupps later. I have used more wool to attach them at the end. How would you tame that?

    1. Oh yes – I know that one too!! And I have caught the loop with a length of wool or sewing thread… I have also tugges the nupp well and truly to distribute the yarn between the remaining 6 loops – that works if you notice before you wash…

      I am a great believer in fudge! THE trick is to know when you CAN fudge and when you have to bite the bullet and take back. That doesn’t happen often…


    1. One thing that amuses me is that a bit ago on the various bords there was a lot of ho-ha about nupps NOT being bobbles. And when The Book came out, the English translation used the word bobble for nupp…!! Shows that we must not be too precious about stuff!!


  5. thanks for all the detailed photos… I love knitting nupps, but I work them a little bit differently now. instead of the yarnovers I knit as many stitches as required alternating from the front and the back of the base stitch. and pull the stitches longer to the right needle. for some reason I manage to make those more even than alternating stitches and yarnovers… and if all else fails and I can’t get the needle into the yarn well enough – I take a crochet hook (but only when desperate, because it takes much longer to change needles/hooks all the time!)
    happy knitting and a good new year to come!

    Bettina (from ireland, where we had a dusting of snow again:(()

  6. When doing the second row I find putting the needle through all the stitches as if to purl and pulling them forward gently evens them up and makes for a nicely proportioned nupp.

    1. Yes, I give them a good tug towards the end of the needle, too – it also helps you to make sure you don’t take the 8th loop (the next stich) as well – that is something I have a habit of doing!


  7. That is a wonderfully precise and complete tutorial!
    For the purl-7-together, would it work to slip the first 6 loops onto the
    right needle as to purl, purl the 7th, and pass the 6 slip stitches over?

    1. Yes – that should work, the key being slip as if to purl! I think it is a case of give it a try – I am all for folk finding the easiest way for them that gives them a good-looking result.


  8. Thank you, Liz. This is an incredibly, generous tutorial. I just bought the Nancy Bush’s book on Estonian knitting and my heart sank at all the nupps. My heart is singing again after reading your tutorial.

    Patricia in NEW Jersey on the far side of the pond.

    1. Once you get into the rhythm of them they aren’t difficult, just a bit tricky – how ever many you do, it always takes a bit of time to get the needle into the p7tog – it is one of thoses things where you have to work out the best way for your hands to work!

      And the effect can be lovely…


  9. Thank you, thank you, Liz! I want to make an Estonian shawl “one day” and I’m definitely bookmarking your instructions for the nupps! I’m going to work on a practice piece this week. You are always such a clever teacher and generous with your knowledge. Thanks again!

  10. So nice to know that I’m not the only one tearing my hair out over nupps! I am also glad to hear that fudge is acceptable. I’m always afraid that someone who knows will see some of my lace and have a good laugh!
    Snow in Texas, too, but beginning to thaw out. Thanks for all your info and delightful stories and pics. Glad you are back online.

  11. THanks for all the good detail info on nupps! 🙂
    I took a class 2 years ago at Stitches with Merike Saarniit, and she showed us 4 ways to knit them: in one step or 2, from the right or wrong side. Each method produces a slightly different look, in terms of size, shape and angle.
    From a technical standpoint, I find that doing them in one step, on the right side is the simplest. And the return row/round is them just straight knitting or purling.
    Hoope this is helpful.

  12. Great tutorial, Liz, as usual. You are such a fount of knowledge! I definitely need more practice or I shall spoil my knitting.
    I love fudge, too :0))

  13. My daughter has asked me to knit a prayer shawl (tallit) for my granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah. Good thing I have 6 years to do it). She had selected an Estonian Lace pattern which didn’t seem to be a challenge for me since I am a very experienced knitter. We had selected a wonderful, but very expensive, all silk yarn. I decided to practice with a lace weight less expensive yarn before attempting the final prooduct, but I found that doing the nupps had me exasperated!!! That is, until I read your instructions and the ensuing comments. I will be practicing nupps (even though I had thought that I would give in and do bobbles). Thanks for your help!

  14. Good explanation. It is difficult to say the least. I have used a tiny crochet hook to pull the yarn through with reasonable success.
    Can nupps be done with a circular pattern where you are knitting in the round?

    1. I found that by knitting in front, back, front, back, front, back, front (7 stitches made) instead of the usual knit, KO, etc. I have better success when I go back on the purl side and SLIP 6 stitches to the right hand needle, then PURL the last stitch and PSSO the 6 stitches. Comes out very neatly, but remember to do so loosely. I am working with extremely thin silk lace yarn and this is the only way that it works.

  15. Thank you so much for the tips, especially how to fix those pesky loose loops. I was going to frog my Annis shawl, but maybe I can fix it! I hope so, I have been waiting a long time to knit it.

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