How to Knit Bobbles on the Shiba Sakura Cowl
Knits and purls add texture to any design, but a bobble adds dimension to that texture as it seemingly pops off the fabric! Bobbles can steal the show wherever they appear; in the Shiba Sakura Cowl, in Manos del Uruguay Franca, they play up the drama and take the spotlight!
Bobble Back-Story: A Peek at the Design Process
Designer Lisa R. Myers tested 13 different bobbles in the process of creating the cowl. The yarn is so big, every detail shows, so you need the best possible bobble. The general method for bobbles is always the same: increase into a stitch, then turn the work around and work one or more rows on these new stitches, then decrease them back to one again. But there are a lot of variables; swatching was a must in this design!
The first bobble on the right was formed by working (k1, yo, k1, yo, k1) all into the same stitch. It leaves a visible hole at the bottom (the view above is from below, at the cast-on edge). The middle bobble started with (k1, p1, k1, p1) all into the same stitch, thinking that working into the stitch more times would fill it up better. Surprise: it left an even bigger hole. Bobble 3, left, used a gradual increase and ended up looking disorganized.
All three of these were worked in stockinette, and over the same number of rows: increase; turn, p5; turn, k5; turn, p5; turn, and decrease back to one stitch. The placement of the decrease in each bobble was slightly different. Here’s a view from above to help us evaluate: B1 (which is now on your left) is nicely closed, as is B2, but they’re pretty asymmetrical. B3 (now on your right) still looks quite messy.
For B4-6, a simpler set of increases was used. B4 and B5 are still stockinette, but they have 2-row decrease. B5’s decreases involve intentional left and right leaning decreases. B4 is distinctly teardrop-shaped, while B5 is almost triangular. Meanwhile, B6 is worked in garter stitch and the result is oddly barrel-shaped, like a squat cylinder.
And one more trick about the end of B4-6: on the following row, work the bobble stitch through the back of the loop. Most patterns will tell you to do this; it tightens things down and helps keep the bobble in place.
Test bobbles 7 through 9 have the same increase while experimenting with slipping the edge stitches. In theory, this tightens the first and last column of stitches, encouraging the center to be puffier and rounder. Bobble 7 (on the right) is the design that made it into the final cowl!
Let’s Make Bobbles
What skills and extra tools do you need to create these unique stitches? The short answer is: none! No extra notions are needed and you should feel comfortable with slipping stitches, making yarn overs, and passing a stitch over another. They are not difficult and, in this pattern, do not require more than five stitches at a time.
Begin the Bobble Base
First, you’ll be making the extra stitches to compose the bobble. When you come to the spot to create the bobble, you will (k1, yo, k1, yo, k1) all in the same stitch. Tip: Make sure you are working on the needle shaft, not the tapered point so that the stitches are large enough to work on the following rows.
Building the Bobble
Next, you’ll work a total of three rows using just those 5 stitches of the bobble.
You will purl a row.
Turn and slip one, then knit four.
Turn, slip one stitch and then purl four.
Finishing and Shaping the Bobble
Here, with decreases, slipped stitches, and stitches that are passed over another, you’ll give the bobble a rounded shape.
Slip two stitches as if to knit, knit two together:
Pass one slipped stitch over:
Slip the first stitch to the other needle:
Pass the second stitch on the left-hand needle over the first. Return that stitch to the right-hand needle:
Pass the second stitch over the first:
The bobble is complete! If your finished bobble seems to bubble inwards, towards the backside of your knitting, simply use your finger to nudge the stitches to puff forward.
Quick and fuss-free, the Shiba Sakura Cowl instructs you to make bobbles on four rows. This is a great pattern to use as a last-minute gift or to whip up in between other projects. To preserve the depth and texture that are the defining feature of this cowl, wet blocking is not recommended. Instead, a quick spray or steam-block would be sufficient.