Bobbles: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

This morning as I worked, I was listening to the Never Not Knitting podcast. She brought up the topic of bobbles and how polarizing they are among knitters. Knitters seem to either love them (squee, they’re so cute) or consider them abominations that should not be allowed to exist, let alone take up precious fiber. Very little room for compromise.

I find that people’s reactions to bobbles are so strong because they’re tied to something primal in our guts. It’s a truly visceral reaction. I don’t know why it is, but I know I share it.

Bobbles and the Squick Reaction

Vogue Knitting seems to have a fascination with bobbles. I see more bobbles per issue in Vogue Knitting than in any other publication. And I have to give them credit, when they do a bobble they do it well. And I want so badly to love it. I mean, look at this stylish creation. It looks elegant enough for Grace Kelly. Or one of the lady-Trumps.

Empire Peplum Cardi by Cathy Carron as seen on Ravelry.

But then my eyes focus in on the bobbles. And I can’t look away. And I start to feel a trifle nauseated.Β 

It’s totally unreasonable.

I wonder what my brain is doing. What does it associate with bobbles that causes this reaction? Do they look like:

  • Lumps in my food?
  • Insects?
  • Chicken pox?
  • Pustules?
  • Nipples?

I know this last one is associated with a recurring worry of mine: that I will knit a sweater with bobbles and somehow two of the bobbles will happen to fall in two very wrong places. (Never Not Knitting mentioned this too.)

When Bobbles are OK

I don’t hate bobbles. In fact, in the right context, I love them.

I’ve knitted one adorable project where the bobbles were both integral to the design and extremely useful in terms of its functionality:

Knitted Bobbles the Sheep Cloth by Rhonda White as seen on Ravelry.

I’ve knitted this pattern several times and it’s just so cute! And the bobbles actually make this object a better dishcloth with all the little extra scrubbies. Scrubbing bobbles.

I would like to submit that dishcloths, as a category, should be exempted from the bobbles-are-abominations rule.

In addition, I find I don’t mind bobbles when they are used as little accents in trim, like this:

Bobble Gloves by Wendy D. Johnson as seen on Ravelry

That looks elegant to me, and not all like the pox. It looks like round, decorative beads more than anything else.

Help me make sense of this. I don’t want to have unreasonable aversions to certain knitting techniques. It’s so silly.

In addition, if I ever want to knit Estonian Lace I’m going to have to get over it. Bobbles are a lot like nupps. (Lalalalalalalalala, not thinking about that, Lallalalalalaala).

Lily of the valley pattern, as seen on the Keep on Knitting blog.


  1. Pustules! Yes! πŸ™‚

    I am also a bit turned off by bobbles. However, nupps are elegant and beautiful.

    You don’t have to love all knitting, you know? I don’t particularly like the look of entrelac. Some people hate the pooling of variegated yarns and some people plan pooling as a design element. Knitting is a big enough tent for everyone.

    But I’m with you on the bobbles. πŸ˜‰

  2. How do you feel about ruffles? I feel the same about ruffles and bobbles, and I agree with you on the bobbles. For me I think it’s something about adding bulk to the garment, and therefore the person, in weird places and creating weird outlines. And it just seems stupid to me, why do you need all these extra little things hanging off the clothing with no purpose whatsoever? Stuff like lace and cables are an intrinsic part of the garment and make up the structure, but bobbles are an extra thing that doesn’t need to be there, and just looks silly! But the sheep is adorable! πŸ™‚

    • I like ruffles. But not all ruffles.I like mild, decorous ruffles. I dislike bunched, froufrou ruffles. I like elegant but not frilly. Something that lends shape and movement to a garment, but not something that just sits there.

  3. Ha! Exactly! Bobbles look like nipples and moles in my opinion. I agree with you! Especially the worry that two misplaced bobbles will appear in the wrong place… but when in places like you’ve mentioned, they look great! On nupps – the good thing is that they don’t pop out of the fabric like bobbles do. They lie into the garment and there is no fear of them looking like “something else”. πŸ™‚

  4. Haha, pustules!
    I’m not a fan of bobbles myself, but the Sheep Cloth is adorable! And it’s a great idea to use the dreaded bobble as functional decoration – I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t imagining a whole farmyard set =)

  5. Interesting, I thought it was just me turned off by bobbles….but no. I’ve also noticed how often they bob up in Vogue. Nups are still on my “to try” list.

  6. I have no huge aversions as far as knitting goes, except for novelty yarns. They’re such a pain in the arse to work with! But I get very weird about crochet. Everyone is different, and you’re allowed to unreasonably hate things if they don’t fit your style πŸ˜›

  7. I don’t dislike bobbles on principle, but, they have to be just right. I made a sweater last winter – from Vogue, now that you mention it! – that had wonderful cables and textures and rows of bobbles and I had to rip it right out because a whole row of giant bobbles marched across my chest. I plan to reknit the pattern with different cable sections in place of bobbles. So, maybe I don;t like bobbles… but on some things, they are so cute. πŸ™‚

  8. For me, the nupps are much easier than bobblesβ€”never had much luck with bobbles… grrr! That adorable sheep cloth makes me want to give it another try, though πŸ™‚ But what I’d really like to know is how to make that frilly loop edging, as seen on the lily of the valley cloth ❀

  9. I am wondering if your aversion to bobbles is a variation of trypophobia? It appears to be a fear of holes or repetitive pattern like the dimples on strawberries,clusters of bubbles, honeycombs. Google it, it’s very interesting!

    • That’s a very interesting notion. I just spent a few minutes trying to think of other items with holes. English muffins and crumpets are tasty, but I do try not to think about the holes.

  10. Q – LOL! I should remember the name of the Brit TV program the Hubs and I just watched where the bobbles were over her boobs. We cracked up! I would have laughed even harder if I’d read this blog first!

    I do want to do that sheep cloth, it’s darling.

  11. Bobbles and nupps are not the same thing. I love nupps and hate bobbles. I think it’s the turning I hate about the bobbles. No turning with nupps. I made a bridal veil in lily of the valley Estonian lace for my nephew’s bride. 4 feet wide by 12 feet long. Thousands of nupps. But no bobbles.

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