Knitters do have opinions about bobbles! And non-knitters, tooâ€”Melissa calls them buboes.
I actually like how they look, but approach them with some caution because they
a) can eat up a lot of yarn,
b) don’t always make for comfortable garments, depending upon their placement,
c) tend to look lumpy if you don’t get the shape exactly right.
Well, I don’t have any answers for a and b, but Janet Szabo’s Aran Sweater Design has a solution for c: work the decreases symmetrically. Most bobble instructions tell you to work 3-5 stitches into one, then finish off by passing stitches 1-4 over stitch 5, which results in a listing bobble. Instead, for a five-stitch bobble, Szabo suggests working K2 tog, K1, SSK on the next-to-last set of bobble stitches, then working Sl1, K2tog, PSSO on the final set of bobble stitches. Voilaâ€”a nice, round bobble.
I just discovered this book at the local library, while browsing the knitting shelves. For now, I’ve checked it out, but I will most certainly be buying my own copy for my personal knitting reference library. This is not a pattern book, though it does include half a dozen garment patterns in a final section. Instead, it is a theory-and-practice-of-Aran-knitting guide that is both clear and thorough. Szabo (also the author of Cables: The Basics and editor/publisher of Twists and Turns) introduces knitters to different manners of constructing aran sweaters (saddle shoulders, vs. set-in sleeves, for example), explains the “design blocks” aran knitters have to play with (front panel, sleeves, button bands, etc.), discusses the effects created by pairing particular kinds of cables and varying the distance between them, and offers a myriad of specific, helpful suggestions (like the tip for producing symmetrical bobbles).
With the help of this book I expect I’ll soon be dreaming up Aran hats and scarves. And, who knows? A few years down the line with some coaching from Janet Szabo, I may be working my own custom Aran sweater.