3 and 5 Stitch Popcorns

In my last posting I covered some basic 2-stitch popcorns. However, sometimes, 2-stitches are just not enough to create bigger, more dramatic effects so this time we will take a  look at methods for knitting 3 and 5-stitch popcorns by machine. This video is even longer than the last – nearly 15 minutes – which is about 10 minutes longer than I had intended.Try to stay awake!

The first 3-stitch popcorns are worked exactly like the 2-stitch version we did last time, but I don’t think that this method produces very round popcorns. To my eye, they tend to look a little more like tucks or pleats, which might be fine for your purposes. I mean, nobody else looks at every stitch as closely as you do when you’re knitting it.

The 5-stitch popcorns are much, much bigger than the 2-stitch version.

The next version of 3-stitch popcorns utilizes a method I call “borrowing needles” by removing the stitches onto a stitch holder and then, well, borrowing the needles for a bit. Ultimately, the original stitches are returned to their needles and nobody is any the wiser. Being able to do this borrowing increases the potential for all kinds of methods so I hope you will try it.

The borrowed needles technique is essential for working 5-stitch popcorns, which eventually leads to the method for knitting raised flower petals. All of these methods are shown in More-Hand Manipulated Stitches. The 3-stitch method is on page 39; the 5-stitch popcorns begin on page 77 and the flower petals on page 80.

Flower petals are knitted like the 5-stitch popcorns but there is no lifting involved.
A cluster of flower petals almost looks like a bunch of grapes!

Time marches on and here we are on the cusp on another perfectly good New Year. I hope nobody does anything to screw up that perfection for you and that it is a healthy, happy year full of precious time with family and friends and, of course, your knitting machines.

Popcorns 101

Popcorns: 2-stitch at the bottom and 5-stitch at top.

I’ve had a long “love affair” with popcorns because, for me, that is where the whole concept of bridging began. Once I learned how to make a popcorn with a separate strand of yarn, I was on a quest to eliminate all the ends and strings across the back of the fabric. For the first installment of this popcorn series, I’ve produced a 7+ minute video that shows the basics of knitting popcorns because not everybody is an experienced knitter and the rest of us can always use a review.

We’ll  look at 2-stitch and 3-stitch popcorns and the bridged method for forming each. In the next episodes we’ll explore 3 and 5-stitch versions that require “borrowing needles” to produce perfectly round popcorns/bobbles and then some interesting variations that grew out of these methods.

For 2-stitch popcorns, which are the fastest and simplest to produce, I find that 5 rows produces the roundest shape. More than 5 rows tends to produce little tabs or loops – not popcorns. Keep in mind that when bridging, the first row of each popcorn is worked as part of the bridging from one popcorn to the next. In fact, the 5th and last row of one popcorn knits across the bridge to the next popcorn and knits the first row of that one. There will be no ends to deal with later on and no extra finishing.

All of the popcorn methods require you to provide tension on the stitches that are in working position because, as the rows build up, the stitches are apt to lift off the needles and drop. You can provide enough tension by pinching the base of the stitches with your fingers, poking a transfer tool through the fabric or hanging a narrow weight. I find that when I rely on finger tensioning, I am most prone to dropping the stitches off the needles as I work so I usually rely on a transfer tool or one of the modified weights I showed in the blog post, “Up-Cycled Claw Weights”, November 13,2017.

Popcorns worked with 40 rows create knitted-on ties.

In the example at left, two adjacent popcorns were knitted for 40 rows, creating large loops that make perfect knitted-on ties for a jacket or trim for a garment. There is a jacket pattern in More Hand-Manipulated Stitches that features these ties.

Machine knit popcorns sit on the surface of the fabric and when you tug the finished fabric lengthwise to align the stitches, it doesn’t affect the popcorns at all. You’ll need to use a tool or your fingers to tug each one into shape and, once done, they will retain their shape going forward.

Loopity Lou Hat Detail

I stumbled upon the 2-tool method that I show in the video for lifting the popcorns after years of poking around trying to find the first row of stitches. Popcorns fall into the category of Lifted Stitches and appear on pages 134-140 of Hand-Manipulated Stitches for Machine Knitters and also on pages 37-39 of More HMS. The pattern for the Loopity Lou Hat pictured in the detail photo at left is available as a free download on my web site and also appeared in More HMS.