Bubble Wrap Stitch

A few years ago I saw a photo of this stitch on Pinterest and got intrigued by the incredible texture. The photo showed a blanket that was clearly machine knit, and of course, there were no knitting instructions or even hints provided. 

In most cases, machine knit stitches can be recreated in hand knitting, so I’ve got to swatching testing different ways that I hoped would create the texture of this stitch. 

None of those ways was good enough, and after a few hours of swatching, I reluctantly abandoned the idea to recreate this stitch 🙁

My luck changed quite recently when I spotted a different photo of this same stitch on Pinterest (now you know where I spend hours of my time :-)), but this time there were some knitting instructions in that pin. 

It turned out that the instructions were in Turkish, and with the help of Google Translate I tried to figure out what they were. If you ever tried to translate knitting instructions in Google (no offense to Google Translate, it’s a great tool in most cases), you know how funny and gibberish-y the translation can be. 

So I didn’t get the exact instructions, but I did get the general idea of how to make this texture, something I could build upon, something to test and adjust. 

And now, with many thanks to an unknown to me Turkish knitter (the link to that pin was broken and didn’t lead anywhere), I am happy to share with you a very interesting stitch with an amazing 3D texture that looks very much like bubble wrap.

This stitch is fully reversible and highly textured. You can tell from the photo below that it truly has three dimensions. That makes it perfect for cosy blankets, scarves and cowls.

For best results, use smaller needles. To make the swatches shown in these photos I used DK yarn and 4mm (US6) needles. The look of the fabric would have probably been even better if I used 3.75mm (US5) or even 3.5mm (US4) needles. But I was too happy to eventually get the texture I was looking for, so I decided to keep the swatches as they are.

Now that we have the supplies sorted out, let’s get to knitting

If you prefer video instructions, click this link to get to the video tutorial.

Cast on a multiple of 10 stitches + 2 extra stitches. We’ll place one of these additional stitches on each side of the work and will treat them as a part of the pattern. These stitches help keep the “bubbles” at the sides from stretching too much.

If you want to make nice-looking side edges, add 2 more stitches for selvedges.

I’ll make the swatch with just one pattern repeat and no selvedges. So I’ll cast on 10+2=12 stitches.

First, we’ll make two set up rows that are necessary for keeping the “bubbles” at the bottom of the swatch from falling apart.

Set up row 1 (right side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 5], knit 1
Set up row 2 (wrong side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 5], knit 1

These two rows are identical, but I wrote them out separately to avoid confusion. 

As to the right and wrong sides, this stitch looks exactly the same on both sides. But it helps to keep track of the of the rows as we work on the project. The right side rows are odd numbered, and the wrong side rows are even numbered. 

To make sure we can tell them apart, I suggest we attach a marker at the beginning of a right side row.

Now we can get to making “bubbles”.

Row 1 (right side): purl 1, [ {knit 1, yarn over} work 5 times, purl 5 ], knit 1
Row 2 (wrong side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 10], knit 1 = 5 additional stitches per each repeat.

For the next five rows, we’ll be knitting the knit stitches and purling the purl stitches. Here’s how it happens row by row:

Row 3 (right side): purl 1, [knit 10, purl 5], knit 1
Row 4 (wrong side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 10], knit 1
Row 5 (right side): purl 1, [knit 10, purl 5], knit 1
Row 6 (wrong side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 10], knit 1
Row 7 (right side): purl 1, [knit 10, purl 5], knit 1

Now we come to a row where we’ll drop the extra stitches. If at some point you lost count of the rows, here’s a way to recognise that it’s time to get rid of extra stitches and finish off the bubble:

a) You are about to start a wrong side row (the stitch marker is on the other side of the work).

b) When you look at the reverse stockinette side of the “bubble”, there are 6 ridges above each yarn over.

Just a precaution – before dropping a stitch, trace it down to make sure it leads to a yarn over. We don’t want to drop a live stitch that starts at the cast on edge!

Row 8 (wrong side): purl 1, [ knit 5, {drop 1, purl 1} work 5 times ], knit 1

Now the fun part – pull the fabric to unravel the dropped stitches all the way down to yarn overs.

The first set of bubbles is finished. Well, in my tiny swatch it’s just one “bubble”, but if you make a swatch with several pattern repeats, you’ll get one “bubble” per each repeat.

In the next row, we’ll set the scene for the next set of “bubbles”. This time they will appear in the purl section of the repeat.

Row 9 (right side): purl 1, [ knit 5, {purl 1, yarn over} work 5 times ], knit 1
Row 10 (wrong side): purl 1, [knit 10, purl 5], knit 1

Now it’s time for the mindless 5 rows – simply knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches.

Row 11 (right side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 10], knit 1
Row 12 (wrong side): purl 1, [knit 10, purl 5], knit 1
Row 13 (right side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 10], knit 1
Row 14 (wrong side): purl 1, [knit 10, purl 5], knit 1
Row 15 (right side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 10], knit 1

Just like we did in row 8, we will drop the additional stitches and finish off the “bubbles” in row 16. It is also a wrong side row, and by this time there should be 6 ridges of reverse stockinette above the yarn overs.

Row 16 (wrong side): purl 1, [ {drop 1, knit 1} work 5 times, purl 5 ], knit 1

Unravel the dropped stitches and enjoy the look of the second set of “bubbles” you created 🙂

Repeat these 16 rows until you make as many “bubbles” as you need.

When you are ready to bind off stitches or to change the stitch pattern, make two extra rows to keep the last “bubbles” from stretching too much.

Finishing row 1 (right side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 5], knit 1
Finishing row 2 (wrong side): purl 1, [knit 5, purl 5], knit 1

As you’ve probably guessed, these rows are exactly the same as the setup rows.

The most exciting thing about this stitch is that in a sense it is a technique that can be applied to a different number of stitches. That will result in texture with bigger or smaller “bubbles” depending on the number of stitches we use.

The rule of thumb is:

The number of stitches in each “bubble” equals the number of “mindless rows” (like rows 3-7 and 11-15 in the swatch we’ve just made).

Here’s a photo of two swatches. The one on the right is knit with a 6 stitch pattern repeat. Each “bubble” is 3 stitches wide and is made over 6 rows (3 of them are the rows of “mindless knitting”).

Experiment with this stitch and let me know about your experience 🙂

If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:

“Neat Side Edges” Book

Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.

Happy knitting!

Maryna Shevchenko - www.10rowsaday.com

Bubble Wrap Stitch - step by step photo tutorial | 10 rows a day
Bubble Wrap Stitch - step by step photo tutorial | 10 rows a day
Bubble Wrap Stitch - step by step photo tutorial | 10 rows a day