The Nupps and Bolts of Estonian Lace

By Sarah Johnson

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In many ways, Estonian lace looks like most lace. It's often worked with a knit row where all the pattern work happens followed by a purl row, similar to other lace.

The central unique feature of Estonian lace is the nupp stitch. On this stitch, you knit one, but don't slip that stitch you just worked into, off the left-hand needle. Instead, you do a yarn-over, knit 1 (yo, k1). And if you want your nupp to be bigger, you do that same thing again. And yet again. All while that original first stitch you worked into, is still on the left-hand needle, and still the stitch you're knitting into. Then on the purl row, you work all of those stitches and yarn-overs together, as one big happy stitch.


The first stitch of the nupp. Note how the worked stitch on the left needle was not dropped off that needle.

lace yarn-over

Then the yarn-over. Followed by as many repeats as you want.

Keep in mind that the nupp will always involve an odd number of stitches. I was trying a couple of different tricks to get all of those stitches onto the needle fully to work as one, like slipping them one-by-one onto the right needle, like on a ssk. Or entering the stitch on the back loop and then sliding the needle up and over the left needle.

lace stitches

The three stitches of the nupp on the next row, that will all be purled together.

Estonian lace loves to play with this kind of transition from one (or two or three) stitch to many and then back to one (or two or three). The idea is to create not just a pretty lace pattern, but one with textural interest and volume. Nupps can be worked into any lace pattern, to add to a floral design or just a geometric lace pattern. These little clumps of yarn are ideally suited for the signature Estonian lace pattern, the Lily of the Valley.

There is one book that is regarded as the Bible of Estonian lace, Pitsilised Koekirjad by Leili Riemann. Sadly, there are two flaws with this book. One, it's out of print and so hard to find. And two, it's written in Estonian, which makes reading it a bit tricky for those of us not familiar with the Baltic languages. Most Estonian lace patterns are chart-based, so the lack of readability isn't a fatal flaw, but reading the symbol key is where people have had trouble. Proper Estonian lace patterns can be hard to find, but that shouldn't stop you from trying to work nupps in on other lace patterns.

Let's explore some patterns you can create with Estonian lace:

lace scarf

Quatrefoil Lace Scarf

Enjoy a lace journey: bring this intricate lace scarf to life. With its simple rectangular shape, this beautiful piece allows for the showcasing of an Estonian lace inspired pattern featuring flowers and nupps.

lace scarf pattern

Dragonfly Dreams Beaded Lace Scarf Pattern

This lovely scarf symbolizes the illusion of light, thoughts and dreams. Its unique combination of lace, beads and Estonian gathered stitches create a stunning result.

nupps shawl pattern

Nupps Shawl Pattern

Worked from the center out, this shawl is in the style of the Estonian lace knitting, featuring nupps on the outer edges.

Will you be giving Estonian lace a try?

Why not explore lace further? Learn how to knit nupps with confidence in Lace from the Inside Out with Laura Nelkin. You might also enjoy Heirloom Lace Edgings with Franklin Habit.

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