I love working with bobbles, puffs, popcorns and clusters. In short, anything that adds texture is right up my street. But over my years as a maker and a designer, I have seen these names used so interchangeably and always wondered if there was a ‘right’ answer. So much so that when I set about writing up a bobble stitch tutorial, I ended up going down a rabbit hole trying to find the definitive difference and writing this post instead! (Don’t worry, I included a link to my bobble stitch tutorial too!)
What all these stitches do have in common (and probably why they are so often confused) is that you are working multiple stitches, or parts of stitches into the same stitch to create a stitch which stands out from the fabric in a rounded shape.
Below you can read my definition of each of these stitch types but I want to say that you are welcome to disagree. There does not seem to be a 100% hard and fast definition, so I have gone with the majority consensus from the other resources I have looked at and what makes most sense to me!
As far as I’m concerned, as long as a designer clearly explains what they mean by a certain special stitch type, they can call it Bernard if it makes them happy! (I mean not really but you get the point right?!)
I have made a swatch for each of the stitches using the same stitch pattern so that you can compare like for like.
Below you can see all four swatches laid out together which gives you a good idea of just how much they differ – from top left to bottom right, you are looking at puff stitch, bobble stitch, cluster stitch and finally popcorn stitch.
I’ve worked the textured stitches against a a background of half double crochet (UK half treble), working them alternative rows either next to each other or with a half double in between. This is so you can see how the stitches work in different combinations.
You’ll also notice how the swatches get a little narrower towards the top. I have left them unblocked because it’s useful to bear in mind this impact on tension when you’re working with textured bobble / puff / cluster / popcorn stitches.
I’ve also included a picture of the back of the swatches so you can see how stitches look on the wrong side!
Below you will see a description of each stitch. For all of the swatches, I have repeated each instruction in [square brackets] 4 times so that you can make a balanced comparison. However, you can repeat the instructions for each stitch more or fewer times depending on the effect you want to achieve – the more repeats, the bigger your stitch!
Okay, now that’s settled, lets get to it!
The Bobble Stitch (bo or bbl)
This is probably the most generic term and often used to describe what I refer to as clusters. Likewise, the bobble stitch I describe below is also often referred to as a puff stitch!
Bobble stitch instructions:
[Yarn over, insert your hook into the stitch, yarn over, pull up a loop] 4 times (9 loops on hook), yarn over and pull through all the loops on your hook. The more repeats, the more pronounced the bobble.
Bobbles tend to be worked on the wrong side row but will still make a nice pattern on the back side
You can view the tutorial for the bobble stitch below:
The Puff Stitch (ps or puff)
The puff stitch is, essentially, the same as the bobble but with a chain 1 added before moving on to the next stitch. This ‘seals’ the stitch and provides a little more movement in the fabric after you draw your yarn through all the loops.
Puff Stitch instructions:
[Yarn over, insert your hook into the stitch, yarn over, pull up loop] 4 times (9 loops on hook), yarn over and pull through all the loops on your hook, chain 1 to complete the stitch.
Puffs can be worked on either side of the fabric (I prefer the right side look but there isn’t a huge amount of difference).
It’s important that when you are working into the top of a row of puff stitches, you work into just the chain 1, not both the chain one and the part of the stitch where you pull through the loops, otherwise you will end up doubling your stitch count!
My favourite way to work puff stitch is on it’s own. It’s quite the yarn eater but makes a fantastic thick but drapey fabric. It’s a bit different from the other stitches this way so I made another swatch to show it off!
Cluster stitches (cl or clst)
These are often referred to as bobbles but are something quite different to those stitches already described. In this example, the cluster is essentially a dc4tog (that’s a US double crochet 4 together) worked into the same stitch.
Clusters can be worked with pretty much any stitch type (single, half double, double treble etc.) and any number of repeats.
Cluster Stitch instructions:
[Yarn over, insert hook, yarn over pull up a loop, yarn over pull through 2 loops] 4 times in the same stitch (5 loops on hook), yarn over, pull through all 5 loops to complete the stitch.
Like most of these textured stitches, clusters should always be worked on the wrong side of your project as they will pop out away from you.
The Popcorn Stitch (po or pop)
Finally, we come to the popcorn stitch, which is little more clearly defined. It’s a bit fiddly but is very effective and once you get into it, it’s a very satisfying stitch to work. It’s probably the stitch that protrudes the most out of all of them and creates a lovely tactile fabric!
Popcorn Stitch instructions:
Work 4 double crochet (UK treble) (or more if you want more pop!) into the same stitch, loosen and remove the loop from your hook, insert the hook from back to front through the top of the first double crochet, catch the loop you just removed from your hook and pull it through the first stitch.
Once again, you can change the type of stitch (e.g. use trebles) and the number of repeats to suit your needs but the technique remains the same.
Popcorn stitches as described above should be worked in the wrong side as the ‘pop’ goes away from you as you work. If you want them to work the other way then insert the hook from front to back (i.e. moving away from you) so that the stitch pops towards you.
I hope you have found this clarification useful. Please feel free to share this post with your friends or on socials. And most importantly, have fun playing with texture!