The Beads

Beads can be glamorous or primitive, giirzy or rustic, delicate or bold. They come in a wide selection of tnarerials whose properties differ. Wood beads are usually matte and lightweight (though they are often coated with a shiny varnish); they're durable, delicate, or in-between. Plastic is usually shiny, lightweight, and versatile, with finishes that resemble metal or glass or other natural materials. Metal is typically shiny and heavy and quite durable. Glass is often shiny, heavy, and delicate. 1 hen there are the miscellaneous types of beads: shell, clay, semiprecious stones, porcelain, synthetics (like Pimo clay), bone, and more.

Various bead types

Various yarn types

The materials normally define the look you re trying to achieve. Wood and bone tend to be rustic. Class and some metals are generally dressier.

For knitting or crocheting with beads, the hole must be big enough to accommodate die yarn. Actually, the hole must accommodate two strands of yarn, at least in the stringing process (see illustration at left). The bead itself should be large enough to stand out and not get imbedded or buried and lost in the stitches. However, too heavy or too large a bead distorts and/or pulls the knitted or crocheted fabric. The garment gets weighty and/or bulky.

Ideally, yarn matches bead in three respects:

• Size

  • Wash ab i 1 i ty/wea ra bil i ty
  • Mood or feel

Remember—plastics can melt, metals can tarnish, shells can chip, yarns can stretch, fibers can fray. When in doubt, rest the swatch our!


Fo prestring beads, I especially like the Big "Eye" beading needle, one formed by two lengths of thin, flexible wire joined at both ends. Using the thumbnail, separate the center to open up the needle (much like a archers bow). Insert yarn to thread.

Ingenious, yes? Don't lose this needle (you can keep bit of yarn in the eye for easy identification). 1 usually bring my intended project yarn threaded on the needle to a bead store lo make sure the yarn can fit through the bead holes. Conversely, 1 bring beads and the needle into a yarn shop to find a yarn that will go through the bead hole. Place beads in a shallow dish or small bowl to prevent loss and restrict rolling.

Of course, there are also thin beading needles available, very much like regular sewing needles, but much finer and usually longer. In a pinch, you can fashion a makeshift beading needle Irom piano wire or nylon floss folded in half. Place the yarn at the looped center, then place both open ends through the beads. Dental floss threaders are also perfect for threading beads and their ends are already fused together.

Some beads come on strands. Tie a simple knot of the thread the beads are on around the yarn for stringing, then slide the beads over.

Because beads may be pushed along the strand of yarn as you work until you need them, the yarn should be sturdy enough for this sort of abrasion, which will depend on the number of beads. I he yarn should also be smooth. There are ways around these strictures, however, as proven by rhe cashmere Vargas Girl Pullover and Afro-centric Vest with Wooden Beads. The other exceptions are those methods that do not require presrringing beads on yarn.

When you're working with prestrung beads, shove them down die yarn in small batches, as many as it takes to move down easily. You will need to reel off so me slack in your yarn for actual knitting or crocheting, bur leave a few beads behind every few inches or so. That wav. they are readily available when needed. I have 'V? A"

been known to leave a trail of yarn around mv living-room floor to knit or crochet

with. To prevent tangling, do nor overlap reelings. I do a series of U-turns away from me. Of course, it helps if you have floor space that doesn't get a lot of foot traffic. I've actually entertained the idea of hanging the beaded skein our of mv fifth-floor apartment window and letting it dangle!

About two-thirds to three-quarters of the beads required may be strung first, with rhe remaining one-third to one-quarter added from the end of the skein instead. This method is for single-color and/or types of beads that do not require any particular order in rhe stringing.

/railing yarns

l eft: Front of bead knitted argyle swau h

Right: Bitch of bend knitted argyle swatch

Bead Knitting vs Beaded Knitting l eft: Front of bead knitted argyle swau h

Right: Bitch of bend knitted argyle swatch

As I outline in rhe introduction, there i* a distinction between rhe terms "Bead Knitting' and "Beaded Knitting."

Bead Knitting refers ro a fabric primarily made up of beads. No yarn is visible, except on rhe back oi ihe fabric.

View the front oi the argyle swatch on page 8. Notice how very little of the yellow thread is seen. A bead is knitted through each and every stitch. It is nor unril you view die back of this swatch that you see how rhe yellow, knitted backing keeps each bead suspended on the fabric.

Beaded Knitting refers to any other type of knitting where beads are employed ro embellish rhe fabric. What is seen here is primarily the knitted fabric, with beads scattered on top. The vast majority of knitting which employs beads will be of the Beaded Knitting variety. Bead Knitting is a rather specialized technique that requires tremendous skill, patience, and fortitude. Thus, most of this book is devoted to Beaded Knitting, with Bead Knitting covered only in Chapter 5.

While Bead Knitting most resembles rhe type ol fabric made in loom beading, or even a peyote fabric, there are great differences. In loom beading, to create multicolored patterns, one threads up rhe beads in an exacr order with every pass of the weft or with every horizontal row. In peyote stitch, the beads are offset and horizontal. In Bead Knitting, the order of the beads must be predetermined far in advance for a long stretch ol knitting.

Also, in needle-beading, the beads lie on a horizontal thread. In Bead Knitting, the thread that holds the bead gets knitted. The bead therefore follows the looped and convoluted path of the thread and ends up sitting at an angle, very much like the earth on its axis. In turn, this angle makes the final fabric bias, l lius asymmetrically shaped beads with a clear direction, such as a heart (see left), dont do well in Bead Knitting.

Since Bead Knitting was at its height during the Victorian era, ir was used primarily ro simulate needlepoint. Unfortunately, ¡list as in needlepoint, rhe piece torques, both in pattern and overall shape.

For further discussion and investigation of knitting and crocheting using beads, please refer to rhe specific techniques detailed in rhe chapters that follow.

on the purl side

  • ng on the but side
  • n reverse stockinette stitch
  • n reverse stockinette stitch on the purl side
  • ng on the but side

Reverse stockinette stirch (purl on right side, knit on wrong side) presents the most options.

An interesting eilect occurs when the beads are behind the fabric of stockinette stitch and just peek through between the stitches. The use ol larger beads and the vertical stacking help make this effect more dramatic.

A vertical Hue of beading in stockinette stitch

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