Knitting with Beads
January 31, 2014
Great beauty comes with great challenge was never more true than working with beads. Knitting with beads is my white whale. I love the outcome but it is not the most enjoyable knitting for me. Others love it but not me. However, the finished product does make it worth it and I do love beaded knits. Oh do I! Many of my friends and family do as well so I grin and bear it but it is tricky work. Beads are slippery, elusive and seem to have a mind of their own. They will deceive you into thinking you have them right where you want them only to work a row and find they are somewhere else. Luckily beads are easy manipulated. Beads are so beautiful that any amount of funny business is worth it.
Preparing to knit with beads is not difficult. When pressed I would say that no part of knitting with beads is difficult just tricky. To knit with beads you must first string your beads. You can knit with just about any size bead as long as you find a yarn that will fit inside the bead. I find that lace/fingering weight yarn works the best. This doesn't restrict you to only fingering weight patterns. You can pair your beaded fingering yarn with any other weight of yarn, just knit with both yarns together. I first paired my lace weight beaded yarn with another skein of the same yarn. Two lace weight strands together was the equivalent of one strand of fingering weight so I worked with a size 4 needle.
However, I didn't like the finished weight so I paired my beaded lace weight yarn with DK weight and that gave me the equivalent of a light worsted weight yarn and I worked it on a size 6 needle.
To string your beads you will need a tapestry needle that will fit inside your beads. I used a size 6/0 seed bead that I purchased online. This is the most popular size (it is about the size of half a grain of rice). My beads were pre-strung which was very helpful. I just threaded my needle with my yarn and strung the beads while they were still on their original string. Once all beads were strung I clipped the original string. I didn't have to deal with beads scattered all over my table and they were all lined up ready to go. Your pattern will tell you how many beads to string. Every once in a while you will come across a bead that won't fit on your needle; just skip it and string the next bead. When you clip your original string all the faulty beads will fall to the table.
Once all your beads are strung lead out a good bit of yarn from the ball and push your beads all the way down. You will have to do this repeatedly as you use of the lead yarn. You will pull up a bead as you need it. Once you get to a beaded stitch, pull up a bead close to the needle and work it into the stitch you are knitting. It should sit in the middle of the loop you created. If it doesn't you can manipulate it on the next row. Sometimes a bead will pop over to the back side. Just push it through later on; it is not a big deal and easily fixed.
Beads can be added to any pattern to add sparkle to any detail you like. Add them to your collar, the tops of pockets, sleeve cuffs, blanket edgings, hat brims or shawls. I recommend if you are starting out to pair your yarn with a DK or bigger weight yarn so you can easily see your loops, bead placement and to get a feel working with beads. You will love the result whether or not you enjoy the process.
Check out Ravelry for great beaded patterns in all sizes.
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