tips tricks and techniques
beaded knittingWhen someone refers to bead knitting or a bead-knitted item they are referring to methods by which you can knit with beads. There are two traditional methods known, historically and technically, as Beaded Knitting and Bead Knitting. While the names are almost identical, the methodology and procedures used to create the beaded item are considerably different. Both forms of knitting with beads were popular throughout the 18th and the first part of the 19th century. The work had universal appeal. Items such as bags, scarves, dresses, mittens and lace were all decorated using both methods. Knitting with beads has become popular again, especially when paired with luxury fibers such as qiviut, bison and cashmere.

Bead Knitting: This method differs considerably from the Beaded Knitting method both in appearance and preparation. The beads are actually on the stitches. The end result is akin to a piece or sheet of beaded fabric. The “feel” of an accessory created using this method is considerably “stiffer” than the other method, creating a solid fabric of beads (and the yarn used is incidental to the final product). To work this method you would decide either a left or right “leg” orientation for the beads:
• for a left-leg, you slip the bead right close to the yarn as you wrap normally to knit a stitch; then as you pull the working yarn thru the st, you will make sure the bead comes thru the loop also. on the return row, you would push the bead to RS of the work and purl
• for a right-leg, you slip the bead right close to the yarn as you wrap CLOCKWISE (oppos of usual) and continue as for the left-leg bead.

Beaded Knitting: In this method the beads are knitted in on certain rows at regular or irregular intervals. The beads are between the stitches, and not on the stitches. In this method the yarn shows as part of the finished product. This method produces an item which has a fluid, almost sensual feel to it. This is the simpler method of the two traditional ways.

Other methods have been “unvented” over the past 10-20 years – carry-along bead-knitting (where you have the beads strung on another piece of yarn/cord that you knit with the yarn), placing as you go bead-knitting (using either a crochet hook or dental-floss threader), and slip-stitch bead knitting (which is the one we’ll use for our project today). You can also add beads by stitching them on after the item is blocked and ready.

Beads for Knitting:
Beads come in different sizes that will fit on different weight yarns. Seed beads, which are the most commonly used beads for knitting, are measured in numbers like 5, 6, 8, or 10. Size 8 (indicated like this: 8/0 or 8°) will fit easily on fingering-weight or sock yarn; Size 6 beads have the perfect opening for DK or thin-worsted-weight yarn; while size 5, which is often hard to find, is perfect for worsted weight. The higher the number, the smaller the bead:
bead sizes
Always buy more beads than you think you will need. Seed beads, at least the commonly found ones from Czechoslovakia, contain some irregularities and you can expect a few duds in every package. If you can find seed beads from Japan, they will be near perfect, but usually more expensive as well. I’ve had extremely good luck with the variety and quality of the beads at Earthfaire. Ellen Sandin, owner, is constantly adding new items to her catalog so this is a great place to start with beads; there is the added benefit that she is a knitter and understands knitting with beads. She sells most of her 8/0 beads in 35g containers – about 1400 beads – that average about $5.50 per tube. Another great online resource is Fire Mountain Gems. So get your beads wherever you can — but before you plan on using them for a knitting project, string a few onto your yarn to make sure the hole is the right size and that the hole is smooth, with nothing to snag the yarn as you work or ruin the finished item!

Getting the Beads from the Box to the Garment: There are two main methods, with lots of variations for each one. Basically, beads are either strung onto your yarn before you start knitting or hooked onto stitches with a crochet hook as you go.

Pre-string beads (slipping beads onto the yarn):
The most common way to knit beads into fabric is to start by stringing them onto your yarn and slipping them into place as you knit. You can use either “bead-needles” or dental floss threaders for stringing. Using a bead-needle with sewing thread looped thru, slide the beads onto the thread and then slide down onto the yarn (slipped thru the thread loop). Using the floss-threader, pass the knitting yarn through a loop made at one end of the floss and pick up beads with the working end of the “needle”. Then slide the beads over the loop and onto the yarn.
Once you have the beads on the yarn:
1) On the right side of the work, knit to the stitch where you are going to place the bead.
2) Bring your yarn to the front and slip the next stitch purlwise.
3) Slip a bead as close as possible to the right hand needle.
4) Bring your yarn to the back and continue knitting, leaving the bead in front of the slipped stitch.
Slipped beads can lie in front (or in back) of a slipped stitch, sit between stitches, or be knitted into the legs of the stitches themselves. Your imagination is the only limit with this technique.

Hooking beads as you go:
Hooking beads onto individual stitches “as you go” is an outstanding method for those who hate to take the time and trouble to string loads of beads onto yarn before starting to knit. It is also great for spontaneous or accent beading. Beads are hooked on with a crochet hook small enough to fit through the hole of your beads (size 14 or 15) or a dental-floss threader.
1. Impale the bead onto a crochet hook small enough to fit through the hole of your bead.
2. Insert the hook into the stitch loop where the bead will sit, making sure that the hook is facing you.
3. Pull the loop through the bead.
4. Replace the stitch loop onto the left needle and knit it (or slip if preferred).

OTHER METHODS and IDEAS for ADDING BEADS to YOUR KNITTING
1. String beads on and slide one between every two or three cast on stitches so that the beads will sit on the CO edge and you’ve got twinkle with little effort
2. Leave increasing (or decreasing) numbers of beads between select stitches across the row, creating swags of beads that can hang off the bottom edge of a piece. Many knitted beaded purses have been made with this technique as well as scarves in lieu of fringe.
3. Hook beads onto picot edges for a really easy and attention-getting finish for scarves and shawls.
4. Sew beads onto your finished knitted items to highlight a motif or make a picture.
5. Attach beaded fringe or tassels.

The best books for further study of bead knitting

• Davis, Jane – Knitting with Beads: 30 Beautiful Sweaters, Scarves, Hats and Gloves
• Durant, Judith – Knit One, Bead Too: Essential Techniques for Knitting with Beads
• Hershberg, Betsy – Betsy Beads: Confessions of a left-brained knitter
• Taylor, Scarlet – Knit With Beads: Stunning Shawls and Wraps
• Thomas, Mary – Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book

Warning: bead knitting can get a bit addictive … but that’s ok because there is always more yarn and more beads! Enjoy …sig block

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