And The Bead Goes On …
by Maddy Cranley
Memories of the Sixties - love beads, hippie beads, beads on a string around necks and wrists, homemade, handmade, swinging with long hair and flowered skirts. Beads were such a strong element of that fashion era. The subject of beads is a vast one and the hippie incarnation was just a small part of their history. It is thought that our early ancestors were stringing sea shells as early as 30,000 years ago. Likely the first beads were made from seeds but as they developed as a significant trading item, the materials and methods of making beads have resulted in an infinite variety of form. Along with stone, metals, glass, plastics and resin combined with an unlimited variety of design, the bead is in very little danger of becoming boring.
Even with the vast choice of beads available there are a few cautions when it come to using beads in your knitting. Along with beads, anything that can have a hole drilled in it or has a shank attached can be successfully worked into your garment. This would include items such as buttons, small charms, mirrors or even coins. The first consideration is weight. Adding bead ornamentation to your knitted garment will add extra weight whether attached with an embroidery method or knitting in the bead. The trick is to find the beads in the right weight and quantity without causing your garment to sag. So decisions must be made as to what size of bead to use, how many and is it suitable to the yarn weight. Size of bead hole must be considered as a larger opening will cause the bead to hang loosely with a dangling effect unless this is intended. Secondly, before you begin, it is always best to test your bead choice through whatever cleaning process the finished garment will have to undergo. Join a few of the chosen beads to a knitted swatch and wash or dry clean. Check the sample carefully for dye leakage or staining on your ground fabric.
Beads or decorative objects should be threaded onto the yarn before you begin knitting. If you are working from a chart which will require specific placement and a certain color order, remember that first is last. The first bead to be strung onto the yarn is the last bead to be placed in the knitting. Joining a marker on the yarn to indicate row changes is also helpful. It is advisable to practice the threading and knitting in of the bead to know how the bead will “sit” on the knitting. The proper placement can vary with size, shape, the way the bead is threaded and direction of the bead hole. Beads can be knit on a variety of stitches but to start, practice on knit stitches as follows: Knit to where you wish to place the bead, bring yarn and the bead to front of work, sl the next stitch purlwise, take yarn to back of work, leaving the bead at front, knit the next stitch.
If this experiment gets you hooked on beads, there a couple of great books which outline the fascinating history of beads as well tempting projects. “The Beading Book” by Julia Jones (A & C Black) devotes a section to knitting and crocheting with beads including instructions for a diamond brocade that is an all-over geometric pattern in which beads can be arranged in lines, squares, diamond trellises or chevrons. “The Book of Beads” by Janet Coles and Robert Budwig (Simon and Schuster) will give you wonderful and colorful lessons in the history and classification of beads.
Maddy Cranley is a professional knitwear designer, who has created exclusive designs for knitting and craft magazines, authored and published three books on the subject of creating felt garments and projects from handknitting, and produces an ever-growing line of maddy laine handknitting patterns.
For additional information, see http://www.maddycraft.com