Techniques: Beads and knitting
I still haven’t gotten good pictures of the finished Haruni Shawl, but in the meantime, let’s talk beads and knitting.
Haruni was my first shawl with beads. The original pattern didn’t call for beads, so I drew up my own version of the chart (which I had to do anyway because of my other modifications to the design) and marked where I wanted to place my beads. I knew there two basic ways (with loads of variations, of course) to place beads on your knitting: Stringing all the beads first, and placing the beads as you go.
The first method sounded like a lot of work, and (depending on how the pattern is designed) sometimes the beads can migrate to the back of the work, negating all that effort. It also causes extra wear-and-tear on the yarn, but since I was using a tightly-spun sock yarn, I wasn’t as worried about that aspect as I would have been if I’d been using a laceweight cashmere yarn.
The second approach, which is the one I opted for, was to place the beads as you go along. This can be done with a piece of orthodonic dental floss or with a tiny crochet hook. I tried both and found the crochet hook to be slightly easier to work. Plus, since I was using multi-colored beads, it gave me the flexibility of being able to select each bead individually so I could avoid placing two identical beads right next to each other. I also liked the fact that I could place a bead, then knit the stitch, so even if I dropped a stitch, I was less likely to lose the bead.
I took some photos and put together a small tutorial to show you how I did it. In the interest of thoroughness, I am using Sundara sock yarn, a US size 7 (4.5mm) Signature Needle Arts circular needle with stiletto tips, a US9 (1.25mm) Susan Bates crochet hook, and size 6/0 seed beads. (I strongly recommend using a very tapered needle for this method—the stilletto tips from SNA are perfect for this—so that you can replace the bead and knit it without distorting the surrounding stitches.)
- Scoop up a bead with the tip of the crochet hook. Turning the hook so that it faces up, insert the hook purlwise into the next loop on the left knitting needle and pull the loop off the needle.
- Using your finger, slide the bead down the hook and onto the loop of yarn, making sure that all strands of the yarn pass through the bead.
- Replace the loop onto the left needle, making sure that the stitch is oriented correctly. Keeping the stitch at the tip of the needle, use the tip of the right needle to knit the stitch. (If you try this with blunt-tipped needles or if you try to force the width of the entire needle, you’ll end up pulling yarn from the surrounding stitches and distorting your pattern.)
- Once you’ve knit the stitch and dropped it from your left needle, you can push the new stitch fully onto the right needle.
- Admire your knitting and your pretty beads!
- Resist the urge to place beads on all of your knitting projects. (I have found that husbands and boy children are somewhat less enamored of beads than I am…)
What projects have you knit with beads? What technique did you use? Any suggestions for me?