beaded knitting, a small how-to

Rather than just post pictures of beaded glove #2 today (which, shockingly, look pretty much like photos of glove #1), I thought I’d try my hand at a little tutorial on knitting with beads. This is one of those things that’s actually not technically that difficult, but can maybe be a little difficult to wrap your head around. I know I’ve tried it in the past with mixed results! So, without further ado:

1. Pick yarn and beads that are suitably matched to each other in terms of size. You want the bead to be large enough to string on the yarn, but not so large that it looks wonky or is going to be prone to sliding around a lot. For example, don’t put plastic pony beads on a fine lace weight yarn. The standard seed beads you can get at most large craft stores in the US are great for sport/fingering weight yarns.

2. Thread your beads onto your yarn. The easiest way to do this is to use a needle and thread and tie the thread onto the end of your yarn, like so:
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Make sure you pick a needle that your beads will go over! I am just using a small sewing needle here, but you can also buy special beading needles that are extra thin. If you are threading onto a very fine weight yarn, beading needles may be a worthwhile investment (they’re fairly cheap), as you will probably want to use beads that are too small for any of the needles that come in a standard package of sewing/crafting needles.

Once you have the thread tied onto the yarn, start stringing on beads. Don’t get too carried away with the number of beads you string on—a large number of beads on the yarn can be difficult to manipulate, they can tend to “jam” in place. I would advise stringing a maximum of 200 beads at a time:

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3. Start knitting. When you want to create a beaded stitch, bring one bead up the yarn. Don’t bring it all the way up to the right needle though! You want to have it a little way out, perhaps a centimeter, so that it will fall into the stitch you are knitting:

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Knit the stitch. You may need to finagle with pulling the yarn through to ensure that the bead comes along for the ride. I find it helps to keep my right index finger up against the tip of the needle and the stitch, so the bead doesn’t have too many opportunities to slip off elsewhere:

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4. Deciding which side of the stitch you want the bead on. This is probably pretty minor, but if you are doing a pattern where the placement of beads is at all symmetrical, then having the beads properly placed is a nice touch that will enhance the symmetrical appearance. The placement of the bead within the stitch really occurs on the row AFTER the row where the bead is placed. The illustrations here are for knitting in the round, so both the row where the bead is knit, and the one where it is aligned, are right side rows.

If you want the bead to fall on the right side of the stitch, insert your right hand needle ABOVE the bead when knitting the alignment round:

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Want it on the left side? Insert your needle BELOW the bead:

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If you are purling back across the row, you would reverse these instructions–insert the needle below for a right side alignment, and above for a left side alignment.

So for the gloves I am knitting now, where there is a V pattern forming, I am placing the beads associated with left leaning decreases on the left side of the stitch, and the stitches associated with right leaning decreases on the right side of the stitch. This alignment makes the symmetry of the beads line up with the symmetry of the decreases, so that both beads and decreases are centered on the same point.

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