This year's mystery shawl, Trick of the Light MKAL includes some (optional) beaded sections. One of the questions I get asked a lot is how to place beads in knitting. It isn't difficult but does require nimble fingers and a bit of patience.
Here are three ways you can add beads to your knitting.
Stringing beads means that all the beads required for your project are threaded onto the yarn before you cast on. If your yarn is quite thin, you can use a very fine sewing or tapestry needle to do that. If the yarn is thicker, use a loop of sewing thread either sewn or glued to the end of the yarn.
You can also use a sewing needle threader, like the one I have below. Hold onto that threader — you're going to need it later, too.
There are a couple of drawbacks to this method of adding beads. First, you need to know — and count! — the precise number of beads needed before even casting on. Because you can't add more beads without breaking the yarn, it's a good idea to pre-string a dozen or so extra just in case. You can always take out the ones you didn't need in the end.
Another drawback is that you need to move the beads along the length of the yarn until you get to a point where they're needed. This may snag or chafe your yarn, causing it to fray. For this reason I'd recommend using stringing only for small projects with a small number of beads.
Beads that are pre-strung onto the yarn have a slightly different look compared to the other two methods because the bead sits on a single strand of yarn. In the above photo you can see that the beads is only on the front loop of the stitch. The rest of the beads are waiting their turn.
For this method you can use sewing thread or even dental floss. Dental floss has a waxy coating which makes it smooth and stiff, great for adding beads.
Cut a length of dental floss and tie it into a loop. Slide beads from one end onto the loop — you may need to use a sewing needle for this. It's a good idea to "load" more than one bead on one go.
To add a bead to your knitting, carefully take a stitch off the needle (scary!) and catch the stitch within the loop. Push the bead over the stitch, then place the stitch back on the needle, ready to continue knitting.
A needle threader is also a great little tool for this purpose. The metal wire on the threader is usually so thin you can easily slide even small beads onto it.
I used the looping method for many years but now hooking has become my favorite method for adding beads to knitting. This method is fast and easy but you do need a special tool for it. I personally like to use a 0.6 mm crochet hook. A similar tool is a Fleegle Beader with a bent, hooked end, a straight shaft onto which you can load multiple beads, and a stopper to prevent the beads from running away.
To add a bead to your knitting, catch a bead onto the crochet hook.
Take the stitch off the needle and onto the hook. Slide the bead from the hook onto the stitch, making sure to catch all strands.
Place the stitch back on the needle, ready to continue knitting.
Bead & Knit or Knit & Bead?
Should you knit the stitch first and then place a bead on it or the other way around? There's a slight difference in appearance in the two methods and the pattern you're following should tell you which one to do.
If you place a bead first, the bead goes on the row below the one you're working on. This method is used in my Fenberry Shawl pattern, for example.
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