Tips - Knitting and Crochet with Beads
Linda Michaluk   

What is the best way to remove the bead strings from the hank?

The bead strings are joined in the hank by a thick string tied around the group of strings. The strings are not knotted at the ends which means that when you pull a string out, the beads can very quickly run from either end of the string. Holding the hank with your left hand (if right handed) very carefully shake the hank and separate the strands of beads. If the strands do not separate easily, carefully lift one of the strands from the outside of the hank and untangle it from the others. Once you have separated the strand from the hank, place your thumb and index finger at the top of the beads and carefully pull the strings out of the hank. Remember that the ends are not knotted and that the beads will run very freely from the string when it is removed from the hank. Set the remainder of the hank down and work with the separated bead string.

How do I make sure the beads end up on my work and not on my lap, table, floor, chair, carpet, cat, etc?

There are many pieces of equipment for beading that you can purchase. Of course, you can also use things from around your home such as a tray set on your lap, a large rather flat rimmed soup bowl, or Linda and Patricia's personal favourite - an egg carton with a solid top. We like the egg carton because we can work on our laps (in front of the TV or some other diversion) and the egg compartments provide spots to place various accoutrement that we like to have with us, such as scissors, needles, bead strings, etc. If you hold the bead strings over the flat part of the egg carton while you are transferring the beads, and a string gets away from you or breaks, at least the majority of the beads will end up in the carton. You can then use the needle method to get them onto your working thread. You will likely also end up with beads on your couch, chair, cat etc, but not so many that tears will be shed. Just be prepared for the clinking sound next time you vacuum.

What is the best way to move the beads from the bead string to the knitting or crocheting (working) thread?

We find that there are two methods -sliding the beads from the string to the working thread or threading the working thread through a needle and picking up the beads from the string..

1. Sliding method: because the beads are very small, you want to have the smallest knot possible otherwise the bead will not pass over the knot. For this reason, you tie the knot in the bead string rather than in the working thread. Fasten off one end of the bead string by tying a large knot (or do as Linda does and simply hold it between your teeth - and hope that the phone does not ring) and fold the other end around the working thread. Tie one half of a granny knot in the bead string, catching the working thread in the knot. Because the knot is not very secure, you will have to hold all three ends (one from the bead string and two from the working thread) in your fingers. Working with about one inch of beads at a time, slide them up to and over the knot in the bead string, and onto the working thread. Every now and then, you may come to a bead that does not want to pass. It is usually best just to carefully move the remainder of the beads towards the fastened off end of the bead string, break the string at the knot with the working thread, remove the offending bead, tie a new knot and begin again. Sometimes the string is very brittle and will be difficult to work with as it will bread very easily. In this case, you might want to try using the needle method.
2. Needle method: believe it or not, you can get a size 8 perle cotton through the eye of a number 10 beading needle. It does take some perseverance, and a willingness to put the cotton in your mouth but it does work. Make sure that the threading end of the cotton is free of those pesky little hairs (trimming with a very sharp pair of embroidery scissors is very effective). Drag the end of the cotton between your teeth to flatten it as much as possible, take a deep breath and thread the needle. Once the needle is threaded, hold the bead string firmly in your left hand (if you are right handed) and insert the needle tip in the holes of about 6 (or as many as you feel comfortable with) beads. Slide them from the string onto the needle and onto the cotton. As with the sliding method, when you come to a bead that will not pass, simply remove the bead and proceed to the next ones.

We have tried numerous ways of transferring beads from the string to the have found these methods the most reliable. Let us know if you have a different method you prefer.

How many strings of beads do you recommend stringing at a time?

When crocheting, we usually string no more than two strings from the hank at one time. The reason for this is, crocheting uses more thread than beads as a rule, unlike knitting. It can be hard on the fibre to continually slide beads down the thread and also wastes valuable crocheting time. It's better to break the yarn and string two more strings.

When knitting, we usually string between half and one full hank at a time. Because of the number of beads used in bead or beaded knitting, it is generally better to work with more rather than less beads. Also, we all knit because we like to which means we have a tendency to sit and knit for whatever time we have, then wonder why our hands have become bird claws when we stop knitting to do something else. It is always important to take a break every so often and stretch your hand and fingers. Having to stop knitting and slide beads down the knitting fibre achieves this break nicely - and leaves you with few ends to darn in at the end.

So, what about those fibre breakages, deliberate or otherwise?

Yarn breakages are easy to negotiate when crocheting. After the break and before you begin using the new fibre, carry the old tail for about an inch or so over the top of the stitches to be worked from the row or round below. Crochet into the stitches over the top of this thread, leaving an inch long tail out the back. Now, drop the old thread tail and pick up the new, being careful to carry the old thread over the tops of the stitches being worked, again for about an inch. Trim the tails off close to your work. NOTE: there are no knots and no tailing in on completion of the work.

Dealing with breaks when knitting is a different story. Always join your thread at the beginning of a row. Because crochet results in a denser fabric, it is possible to carry the tails. In bead or beaded knitting, the tails have to be firmly knotted at the edges, and then the tails woven up and down in what will become the edge seam.

How many beads do you use in a project?

The number of beads used depends on the size of the project, although crochet pieces use more thread than beads as a rule, and knitted projects use more beads. At Swallow Hill Creations, we measure our beads in gram weights and the correct quantities (plus extras for the floor, cat, between the couch cushions, in the rug etc) are packed in our kits. One way to estimate how many beads you need, is to use the pattern to calculate the number of beads in one row, place that number of beads on the thread and measure it to see how long it is. Then count up the number of beaded rows in the project and multiply by that number. Always add some extras (just like when you cook a chicken or a roast and you estimate the time for the number of pounds then add something for the oven) for good measure.

What is the difference between Beaded Knitting, and Bead Knitting?

Beaded knitting is where the bead is an embellishment on the knitting -the bead is slid between the stitches. In beaded knitting, the beads appear on the side of the work facing away from the knitter as the piece is being knit. In Bead knitting, the bead forms part of the stitch itself. This is sometimes done by simply bringing the bead through the knit stitch with the yarn as the stitch is being worked, but most often involves working the knit stitch as a twisted knit stitch (knitting the stitch through the back). In bead knitting, the beads appear on the side of the work facing the knitter as the piece is being knit.

Both beaded knitting and bead knitting are beautiful, and as in most aspects of knitting, both have their place. We use both beaded and bead knitting in Swallow Hill Creations, and have tried to chose the technique that will give you the most impact for your effort. Up to now, we have chosen to not use the twisted knit stitch when bead knitting as it adds a level of complexity that is not necessary with the patterns we have produced so far.

What is the difference between Bead Crochet and Beaded Crochet?

Bead crochet puts the bead smack in the middle of the crochet stitch. It can't slip away or to the back of the work. One advantage to working bead crochet is that the bead sits up straight which makes this method preferable for any geometric patterns you make. An example of bead crochet is our own Gertrude Lawrence.

Beaded crochet slides the bead between the crochet stitches, which is preferable if you are attempting a variety of stitches or chains. In beaded crochet, first you make the crochet stitch, then slide the bead up to it so the bead sits between the crochet stitches.

If I lose count of my rows, how do I know if I am on a beaded row or non-beaded row?

When crocheting, the beads of the row or round you are working on are away from you. In beaded knitting, the bead shows up on the side away from the one you are working on (i.e. the beads are facing the TV instead of your chest) while in bead knitting, the beads shows up on the side that is facing you. When a piece has beads on both sides, the beads are worked every round whether in bead or beaded crochet or knitting. (One exception to this it true twisted bead knitting where the beads are worked every row, but only show on the right side. At this time, Swallow Hill Creations does not have any projects that use this technique.)

Do you pick up the front loop or the back loop or both when bead crocheting?

The easiest rule of thumb is this - if the right side is away from you, i.e. the beads are facing the room and not your chest, pick up the loop closest to you from the row or round below. If the situation is reversed, pick up the loop farthest away from you. The simple reason for this is that it is almost impossible to catch both loops when a bead is in the middle of things.

How do you know what size hook or needle to use?

At Swallow Hill Creations, we recommend a particular size needle or hook because it is the size we used to design the article. Having said that, the reason we used that size may be because it was the one that was on top of the coffee table, or the one that we came across first (within reason of course). Having that in mind, the needle and hook sizes set out in the patterns are a place to start as we recognize that everyone works with a slightly different tension perhaps even more so in crochet than in knitting. So our advise is this: try the design with the recommended hook or needles and if your work is not to your liking, change your hook or needle size up or down one to find the look that works for you. The more you trust your work and your self, the calmer you sill be about changing sizes. And remember - it is a scarf or a purse it is not a sweater that has to have a certain neck or sleeve size.