There are two benefits of adding beads to a project. The most obvious one is that beads look very pretty on knitted fabric, like dew drops on a spider web. We can also use them to make geometric designs similar to the ones we see on beautiful Lithuanian beaded wrist warmers.
The other benefit of knitting with beads is the fact that beads make the project heavier. The added weight significantly improves the drape of the fabric. That’s why beads are often added to bottom edges of scarves and shawls, or to strategic places of a lace stitch pattern to open up the yarn overs and make the pattern look more refined.
It is possible to add beads to a knitting project in a number of ways. The most common way is to pre-string all beads you plan to use in this project on the working yarn and slide one bead down the yarn whenever you want to add a bead to the fabric.
This way has a few drawbacks – if we work on a big project like a shawl we might need to pre-string a thousand beads before we even cast on stitches. Besides, if you need to add another ball of yarn or if the ball of yarn you are using has a knot in it, you will have to re-string all remaining beads.
A more knitter-friendly way is to add beads to stitches one by one whenever we want to see a bead in our project. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how we can do it.
Before we get to the step by step instructions, let’s talk about the materials required for knitting with beads.
Aside from yarn and needles, the only two things we need to successfully add beads to our knitting are beads and a threading tool.
The threading tool is very simple, and we can easily make it from a piece of any thin wire or fishing line. I usually use knitting wire in gauge 30, but any similar material in similar gauge will do.
First, cut a piece of wire (or whatever other material you are using) that is around 6 cm / 2.5″ long. Then fold this piece so that one end of it is a bit longer than the other end. Press the fold firmly to make a sharp crease and your threading tool is ready.
Now, it is time to look for beads. Because beads come in so many different colours, shapes and sizes, the task of choosing beads for your project can be both exciting and daunting.
The rule of thumb here is to pick beads that have a hole big enough to fit a stitch. Otherwise, trust your instinct and your vision of the future project.
You can use beads in the same colour as the yarn (as I did at the bottom of my swatch), or in a slightly different colour (see the middle part of the swatch). You might also use beads in a contrasting colour to make a more prominent accent or to build a geometric design.
Use round beads or diamond-shaped beads, or beads in any other shape, but unless you want to achieve some sort of a special effect, stay away from beads that are bigger than a stitch, because those beads will distort the look of the fabric.
Also, pay attention to what the beads are made of. The safest option is to use glass beads because they have a pleasant sheen and they can be washed with the project.
To make the swatch featured in this tutorial, I used sock yarn and glass seed beads in size 6.
Now, that we’ve made a threading tool and selected the beads, we can easily add them to our project whenever and wherever we want.
Here’s how we do it. If you are a visual learner, click here to watch all steps in a video tutorial. Or, simply scroll to the bottom of this page to watch the embedded version of the video.
We’ll be placing a bead ON a stitch. So decide where you’d like to add a bead and stop right after you work that stitch.
For example, in my swatch, I want to place a bead on top of a double vertical decrease that forms the bottom part of each motif. So I make the decrease and don’t knit any further until I add a bead to this stitch.
If you plan to make a specific design with beads or add them in a particular pattern, it helps to make a chart and mark spots where you want to see beads in your project. This way, you will know exactly where each bead should be placed.
Insert the longer end of the threading tool into the first stitch from the tip of the right needle (it is the stitch that will get decorated with a bead).
It doesn’t matter whether you insert the threading tool from left to right or from right to left. Try both ways and choose the direction that feels most comfortable to you.
Take one bead and thread it onto the threading tool. First, place it on the longer end of the tool, and then slide it down both ends.
If the hole in a bead is small and the wire used to make the threading tool is thicker than gauge 30, it could be challenging to thread the bead on both ends of the tool at the same time. That’s why we didn’t fold the wire in half when we made the tool – uneven ends make it easier to thread a bead.
Move the threading tool towards the tip of the right needle until you push the stitch off the needle.
It is always a bit scary to take a stitch off the needle. Don’t worry – the stitch is safely attached to the threading tool and there is no way the tool will let it unravel.
Push the bead down the threading tool and all the way down to the bottom of the stitch.
Use the threading tool to place the stitch back on the right needle.
Remove the threading tool from the stitch and continue to work on the project.
Repeat these steps any time you want to add a bead to your project and watch how this simple trick turns even a basic knitted creation into an outstanding work of art.
The stitch pattern used to make the swatch featured in this tutorial comes from the “12 Lace Stitches” e-book. You can download it for free at the Library of Free Knitting Resources.
If you enjoyed this tutorial,
here’s something else you might find helpful:
“Neat Side Edges” Book
Learn twelve ways to make side edges of a knitted project nice and tidy. Plus, ways to fix side edges, and a way to improve edges of finished projects.