Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Knitting with Beads

A few years ago my sister-in-law, an artist, gave me a kiln. It was an old, electric kiln that had been rarely used. Along with the kiln came instructions, scribbled upon with notes on use, in crooked handwriting from the original owner. I dusted it off and placed the kiln in my garage for future use. My plan: to merge my past with my present - ceramics with beads. Unfortunately, as so often happens, my plans never came to fruition and the kiln sat, alone, neglected in my garage.

Time passed. Then one day last spring I was chatting with a friend whose mom had recently moved to our town. Turns out her mom was a potter. She used to help run the Torpedo Factory on the East Coast and had given up her kiln as she moved across country to L.A. and then Redding. Ceramics were her calling but she'd gotten away from it..."Would your mom want my kiln?" I asked. "That would be so fabulous! How much do you want for it?" my friend asked. I replied "No price - free. A gift - it was a gift to me". A few days later I got a call from my friend's mom. "How much do you want for your kiln?" "It's free" I replied. She struggled getting her mind around it. "Really, it's free. A gift to you." "Allright" she said, "But I'll have to repay you somehow". The conversation then wandered to what I was working on. "I'm trying to teach myself to knit" I said. "Knit? Really? I knit! Can I teach you?" "Well, gosh, uh, yeah, actually that's a great idea, you wouldn't mind?" "No, I'd love to." And so began a new path for me.....I knitted and pearled, pearled and knitted, practicing until I got it right. I met with my teacher (and now friend) every few weeks to show her my progress and learn something new. I tried all different needle sizes and yarns, created little samples of stitches. And then one day.......I added beads....

I love bead knitting. I love the fabric. I love that there is a whole world of design to explore using this lovely medium. And I love that it adds another technique to my repetoire. Until recently I've been bead knitting using size 0 (2mm) knitting needles. But last week a package arrived in the mail, completely unexpected. In it.....a set of size 0000 knitting needles to use with tiny beads a la my friend Louise. Wow! Oh, and a bar of chile chocolate - the best! Life doesn't get much better :)

What have I been bead knitting? Well....mostly simple straight knit stitch with beads. I've made some scarves and a few bracelets - "Sketches" as David Chatt calls this kind of work. My mind has been racing with ideas on what I can do with this technique. I'm still trying different yarns and threads to work out some of the issues I've come across - such as how to prevent the weave from stretching under the weight of the beads.

Yesterday, I opened the December edition of Bead and Button magazine to find....you guessed it....two wonderful articles on knitting with beads! The first, by Ann Dee Allen, is an excellent step by step instruction of how to bead knit. The second explores the work of bead knitting artist Nancy VanDerPuy. Both are worth taking a look at if you're interested in exploring this medium.

I thought I'd add some other sources for bead knitting instruction. I've used Julia Pretl's Bead Knitting DVD and instructional booklet and found it to be very helpful. Julia's knit stitch is slightly different from the one illustrated in Bead and Button. Included in Julia's book is how to string on your beads according to a pattern.

Check out these links for more on Bead Knitting:
Bead Knitted Bags Julia Pretl
Knit One: Bead Too Judith Durant
Knitting Beaded Purses Nancy VanDerPuy
More Beaded Purses Nancy VanDerPuy
Nancy VanDerPuy's website Technique info
Bead & Beaded knitting Style differences
Bead Knitting with Wire
Contemporary Knitting Art Inspirational

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13 comments:

Maryanne said...

Hi Susan,
I was excited to read this post. I'm a knitter and a beader, among other pursuits, and I just, within the last year or so , began knitting with beads. I love it! It's addictive! A friend, an internet bead shop owner that I met at Stitches East a few years ago, gave me a pattern for a beaded cuff. I changed it slightly, using top stitching thread in place of C-lon micro. I use 0000 needles and size 8 hex or triangle beads. It's reversible, so you string the beads on in a pattern of two colors. I've also just tried kniting with wire and beads. Also, addictive! Another source for bead knitted jewelry patterns is Earthfaire.com. Ellen, the owner uses Krienikc metallic braid, an embroidery thread, for most of her bracelet and necklace kits. Krienikc doesn't stretch and adds some sparkle of it's own.
Just wanted to share my thoughts about this with you. As you can see, I get excited and run on about it!!
Maryanne

SuzyQ said...

Hi Maryanne,
Thank you so much for posting and sending along the additional links! Kreinik is a lovely thread - I've tried crocheting with it but not knitting. Lydia at Beadwrangler has metallic threads also - I recommend using the New Metallics. I haven't quite made it to wire :) yet. I'm going to head over to Earthfaire to see what they have. Thank you!
Sue

Kaye said...

I have been quite keen to try knitting with beads, so have started with just knitting for now.... will see where i go from there...

Melissa J. Lee said...

Photos, we want photos of your work! My son gets into yarn like a kitten, so I don't knit very much right now, but I'd love to give knitting with beads a try.

Maryanne said...

Hi Sue,
It's me again :)! I've seen New Metallics on the Beadwrangler site. I haven't tried it yet. I'll have to give it go! Enjoy!

Maryanne

SuzyQ said...

Hi Melissa!!!
I'm in Southern California for two more weeks without my camera :( When I get home I'll post again about bead knitting and send along some pics! I'm currently working on a simple bead knitted scarf and I'll add a bead embroidered medallion to it - the topic is a surprise but I think you'll like it :)!
Sue

SuzyQ said...

Hi Maryanne!
Is that your beautiful work on the EarthFaire site? I love the lariat!!!
I purchased the gold, silver, and purple New Metallics a while ago. I love the colors. They are extremely rich - very jewel like. I'm currently working with cotton crochet size 10 thread, which is very easy for a beginner. The New Metallics are a bit more challenging for me but as I get better I am sure to gravitate towards them.
Please send along a link to your work - we'd love to see it!
Sue

SuzyQ said...

Hi Kaye,
I hope the links will help when you are ready. Be sure to pick up the December Bead and Button too for Ann Dee Allen's step by step instructions on adding a bead. You might check B&B's website to see if they have free instructions too!
Have fun and let us know how you progress!
Sue

SuzyQ said...

I just discovered a wonderful free pattern on this website:
Bead Knitted Cuff. Rather than add beads to each knit stitch, one adds beads between the stitches - a good beginner project. For kits, check out Earthfaire's kits

Sue

Softflexgirl said...

I love this post. It is so nice how life works out sometimes...

Maryanne said...

Hi Sue,
Thank you, yes, those are my patterns on Earthfaire. After I recommended you check out the site, I realized I hadn't mentioned that I have some patterns on it! Ellen has had them for a while and they still sell very well. The lariat is very popular. It teaches beaded I-cord, which is a great technique for many applications, including a cord for a beaded pendant. I don't do many patterns because it takes the fun out of designing for me. I find pattern writing tedious.
As far as photos of my work, I'm in the process of talking myself into a blog. So, while I have a lot of pictures, I don't have a way to link to them, yet :)! But, thank you so much for your interest.
I'm going to order some New Metallics this week. I'm anxious to try them, so I'll let you know how it goes.
Maryanne

SuzyQ said...

Hi SoftFlexGirl - Thank you!

Hi MaryAnne, I can't wait to see your blog. Please let us know when it's up and running!!!

Sue

Maryanne said...

Will do, Sue. Probably not until after the holidays! But, hopefully soon.
Maryanne