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
bead, beading, beadwork, weaver, weaving, seed bead, knitting, purses, sculpture, artist, Susan Mandel, beadweaver