Shimmer and Sparkle: Easily Add Beads to Your Knitting

Our fascination with stringing objects on thread has been with us for a very long time: a shell-bead archaeological find, the earliest known to date, was uncovered in 2006 and estimated as nearly 100,000 years old. No wonder we seem to be inspired to try knitting with beads to make beautiful beaded knitting projects!


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The trickiest part of knitting with beads is making your initial choices. Beads come in a variety of materials, shapes, sizes, and price points. In addition, there are yarn-related choices to make. Once you’ve considered how you will take care of your project, what kind of yarn you will use, and what size, weight, and finish the beads should have, you are ready to incorporate them into your knitting. You can add as few or as many beads as you choose to give a personal touch to your project. Use beaded knitting for the cast-on edge, the body of your piece, or your bind-off edge.

knitting with beads

BEADED CAST-ON EDGE

An otherwise simple project can easily be spruced up by adding beads to its edge, such as on the Nicole Necklace.

knitting with beads

To add beads to your cast-on edge, you will need to pre-string them. For the long-tail cast-on, slide all the beads toward the tail end of the yarn. For the backward-loop cast-on, slide all the beads toward the ball of the yarn.

CO 1 (or more) st(s), *slide 1 (or more) bead(s) close to the last st, CO next st(s); rep from * until required number of sts have been cast on.

The beads will live in the space between stitches on your needle.

BEADS IN THE MAIN BODY

There are many variations for knitting with beads, but they all can be divided into two camps: you either add beads as you go, or you pre-string them before you start knitting. The two methods have distinct differences, and unless the pattern specifies which approach to use, you should be aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

ADDING BEADS AS YOU GO: HOOKED-ON METHOD

With this method, the beads will always sit upright on a stitch. Keep this in mind if your project calls for a specific orientation of the beads.

knitting with beads

1. Insert hook through bead and pwise into next st on LH needle.
2. Take st off LH needle to rest on crochet hook.
3. Pull up st through bead hole.
4. Place pulled through st back on LH needle.
5. Option 1: Knit beaded st and continue to knit. Bead shows on WS as well.
6. Option 2: Slip beaded st pwise with yarn in back and continue to knit. Bead is covered by strand on WS.

knitting with beads

CO 23 sts.
Row 1 (WS) K11, p1, k11.
Row 2 (RS) Sl 1 pwise, M1R, k9, s2kp2 (see Stitches), k9, M1L, k1.
Row 3 Sl 1 pwise, k10, pBs (see Stitches), k11.
Row 4 Rep Row_2.
Row 5 Sl 1 pwise, p10, pBs, p10, k1.
Rows 6–7 Rep Rows 4–5.
Row 8 Sl 1 pwise, M1R, k4, pBk (see Stitches), k4, s2kp2, k4, pBk, k4, M1L, k1.
Row 9 Rep Row_5.
Row 10 Sl 1 pwise, M1R, k4, 3pBk, k2, s2kp2, k2, 3pBs, k4, M1L, k1.
Row 11 Rep Row_5.
Row 12 Sl 1 pwise, M1R, k6, pBk, k2, s2kp2, k2, pBs, k6, M1L, k1.
Row 13 Rep Row_5.
Rows 14–18 Rep Rows 2–3 twice, then work Row_2 once more, ending with a RS row. Next row (WS) BO all sts pwise.

knitting with beads

Stitches

S2kp2: Sl 2 sts as if to k2tog, k1, pass 2 slipped sts over knit st—2 sts dec’d.

Place bead, slip same stitch (pBs): Using a fine steel crochet hook, insert hook through bead hole, place next st on crochet hook and pull up through bead, place st back on LH needle, removing hook, sl st pwise with yarn in front.

Place bead, knit same stitch (pBk): Using a fine steel crochet hook, insert hook through bead hole, place next st on crochet hook and pull up through bead, place st back on LH needle, removing hook, k1.

PRE-STRUNG METHOD: BEADS BETWEEN STITCHES

With this method, the beads will most commonly lie on a horizontal strand of yarn either in front, in back, or in between stitches. Some knitting techniques even manage to place a bead on either the right or left leg of a stitch, leaning slightly to the right or left, respectively. In that case the bead has to be small enough to fit through the stitch.

The easiest way to knit with pre-strung beads is to place them in between stitches. If you place a bead between two purl stitches, the bead will come to rest on the side facing you. If you place a bead between two knit stitches, the bead will end up on the side facing away from you. The latter method is commonly used when working garter-stitch beaded cuffs.

knitting with beads

1. Slide bead close to RH needle.
2. Knit next stitch.
3. Beads are trapped between sts on side facing away (WS).

knitting with beads

Pre-string 42 size 8° or #8 beads. CO 23 sts.
Row 1 (WS) K11, p1, k11.
Row 2 (RS) Sl 1 pwise, M1R, k9, s2kp2 (see Stitches, above), k9, M1L, k1.
Row 3 Sl 1 pwise, k2, [bead, k1] 7 times, k1, p1, k1, [k1, bead] 7 times, k3.
Row 4 Rep Row_2.
Row 5 Sl 1 pwise, k10, p1, k11.
Rep last 4 rows 2 more times, then work Rows 2–4 once more, ending with a RS row. Next row (WS) BO all sts pwise.

knitting with beads

BEADED BIND-OFF EDGE

You can also add beads to your bind-off for a nice decorative shawl edge, such as on the Summer Blooms Shawl. There are many variations, but this technique doesn’t require planning ahead and uses a crochet hook to add beads as you go.

knitting with beads

This was just a very quick overview of some common methods for knitting with beads, but I hope I was able to inspire you to give beads a try in one of your next projects. But be forewarned: beads are addictive!


Daniela Nii is a designer, instructor, and contributor to Knitscene, Interweave Knits, and Interweave Crochet.


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