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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Getting Your Beads On #2

So, before I tell you how those glorious garnets got me into trouble, let's review how beads get knitted into your work in the first place. 

Blackberry Blossom Scarf takes the unusual approach of knitting them into a long-tail cast-on.  Erica, the talented young designer at Fiddle Knits, directs us to thread a needle with the beginning end of yarn and then string the appropriate number of beads onto that strand.  Then you pull the beads up the strand until you have a loose beginning tail long enough for your anticipated long-tail cast-on.  Begin your cast-on, and at every other stitch, bring a bead down the string before casting on that stitch.  This knits the bead directly into the cast-on edge.

I found this method to be quick and easy, though it will only work if you're applying beads to the outer edge of your garment.

The more conventional approach is to apply beads throughout the body of your shawl, as I did with Basilica.  Using a steel crochet hook of a gauge fine enough to fit through the hole of your bead, you pass the hook through your bead, catch the first stitch on your left needle (the stitch to be beaded), and pull it through the bead, restoring that now-beaded stitch to the left needle.  Then you knit that stitch onto the right needle.

Sweet Dreams required the second of these two methods.  Now, I had ordered 4mm (#6) round beads of solid garnet—the gemstone, not the color—anticipating that the hole would be the same diameter as the hole through the glass beads I'd used for Basilica.

It wasn't.  It was dramatically smaller.

On some of the garnets my finest gauge crochet hook would fit through the hole, but then as I tried to draw my beautiful silk/seacell yarn through the bead, the hook snagged the yarn, fraying it into fragments.  Obviously another approach was called for.

Instead of placing your bead onto a crochet hook and pulling the stitch through, it's possible to pass one end of a short piece of fine line—beading wire, for instance—through the stitch.  Then you match both ends of this piece of line and poke them through the hole of your bead, drawing the stitch through the bead.  This works.

But not even my very fine gauge beading wire would easily pass through the bead's hole when doubled, and drawing the yarn through was a strenuous physical task.

"Do you have any wire finer than this?" I asked Hubbest.

"No," he replied.  But knowing something about fly fishing, he suggested, "What you need is a tippet."

Turns out a tippet is the very, very fine monofilament to which a fisherman will attach his fly, way out there at the end of his heavier line.

[Interestingly, in this case, a tippet is also the name for a short-than-elbow-length shawlette of yesteryear that draped over the shoulders and hung open in front, just as my modern-day Basilica was going to do when finished.]

Well, I was fresh out of tippets, not being a fly fisherwoman myself, so I used a piece of finely plied metallic thread whose ends would adhere together if I wetted them.  Spit did the job.

You might find tippets a less messy solution to the problem of a very, very tiny bead hole.  

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