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Monday, August 20, 2007

Adding Beads to Designs That Don't Already Have Them

I got an email about a week ago from someone who was interested in adding beads to Hanami. Now the Cast On for Hanami already has beads, but that is the only place the design has them. This knitter wanted to add beads to the main section of the stole. I started thinking and realized that with the huge number of knitters who tried beading for the first time with the Mystery Stole 3 Knit Along, and who apparently enjoyed the beads, that this might be a question that others are asking too, so I decided to discuss it in a blog post.

First, let me say that I will not be discussing how to add beads to knitting. There are several different ways to do it and my personal favorite was covered in an excellent tutorial by Deb, here.

Also I'd like to add that adding beads is like adding accessories to an outfit - each of us has our own style (subtle versus flashy or somewhere in between) and each of us has our own limits as to how much is enough. For these reasons, when you add beads to a design, the number, style, and placement of those beads is personal and your choices will probably be different from a friend's choices.

The technique I'd recommend when adding beads to designs that don't have them is called trial and error. If you are adding beads to one of my designs, or another design that is distributed in a file format, print up an extra copy or two of the chart pages. If you're using a traditional paper pattern, copy the charts - you are usually allowed to make copies for your own personal use. I like to use a pink highlighter to mark bead placement because I used pink squares in the MS3 design for beads, and I've found that if I mark a square with pink, I can move back from the chart a few feet and still see both the general chart design as well as the bead pattern. If I find that I have too many pink squares, I can use whiteout to take beads out of the design.

OK, so let's get started. The first thing you have to think about is the design of the project you're adding beads to. Apparently it didn't have beads to begin with, but the design appealed to you anyway for whatever reasons. As you add beads, it's important not to go overboard and add too many or you'll lose the original design. The only designs of my own that have beads are Hanami: in the Cast On, and MS3. In Hanami the cast on beads balance the ruffle at the opposite end of the stole. If you add too many beads to the center of the stole, those cast on beads won't balance the ruffle anymore. In MS3, I did the design of the lace first and made sure I liked it before I added a single bead. I knew that not everyone would want to use beads so I made sure the design was strong enough to stand on its own without the beads. If you look at the charts for that design (for those of you who aren't part of MS3, I apologize, you can't look at the charts yet, but I'm working on getting the traditional pattern finished as soon as possible), you'll see that I used the beads to highlight and accent the design. This is the kind of thing you want to do if you're adding beads to a design that doesn't already have them.

Also think about the style of the design. Moon Dance is a very geometric, repetitious style of lace and if I were adding beads to it, I would put them in the same places throughout the design in a predictable pattern. Hanami has two separate patterns, one is geometric and repetitious while the other is random and organic. You would want to add beads to the basketweave section in a regular pattern and you would want to scatter the beads lightly throughout the blossom section. Leda's Dream, while it has 3 different lace patterns in the center section of the stole (and two at each end), should probably be treated in the same way as Moon Dance, with a regular, repeating bead pattern. Scheherazade presents a different challenge as it is neither a repetitious, geometric design or a random pattern. Scheherazade is essentially a picture drawn with Yarn Overs, so you want any beading to enhance and accent the picture, not overwhelm it. Looking at other designers patterns, try to figure out how the design is used: geometric, pictoral, random, repetitious, organic, etc. and add beads in the same style to accent the design. Again, you purchased the pattern because you liked the original design - don't get so carried away with the beads that you lose what appealed to you in the first place.

So, with these things in mind you can add your beads. Add a few to the chart, then pin the chart to a message board or tape it to the wall and back off a few feet - how do the beads look? Are there large open spaces with no beads? Sections with huge clumps of beads? Can you still see the main pattern design or do you only see the beads? Keep going back and forth and adding or removing beads, then looking at the design until it looks just right. Also keep in mind that if you add beads on a plain knit stitch it will be easier to work when you actually sit down to knit, than if you add them to a decrease. It would be possible to place a bead instead of a Yarn Over and work the design in beads, not lace, but you will have to ignore the decreases, and you will have to allow quite a bit more yarn to do this.

Finally, remember that the style of beads you choose in comparison to your yarn will also affect the finished design. If you choose a high contrast bead your beads will really pop and make much more of an impact, whereas if you choose a bead that is a closer match to your yarn, you will get a bit of sparkle or shine (or not if you choose a matte bead) and the beads will accent your design. When in doubt as to bead color, I've found that for any color but the darkest yarns, a clear silver lined bead will look like a drop of water or rain on the lace. For darker colors of yarn a dark gray silver lined bead will be more subtle. (To see what kind of beads I'm talking about click here - the clear, silver lined beads are #110 and the gray, silver lined beads are #923.) I consider these two colors of beads to be the little black dress of the bead world - they are appropriate anwhere and will work for anything.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: "...I like to use a pink highlighter to mark bead placement because I used pink squares in the MS3 design for beads, and..."

...because you *are* the Pink Lemon!!!

Maria (MS3's Maria7gwp)

10:18 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

Great tips, Melanie. I was actually considering adding extra beads to hanami, but was a little afraid of compromising your stellar desing. Thanks for the great blog post!

11:30 AM  
Blogger Suburbaknitsta said...

thanks so much this is an awesome tutorial ;)

11:34 AM  
Blogger Marlyn said...

This is kinda OT... when are you going to post a pic of your MS3? I'd love to see it!!

12:46 PM  
Blogger hopalong682003 said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Melanie. I was also wondering if the beads would affect the drape of the lace.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Thanks for the shout out Melanie!

What a great post, thank you! I would add one more tiny point...consider the WEIGHT of the beads. Yes they are small but when scattered all over a project, it adds up and items with beads can be surprisingly heavy!

1:58 AM  
Blogger knitbysue said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I ordered both types of beads you recommended from Beadwrangler. And then I made a mistake: I took the link to the Schmoo page. I ended up ordering two Schmoo kits (as Christmas gifts, I told myself).

7:28 AM  
Blogger Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

Thanks for the discussion on beads. I do want to do some scarves with beads. And BTW, I'm knitting the MS3 but would love to see your's finished and blocked ... so too compare how my is coming along compared to what it should look like. ;-)

9:43 AM  
Blogger Jane said...

Great post, Melanie! It's not only good advice and observations on using beads and lace, but also in terms of how to think of lace design (something I'd like to do eventually when work isn't taking up 55 hours of my week...). Such great care you take of us knitters!

2:53 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

When working on bead placement, instead of using whiteout, you could put the chart behind a piece of plastic (overhead sheet, page protector, etc.) and mark on that, so if you need to remove the marks, they could just be wiped off.

10:11 PM  

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