4 Hints When Knitting With Beads-Nightsong Lace Shawl

Bruce Frank Bead Shop - West 83rd St, NYC 10024

Bruce Frank Bead Shop - NYC

The Nightsong Shawl is a great pattern for a skein of sock yarn. (The fact that it’s a free pattern encourages it’s use!) It creates an oblique triangle so that the shawl is longer than it is deep. As a result, it goes around the wearer’s neck allowing enough length to grace the front of a jacket.

Having made a Nightsong Shawl this summer out of cashmere lace weight for a friend, I was eager to make one for myself. While at Tess Yarns in Portland, Maine this summer, I bought a skein of wonderful fushia and purple sock yarn. I wanted to buy more than one skein but alas that’s all that they had. So the Nightsong Shawl was the perfect project. I loved the way that the repeats organically grow and diminish with this pattern. Working in sock yarn was much quicker than the laceweight cashmere! While knitting a second shawl shortly after finishing one can be boring, the knitter does have a good feel for the pattern repeats which adds to the speed and satisfaction of knitting.

Not being one to leave a pattern alone, I decided to add beads to this shawl. While in Margaretville, I purchased some tiny headed, old crochet hooks despite the fact that I don’t crochet. I planned to use them to place beads on my Fushia Nightsong Lace Shawl.

Living in Manhattan, it’s possible to find just about anything that you need within a subway’s trip away. I was in the west 30s, also known as the garment district. I used the opportunity to check out the strip of beading stores which have cropped up along Sixth Avenue from 39th to 35th Streets.

While I had my shawl in progress tucked in my purse, I didn’t have a clear idea of the bead size that I needed. I learned that bead sizes can vary significantly and the larger sizes are difficult to find. The larger the bead hole, the smaller the number. The array of beads was confusing so despite 45 minutes of shopping, I was still without any beads.

I consulted a friend who suggested trying Bruce Frank Beads on West 83rd Street between Amsterdam and Broadway. This time, I brought my crochet hook and project with me. I found beautiful clear red beads from the Czech Republic that contrast with the yarn.

Being new to beading, I limited my use of beads to the edging. I selected the floral pattern where there are plain knit stitches which makes placing the beads easier. I used a highlighter to mark where I was going to place beads. Remember,  if you’re first starting out, beading will significantly slow down the process.

Here’s what I learned about knitting with beads:

  1. If possible, test placing one bead on your yarn. While you can buy a wonderful looking bead, it may not reflect the light the way that you anticipate. In my case, the wonderful red glass beads where too similar to the yarn to be seen.
  2. Where bead size matters, use Asian made beads which tend to be more consistent in the size of their holes. About a third of the red glass beads had holes that made them impossible to use without hurting the yarn.
  3. Consider how the knitted piece will be used, since beads, glass ones in particular, limit how the item is washed and worn. It’s more fragile as a result. Also, it may have an impact on how the lace blocks out.
  4. Place loose beads into a small container so that they are easier to nudge onto the crochet hook and stay in one place rather than flying all over your knitting area.

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