During the course of the Weave-Along (WAL) I’ll be exploring some different techniques. One of them is adding beads to your squares.
First let’s look at why and when you might want to add beads.
Why? Because they’re pretty. Beads can really dress up a piece of weaving.
They can also be an accent or trim.
And it’s fun to create something different by weaving them in.
When? Obviously you can use them whenever you want, but there are some patterned weaves that lend themselves better to beads than others. And if you’re planning to use beaded squares in a project, be aware that adding beads increases the weight of the square.
How? Probably the easiest way is to randomly distribute beads on one or more layers of a plain weave square.
There are other ways to add beads too, such as within a pattern as you’ll see later in this post, but first . . .
What beads should I use? How do I choose the yarn?
These are important issues to address early in this discussion. When I first thought about adding beads directly in the weaving I sorted through my modest collection of beads and pulled out several strands and little packages, most of which were unsuitable because beads generally have a tiny hole appropriate for stringing on wire. In order to string beads on yarn you need beads with a hole large enough to accommodate two thicknesses of yarn and a flexible needle (or wire threading device–I use a piece of wire pulled out of the selvage of decorative ribbon).
The only beads I know of that have the proper size hole and the proper outer size to fit between strands of yarn, are Rocaille, or “E,” 6/0 mm beads. These beads are easy to find at craft stores, and even WalMart. It seems the cheaper the beads, the more likely you are to get larger holes. Some Rocaille beads don’t have very large holes, so check the beads before you buy them.
You’ll need thin-but-thick yarn. I generally use acrylic yarn and have found that Caron Simply Soft (CSS) handles beads really well. I have also used Lion’s Cotton-Ease and I Love This Wool yarn. I’m sure there are others.
Sport weight acrylic yarn readily took the beads, but wasn’t quite thick enough to form a substantial weave in the tree series.
Try the beads out to test yarn, bead, and color compatibility.
Why and When You Might Not Want To Use Beads
Obviously there are times you don’t want beads in your work, so we’re talking about: When you do want to use beads, why might it be a bad idea?
The pattern stitch you’ve chosen might not be as “bead friendly” as it first appears. Here’s an example:
Then I threaded all the beads needed for Layer-4 onto the yarn and began weaving. I quickly discovered that the entire group of beads would not slide through the warp threads, so I took them off and wove till I was ready for the beads. It turned out that in order to get a bead in place, I had to weave up to where I wanted it, unthread the long needle, thread one bead onto the yarn, rethread the long needle, weave in the one bead, and weave the next 3 beadless stitches. Then I had to re-do the whole unthread, thread, rethread (UTR) process every time I wanted one bead in that fourth layer. Time to modify the pattern! Instead of adding beads on every odd-numbered row, I plain wove every other odd numbered row.
You’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but I didn’t. I wanted to try adding beads to the first WAL pattern, so I planned out where I thought the beads would look nice.
I chose all my beads ahead of time to make sure I’d have enough that fit readily on the yarn. Again, not sure what I was thinking . . . or why I wasn’t because, like some kind of a kook, I added an extra row of beads in the first and last plain weave rows. I think I forgot what a pain it was to UTR the needle.
Usually I’m pretty good about sticking something out, even when it’s unpleasant. It’s just a 4-inch square, the UTR process won’t take forever. But it became clear to me that the beads aren’t going to look good in this piece. They’re not anchored between two threads, rather three, so there’s no center point for the bead to sit. I thought, “Ah ha, they need to be on the warp threads!” But in that case, the bead would be sitting on a weft thread and still wouldn’t stay in place (i.e., a weft thread would be running directly under a round bead, which bead would roll either up or down around the yarn).
I finally concluded that because the beads are spaced so far apart–side to side and row to row–and changing them to the pattern stitch rows wouldn’t fix the spacing problem and would still require beading on the fourth layer, THIS PATTERN is unsuitable for including beads. No doubt someone will turn right around and prove me wrong, but I’m speaking in general here. Adding beads seems to detract from the effect the “Open Weave” is trying to achieve–its light, lacy-ness.
HOW TO TELL AT A GLANCE IF A PATTERN IS SUITABLE FOR UTR-AVOIDANCE BEADING
Any horizontal Over stitches will appear in Layer 4 and will require UTR.
A bead placed on a vertical (warp) thread will show whenever the needle goes Under it, e.g. a bead placed on the middle strand of a U-3 stitch will be centered and not subject to UTR.
There are probably more “rules” to come, but this is where I am in my beading experience so far.
SHOWCASE: GUEST ARTIST
I have Laura Sapko’s permission to share these photos of a beaded purse she made with pin loom squares. Her work is exquisite–tasteful, precise, and stunning. I’m so impressed with the colors and artistry of this purse!
Laura shared her purse instructions with us on the Facebook Pin Loom Weaving Support Group. You can also check out Laura’s beautiful quilting and thread painting at her website: laurajanequilts.wordpress.com Painting With Thread