Posted on | November 17, 2009 | 5 Comments
It’s in the Bag, edited by Kara Gott Warner, is packed with patterns! It really has something for everyone. A few designs caught my eye, but the Andrea Beaded Cuff, designed by Laura Nelkin interested me the most because I’ve always wanted to knit with beads. This project is very doable for the newbie bead knitter, who is also, comfortable knitting a simple lace stitch. That would be me.
Laura was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life as a knit designer and also, generously agreed to post a thorough knitting with beads tutorial. The tutorial can be found here on her blog Nelkin Designs. I asked her all my newbie bead knitter questions that I could think of and, her answers are very helpful!
Can you talk a little bit about how you became a knit designer?
I went to Cornell University and graduated with a degree in apparel design and textile science. While at Cornell I managed to study A LOT of weaving, dyeing and surface design. I did not learn how to knit until nearly 10 years later from my daughter’s friend’s mom at a play date. It was not a big jump to take my knowledge of apparel design, textiles and fibers and apply them to knitting.
Briefly, what does your job as designer director for Schaefer Yarn Company entail?
Schaefer is a super small company so in the course of a day I end up wearing A LOT of hats. I do all the pattern development and design for Schaefer. I also do all the customer support, marketing, website updates, e-newsletters, advertising, schmoozing, some sales, AND I like to answer the phone when I am there. I love getting to talk to our storeowners to hear how Schaefer does in their shops and what their customers are making out of it; I always get incredibly inspired by this.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Right now my favorite part of the job is working on new yarn development. We’ve been reevaluating our line and looking at what yarns to subtract, and what other yarns to add. This means that as the owner, Cheryl, and I get ideas for new fibers we get in touch with mills and get samples sent that meet our specs. Then the swatching begins. There is normally a fair amount of back and forth before we get a yarn that has the weight, gauge and fiber content that will work. During this process I always end up coming up with a TON of new design ideas for the new yarn. Seriously, a very good time! We have a new yarn Audrey due in from the Mill this week that has my heart, and needles, afire.
What is your favorite type of knitting project?
I’ve been working on a sweater design for the past few weeks, but I have to say that shawl and accessory design is my favorite. I do like to wear sweaters, though, so will always have a few ideas percolating, but these tend to be my more long-term projects. I also seem to always have at least one design going with beads. I love the way that beads and yarn play off each other and I never tire of testing their boundaries with each other.
Where do you find inspiration for your knit design? Does it begin with an idea, or does it begin with the yarn?
I described how swatching inspires me, but I also get inspired by a concept, like something I notice in a movie, or see walking down the street. Mostly, though I get inspired by needs, someone in my family will have a hole in their wardrobe, or I’ll want to gift a special someone and a design will be born out of that. I also really enjoy designing off of storyboards for magazines and books. Often times an editor will send out a story that will get my mind reeling and my needles itching. My best work can come out of this kind of brainstorming. If I am ever in a rut, all I need to do is pull out my stitch dictionaries, some different weights of yarn, and needles, and start to play, by the end of a swatching session I will have more than one workable idea!
Thank you Laura for sharing your experiences as a knit designer with us.
Now on to the knitting with beads questions!
To begin with, the beads need to get on the yarn. The pattern calls for using a dental floss threader. Can you explain what a dental floss threader is?
A dental floss threader is used to get dental floss in between your dentures or braces OR to get your beads onto yarn!
You can get them from any grocery store or pharmacy right next to the toothpaste; they normally come in packs of 25 for around $3. (They might be one of the cheapest knitting tools you ever buy.)
Is there another way to thread the beads onto yarn? I used sewing thread and a Beading needle size 10/13.
You can do this, but I find the dental floss threader to be really easy and readily available, not everyone has a small enough needle on hand to go through their beads.
In the techniques section of the book, it states, “thread half the beads onto the yarn”. Why not all the beads?
I always do this when working on larger beaded projects for two reasons, one is that if you run into a knot in your yarn (which isn’t that uncommon) the beads won’t fit over it and you will have to cut the yarn and rethread them. The second is that when you slide the beads down your yarn as you work you are rubbing them along the whole length of the yarn. This can abrade the yarn causing it to wear more quickly. The amount of beads needed for this project is not big enough to justify threading half at a time.
Can you explain the sizing system used for seed beads? When I was threading my beads, some of the beads weren’t big enough to fit over the yarn. None of my beads have sizes listed since I bought them so many years ago.
Basically, the bigger the size number for beads, the smaller they are. This pattern calls for size 8/0 beads which have an approx. 2.5 mm diameter. The most important thing to me is that my beads be uniform, especially on the inside. If the beads are rough on the inside they are especially rough on the yarn, which always disturbs me!
Do you have a “quick or special” method for counting how many beads you’ve threaded on your yarn? It took me about half an hour to thread 162 beads.
I do! I thread on a few inches of beads (without counting) and then measure how many beads are in an inch, let’s say there are 13 beads, then if I need 162 beads, I would thread on approx 12.5” of beads. I always thread on a few extra, just in case.
Do you thread more beads than called for, just in case you decided to work more rows?
Yes, see above! But if you don’t you can always break your yarn and thread on more beads and keep working. You’ll just have a few more ends to weave in when it’s time to block.
How do you avoid having the bead disappear onto the purl side of the cuff?
When you work a stitch which has a bead on it from the previous row you want to make sure the bead is to the BACK of the left hand needle when you work into that stitch. That forces the bead to the front of the fabric. The bead still may want to move to the back of the work, but this will remedy itself when you block the cuff.
I’m a little confused about the edging. I’ve worked an attached I-cord many times, but not with beads. As I knit, the beads are moving to the wrong side of the work.
When you work the second row of the I-cord and knit the first stitch, (which has a bead on it from the previous row) you want to make sure the bead is to the BACK of the left hand needle when you work into that stitch. That forces the bead to the front of the I-cord. You may notice that the I-cord still rolls a bit with the beads to the back. This will be solved by a good blocking!
I knit the cuff in a day, working on it in-between errands and at night. It came out really nice and I’ve worn it a couple of times. I like how delicate it seems but because of the beading it has a nice weight that makes it feel sturdy.
Awesome! I have worn the first one I made a ton! (It even went in the washing machine and dryer one day and is still fine) Last year I made them for my daughter’s teachers for the holidays and they all LOVED them.
Lucky teachers! It certainly does make a great gift.
Thank you Laura, for all the bead knitting tips. I don’t know if I’ll test the strength of my cuff by putting it through the washer, I’ll take your word for it.
My cuff is worked in Knit Picks Alpaca Cloud on size 0 needle. I accidentally used a provisional cast on to begin the cuff. Long tail method is preferable. Also, the chart for the Diamond cuff is missing the knit with bead symbol for the yarn overs.