Spinning With Beads

Beads add a lovely touch to a hand spun yarn, and can be applied in a variety of methods. I would like to share with you three methods that work well for me.

First, here are some things you may want to consider when spinning with beads.

1. The size of the hole in your beads must accommodate the thickness of the yarn you spin (unless you are using the prestrung method).

2. If you tend to spin thicker yarn, you will need to be sure that the orifice of your wheel will accommodate both the yarn and the beads.

3. The number of beads you use will be determined by the project for which they are intended. For knit and crochet items you will want more space between beads. For weaving you may want beads much closer together.

What You Will Need:

Beads -- I tend to use #6 seed beads for my spinning projects.

Thread and needle for stringing beads

Crochet hook (1.3 mm or 1.4 mm fits well into the hole of the #6 beads)

Fiber for spinning

Extra bobbins and lazy kate

Method 1: Plying With Prestrung Beads

For this method you will be plying beads which you have prestrung on a thread, to 2 singles which you have already spun. Begin by stringing the desired number of beads on a thread. If you have a predetermined amount of beaded yarn in mind, you can measure out the thread, and wind it over an index card or a toilet paper roll. You want something that will securely accommodate the thread and the beads. Be sure to secure the end so that your beads don't slip off. Wind the majority of your thread before you start stringing the beads. You want to keep them closer to the end you will be starting with. You might also want to space them out a bit on your thread.

With your 2 bobbins containing the singles you have spun placed on your lazy kate, and your bead string in your lap, tie the end of your bead string and your two plying singles together. If you have spun your singles "Z", you will be plying "S". Begin by joining to your leader on the empty bobbin on your wheel. Your bead string should be held between the two singles as they are plied together. Be sure there is even tension on all three strands. Treadle slowly. As your wheel takes up the yarn, slide up a bead to meet the twist, and let the singles twist around the bead to secure it. Continue this process bringing up a bead every 10" or so, until you have finished plying. When finished, you might want to knot the ends together to keep your bead strand in place.

Method 2: Adding Beads to a Navajo Ply

This is one of my favorites! Place your loose beads in a shallow container. You should have one full bobbin containing a finely spun single on your lazy kate ("Z" spun), and an empty bobbin on your wheel.

An easy way of attaching to your leader for a navajo ply is to tie a loop in the end of your leader. Then tie a long loop, about 8 to 10 inches, in the end of your single. Pull the loop of your single through the loop of your leader until the knot meets the loop of the leader. Now you're ready to start plying. If you spun "Z", you should be plying "S".

For those unfamiliar with navajo plying, it is a form of plying from a single strand, by using a series of long chain loops, similar to that of a crochet chain. Ply for several inches.

To apply beads, Place a few beads on the end of your crochet hook. Treadle very slowly, or you might even stop treadling as you add beads. Place your crochet hook into the loop you have just pulled through. Slide a bead from the hook to the loop, and down toward the place where the loops intersect. I just hold the crochet hook in my hand, being sure to keep it pointing up so beads don't fall off as I draw the next loop through in my plying process. You can space beads as closely or as far apart as you like. My bead spacing is often determined by the length of the loops pulled through.

Note: To be sure you are spinning your single at the correct thickness for your beads, Spin several inches then let it fold back on itself, and try slipping a bead onto it with your crochet hook. Then remove the bead and continue spinning, checking occasionally to be sure you are getting a consistant thickness.

Method 3: Beads Applied Directly to a Single as it is Spun

Begin spinning your single as you normally would. You will want to spin a single that is fine enough to go through the hole of your bead. You also want to be sure that you have sufficient twist that the yarn won't drift apart in the area where the bead is placed. After spinning a few yards, detach the fiber from your spun yarn at the point where the twist begins. Load some beads onto your crochet hook (mine holds 4 beads). Loop the end of your spun single over the crochet hook and slide the beads onto the yarn. Re-attach your fiber and spin some more. Break away and add more beads, then re-attach. Continue this process until you have spun the desired amount. I add extra beads at the end, just in case I didn't add enough in spinning.

Now you're ready to ply. You may ply this with another single with or without beads, or you could navajo ply it.

As you ply you will be sliding the beads along the yarn to place them in the desired position, where they will be secured by the twist. Any extra beads remaining at the end can be easily added back to your bead container.

Copyright 2008 - Karen Poulakos Fiber Arts Studio