Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tiny Baubles

Last week, the Cherry Leaf Shoulder Shawl was coming along nicely. It showed promise, despite the crumply look, which blocking would magically cure. But I thought it was going to need a little something at the edge to set it off. I wanted a fairly modest edge, to keep the focus on the pretty leafy pattern in the body of the shawl. As a practical matter, too, I wanted an edge that wouldn't take a lot of yarn, since I was working with only one 50-gram ball altogether.

The leaf pattern was already framed in a solid band of garter stitch, and I thought of leaving it as understated as that, just adding a row of single crochet to neaten up the edge. But that seemed just a little too Jane-Eyre-unadorned. The fancy lace edging from the original pattern, on the other hand, while attractive, was too attention-getting for what I was envisioning.

I thought maybe what it needed was a simple lace edging with a few beads. When I showed the partly-knitted shawl to my semi-knitting (partly quilting) group, a friend independently made the same suggestion. That settled it. It definitely needed beads. Nothing flashy, just a subtle glint and some weight that would add a bit of drape.

I pictured beads that would be almost the same color as the yarn. Something kind of like the beads on my favorite flip-flops, which I found myself eyeing covetously. But no, that would never do. So I toddled off to a bead store to see what I could find.

There, I came up with some rather nice seed beads in a dark color mix that blended harmoniously with my yarn. I hoped this size would work, and I loved these deep mysterious colors. So it seemed I needn't plunder my footwear after all.

To attach the beads, ordinarily I would just have strung them all right onto the strand of yarn, and then pulled each one up to knit or crochet in as needed. But this Malabrigo yarn, a very soft laceweight single-ply yarn, was probably too fragile to withstand the sliding of dozens and dozens of beads up and down the strand. The cast-on end of the yarn gave an indication of how delicate it is; it had already abraded quite a bit just from the wear and tear of rubbing against the partially completed shawl and my lap. That didn't bode well for its survival, and I didn't relish the thought of the strand giving way, spilling beads and vexation.

So I went with a different approach. I placed the beads using a little steel crochet hook, tiny enough to thread right through the eye of the bead.

This way, I could pull just one little loop of yarn back through the bead. This allows the beads to be seated one at a time directly onto the stitches where they need to go. And each little length of yarn runs through a bead only once, rather than over and over.

It just requires a bit of patience. That wasn't difficult, though. The Olympics were on, so I wasn't going anywhere. I was perfectly happy to piddle about over my beads while watching feats of athleticism. The biggest challenge was to remember not to jump up in excitement, sending beads flying onto the couch and floor, when an amazing swimming race or gymnastics performance set me to cheering.

And, really, I think these tiny baubles will do nicely, don't you?

1 comment:

Bess said...

Lovely! I am planning on putting beads on the end of the shawl I'm knitting right now too. I was going to just splice the yarn but I may give this technique a try.

lovely lace.