Sunday, September 21, 2008


If you can knit, you can do bead knitting! It's that simple. All you need are seed beads, needles, thread, pattern, and purse frame. But I'm going to warn you, it's very addictive!

1 Hank of Size 11, Silver-Lined Seed Beads

First, let's talk a little bit about the beads. There are lots of sites where you can order beads. I mostly purchase from Fire Mountain Gems, mainly because they have a large assortment and their prices are good. They'll also send you a huge catalog that you can drool over! Seed beads come in a wide variety of sizes, but most patterns call for size 11. They are also available in lots of colors and finishes. I just love the silver-lined beads because they really sparkle, but you can also get them in lustre, polished, translucent, matte, metallic, pearl, etc. If you opt for the translucent beads, you must be careful as to what color thread you use, because that thread will show through the beads and might alter the color of your finished piece. IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure you purchase beads that are sold by the hank! You do not want to buy loose beads because then you will have to string each bead individually - that could take forever - but hey, whatever turns you on. :) When you purchase by the hank, you can easily transfer your beads from the hank to the knitting thread.

1 Pair of Size 0000 Double-Pointed Needles

Next up - needles. Okay - you need to get used to knitting with these needles - you have to develop a callous on your left pointer finger (if you're a right-handed person). These needles are size 0000 and are very fine. The pair shown in the above photo was purchased from Bag Lady. They are inexpensive, but you need to put some rubber point protectors or small little corks on the ends to keep your knitting from falling off. If you'd like to make them more decorative, glue some pretty beads on the ends.

Size 8 Pearl Cotton Thread

Onto the thread. Most patterns call for size 8 pearl cotton (or crochet) thread. I know of three brands: Anchor, DMC, and Finca Perle Cotton (the Finca Perle Cotton is available at Bag Lady). These threads come in all sorts of scrumptuous colors. You can either pick a thread to match your beads, or something complementary or contrasting. Your choice.


Moving right along - patterns. There are lots of bead knitted purse patterns out there, you just have to look for them. Try Bag Lady or Barb's Bags for starters. It goes without saying, that for a beginner, simpler is better. After a while you'll create your own patterns, believe it or not! :)

Purse Frames

Last but not least - purse frames. If you're going to make a beaded purse, you have to have a purse frame to go with it. Silver-tone, gold-tone, silver-plated, gold-plated, antique finish, simple, ornate - whatever suits your fancy. I like them all. You'll find some very nice inexpensive frames and some extremely expensive ones too. Two on-line suggestions for purse frames are, again, Bag Lady and Lacis. If you're making an heirloom piece, go all out and get a really nice one. Most of them have holes around the frame where the knitted piece is sewn onto. We'll talk about how to do this in a later post.

Make A Loop

Now it's time to transfer the beads. Start by gently pulling out one end of a bead strand and then make a loop near the end. Refer to photo above.

Transfer Beads

Now, take the end of your thread and insert it into the loop, leaving about a 2" tail. Pull the loop taught. Gently slide the beads from one thread to the other. You did it! Now do this again about seven more times. It's best not to transfer more than 8 strands of beads at a time because you don't want to weaken the knitting thread. Keep pushing the beads down the knitting thread and leave a generous amount of plain thread for the beginning knitting.

In almost any pattern you find, there are several rows knitted at the beginning and end of the purse that do not have any beads in it. This is because you need a section of plain knitting to attached to the frame. You can see in the above photo that I have already knitted about 14 rows. Four rows were just knit, then the pattern began. It goes like this: k3, (s2, k2)* across, ending s2, k3. That means: knit 3 stitches, slip 2 beads, knit 2 stitches (repeat across), slip 2 beads, ending the row with knit 3 stitches. Now wasn't that easy? :)

Sliding Beads Up To The Needles

The next row calls for slipping 3 beads. In this photo you can see where I knit the first 3 stitches and I'm now getting ready to slip 3 beads. Take 3 beads and slide them up to the end of the thread closest to the needles.

Next, insert your needle and knit the next two stitches. Don't knit too loosely, as your beads may slide around too much.

Here's what it looks like from the back. Actually, the front and back are exactly the same. Now follow your pattern and keep going. Most purses are worked in one piece. Work the pattern all the way to the bottom, then reverse it and work it all the way back to the top again. You might find an occasional decrease or increase at the edges, but mainly the pattern takes its shape from the amount of beads you slip. One more tip - when you run out of beads, make sure you have enough to complete a row - never end in the middle of a row because you won't be able to hide your threads - then cut your thread, leaving a nice tail, transfer more beads to the thread, attach to your knitting and continue on. You're going to love it! :)

Here are some of my current purses in progress:

This was my second purse. It is completely knitted, but I haven't attached it to a frame yet. I believe these beads have a little sheen to them, but they are not silver-lined. This purse also has a bead knitted gusset for each side to give the purse a little depth. It measures about 7" long.

Here's a blue one. It is a different pattern from the black. The beads are silver-lined. It's about 6-1/2" long.

White bridal purse. It's made with pearl beads that have a polished finish. The top of the purse has a bead between each stitch. This is my own pattern (I told you it's possible to create your own after you get the hang of it). I'm not exactly sure how long it will be yet. I'm also going to put beaded fringe on the bottom when it's complete. Can't wait!

Yellow silver-lined change purse - really sparkly! Knitting is done - have to attach to frame. A very happy color!

Olive green, polished beads. Change purse - knitting complete - needs frame. These beads have a real vintage look to them.

And there we have it! When I get the Halloween contest/giveaway purse knitted, I'll show you how to attached it to a frame. I'll bet you can't wait! :)




Red Geranium Cottage said...

WOW your one talented gal. I think I'll just sit back and watch. I tried knitting and it was not for this gal. But your bags are beautiful.

Jennifer Paganelli said...

wow now that's worth learning to knit for..gorgeous Marsha...Jennifer

debbie said...

Your bags are gorgeous!!! WoW!!

Thimbleanna said...

Wow Marsha! These are just beautiful!!! I'm definitely going to try it -- might have to wait until after holiday projects and my heavy fall travel schedule, but I'm really looking forward to it! THANKS for sharing this -- I'll be looking forward to the next part about attaching to the frame!!!

quilterpolly said...

oh my gosh...I can knit but don't know if I can do these bags. I just love them. I so want to do one need you to stand over my shoulder and help me...:)

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bead said...

I always want make a bag with glass seed beads. I really wanna study how to do that.