After three months of non-stop work, it took something spectacular to draw me out of knitting hibernation. It was the crystal beads that burst on the scene, resulting from Rowan yarns’ partnership with Swarovski!
These multi-faceted beads designed for knitting are spectacular! The 6mm beads are a particular favorite because they are light in spite of their size, and they really reflect the light. However, the beads come in many shapes and sizes.
For my first project, I decided to knit Semillon by Martin Storey, from Rowan’s Parisian Nights collection. It is actually a beaded sweater althought the pattern photo makes it difficult to see the detail.
The reason that I chose the pattern Semillon is that the beads are strategically placed in small sections. I have learned the hard way that beads add weight to a garment, so all-over beads warp a garment’s shape, lengthening it significantly. When the garment becomes much longer, it becomes much thinner as well, so don't count on it buttoning across the front! Don't rely on the pattern specifications or yarn gauge either if you are knitting all over beads. Even if the measurements are correct, the garment will wear much differently once it is on your body because of the beads' weight. I discovered this when I knitted Kim Hargreaves’ Glisten and I had to settle for a very open beaded vest instead of the closed one I had anticipated:
The remarkable thing is that, when laid flat, the garment matched my measurements perfectly. But when worn, it was 3-4 inches longer and narrower because of how the beads changed the fabric. This vest is now the property of my svelte god-daughter and it fits her perfectly. Lesson learned!
With Semillon, the beads are strategically placed in small panels at the hips and on the sleeves of the sweater. There is just enough beading to add sparkle without pulling the garment out of shape! Lacework is a wonderful technique for showing off crystals, and the lace is also strategically placed so that it does not fall over the bust or tummy or any other area that should not be sheer.
The designer, Martin Storey, recently taught a beaded cable workshop which I attended at my local LYS. There, he confirmed all my thoughts about beading and how it can distort the shape of a garment. Storey is a very experienced knitwear designer and has used beads in many clothing patterns over the years, so I knew I would be safe in his hands.
How I love my Semillon! I used Rowan’s discontinued kidsilk haze night for this project, along with the lavender Swarovski crystal beads and the discontinued Rowan shine metallic yarn to give the edges bling. I chose to match my beads to the color of my knitting because I was looking for depth of color and shine rather than a color contrast in this garment.
One of the best aspects of this pattern is that it includes generous waist shaping, producing a flattering hour-glass shape. I enhanced this effect a bit by adding additional waist shaping.
The sleeves are a bit puffed, which means that you have to ease them in to the body of the sweater. I like a mildly puffed sleeve. However, just keep in mind that the neckline cannot be loose, or the sleeve puffing will be exaggerated and fall oddly on the upper arm. The pattern is designed to bring the neck in tightly which then pulls the sleeves in to proportion with the body of the sweater, so it is important to follow those instructions to the letter.
My one caveat about this pattern is that it requires advanced skill with lace. Every row of the twelve-row pattern is different, so there is no purl row to give you a rest. Sometimes one row took 30 minutes to complete, especially row 10, which involved purl 2 through the back loop on the edge of a bead. Addi lace tip needles helped, but I still found this row tricky. Each lace repeat consists of 8 stitches. The lace pattern moves one stitch to the left for each repeat on row 9 and then one stitch to the right for each repeat on row 11, so you have to watch out for that or the entire pattern will go out of synch. Whenever a lace pattern shifts like this, you can get fewer stitches on the right side of the garment and more stitches on the left side, so track that to ensure that your garment does not become asymmetrical. I find tracking easier when I separate each 8-stitch lace repeat with markers. That way, if you go off the pattern in one section, you can spot it right away! I always count my end stitches on the right and left sides of the piece to ensure they stay the same, adding or deleting extras if necessary.
Jennie Atkinson has created a wonderful set of designs for these Swarovski crystal beads, which I will be blogging about soon. I encourage anyone who loves a bit of sparkle to test these beads out, they are truly a spectacular addition to any knitting project!