So you’ve got the hang of adding beads with a crochet hook? If you want to move on, there is a world of possibilities. I’m going to summarise the options and wax lyrical about my favourite.
Before we start, I’m only talking here about adding beads as you go, not pre-threading. I confess I have never pre-threaded the beads because it just sounds so fiddly, not to mention annoying with having to keep moving hundreds of beads down your yarn all the time. It’s not for me…or at least I have yet to encounter the project which truly demands it of me. We are talking here about a little light-to-moderate beading, which covers most projects, and certainly all of Inspiration Knits designs to date.
Basically, the following options use exactly the same technique as the crochet hook method, but they all have two big advantages over the basic hook:
Firstly, you can load them with lots of beads, so you’re not having to pick up a bead every time you want to add one. I know you can usually stack up two or three beads onto a crochet hook, but they don’t really want to stay there, and it’s not a huge step up from one-at-a-time. With the alternatives, you can pre-load lots of beads onto your “hook”.
Secondly, these alternatives avoid the yarn splitting as much as it can with a crochet hook. Yes, with a bit of experimenting you can find the best combination of hook size and bead for a particular project, but a tiny crochet hook does want to split the yarn. I do find a 0.6mm needle and lace weight absolutely no trouble; it’s 4ply that is awkward. With 4ply (fingering), when the hook is big enough to not split the yarn, it doesn’t fit through the beads so easily. I end up with a lot more wastage of beads that are too small to use. So what are the other options?
1. Wire. This is my favourite for 4ply/fingering projects. It’s cheap, effective and reasonably sturdy. It has a longer hook section so you can completely trap the yarn inside the hook, completely avoiding any yarn splitting issues. Also, even with the wire folded over at the hook, it’s still slimmer than a 1.0mm crochet hook.
I use 0.4mm jewellery wire to make what is essentially a glorified crochet hook. People have tried all kinds of jewellery and guitar wire. I think it comes down to what is available to you in your craft store or stash. I don’t recommend wires with lots of strands put together since they ultimately untwist and come apart, but then if that’s what you have to hand it’s probably worth trying before buying a more suitable wire.
To make your own hook, take a length of wire approx 15cm/6″ long. Thread 3-5 beads on the end and twist the wire securely to make a stopper (red beads in diagram above). Add a few more beads and feed the loose end back up through these beads so that the end is tucked out of the way (purple beads, above), or you can feed them back through the looped (red, above) beads. I’ve also tried attaching a pretty stitch marker to make a glamorous stopper, then twisting it secure and hiding the end with a few beads.
Fold the straight end into a long hook, approx 3cm/1″ long (at left in diagram above). Now you’re ready to load it with beads. Push the beads onto the hook end, which will help to make it close-up nicely ready for use. I recommend leaving the last 5cm/2″ clear of beads so that you can feed them up one at a time.
Use it in the same way as a crochet hook. Hook the next stitch off onto the length of wire. Slide the stitch up inside the hook, so that it is held there just like the crochet hook method. Slide the next bead up the wire and over the closed hook. Now it’s easy to slide the bead up the hook and off onto the legs of the stitch – with absolutely no splitting. It’s exactly the same technique as before, except now you’ve got loads of beads pre-loaded and you’ve no danger of splitting the yarn with that super-long hook. For me, this is the only way to bead splitty yarns.
Do watch that the hooked end doesn’t catch on your knitting while it’s in your project bag. I keep mine in a small ziplock. I’ve seen straws suggested for storage too. Some people like the long hook and use it to hang the beader off their knitting while they work; I’m a bit more cautious.
Yes, after a while the wire gets all bent out of shape, so you’ll need to make a new one. I find a wire lasts me for quite a few projects, especially since I’m better at looking after them now. They don’t get damaged in use – only if you’re careless, force a damaged bead onto the wire, or have an unlucky accident.
2. Dental floss. Yes, this works exactly the same way as the wire. This time, you can just tie a knot in the loose end to stop the beads falling off. It has a few advantages over the wire in that the hooked end can’t snag on your knitting when it’s all in your project bag. Floss is very fine, so it won’t impede your bead threading. You can cut the length of floss to 30cm/12″ and preload a lot more beads before it becomes too awkward a length for working. A long wire has a life of its own and wants to bend all over the place (which is why I suggest a shorter length of wire), whereas a length of floss loaded with beads hangs neatly.
The main disadvantage for me is that it doesn’t hold the hook shape very well by itself. Yes, it stays creased a bit, and it is harder to damage, but I find a wire hook easier to use. One of my knitting group has discovered a type of floss that comes in pre-cut lengths and with a thicker foam section at the end, so you don’t need a knot. It’s as if it was designed for beading!
Our knitting group is divided; some prefer the wire, others love the floss. I recommend giving both a try.
3. Fleegle beader. If you add A LOT of beads to your projects, then you might like to try the Fleegle Beader. It was developed with the same two advantages in mind – reducing the splitting of the yarn, and loading with more beads. The Fleegle header has a notch in the end instead of a hook with the idea being that it won’t split the yarn so easily. To use it, you flick the bead over the yarn while the yarn is sitting in the notch. It’s a slightly different technique but the concept is the same. The tail end is designed for use with a bead spinner, so that you can load lots of beads quickly. However, they’re over £7 each (more than $10) plus shipping (and potentially plus a bead spinner), but this might be the tool for you – Fleegle Beader available on etsy
The way it is used is similar but not quite the same – here is the Fleegle Beader tutorial.
Personally, the advantages of completely trapping the yarn inside a long wire or floss hook have prevented me from giving this tool a try…that and the price! If the price comes down, and I have so many beads to add that I need to use a spinner, then I’ll definitely give it a whirl.
There you have it: 3 alternatives to the crochet hook. As I’ve said before, there are no rights and wrongs in knitting. Try out the methods which appeal and pick the one that is right for you and your project.
So, which methods have you tried? Have you tried the Fleegle Beader? What’s your favourite?