Recently I posted this picture on Spin-Off Magazine's website. A couple readers asked me how I make my beaded yarn, so I finally wrote it all down.
I kind of came up with my own way of spinning beaded yarn. Having said that, there are probably other spinners who have come up with the same method. I've only seen it done the same way one other time at the MD Sheep and Wool Festival, but for all I know, someone has probably already written the book about it. I tend to drool over spinning books and then not let myself buy them. For better or for worse, I want my ideas to come from my own head.
I'm being too wordy. OK, Here's what I do. I use a bead threading needle, the kind that looks like just a big needle eye. I take a very fine sliver of whatever fiber I'm working with and insert in through the eye of the threader. Then I take the bead and slide it onto the fiber. I've been able to thread pretty small beads. The trick is to put just the very tip if the fiber through the eye so the bead doesn't have to travel over anything too thick.
As far as beads go, I like to stick with 6mm or smaller. They will be easier for the knitter or crocheter to work with later and they won't be too heavy for the finished yarn. Sometimes I like to thread the beads with the same color and fiber that I'm spinning the base yarn out of and sometimes I like to choose a complimentary or harmonious color. Really the possibilities are endless and when you include the wide world of beads into your yarn making, you really expand your horizons.
Once you have a bunch on fiber threaded beads, you are ready to spin. You have to decide how often to introduce each bead and how structured you want that placement to be. Whatever you choose will be part of your individual design. When you get to the place where you're going to spin in the bead, you basically work it in the same way you join fiber when you are spinning any yarn. Be careful not to make each bead placement thicker than then rest of your skein. Just draft the fiber thin enough to accommodate the fiber that the bead is threaded on.
There's one more step. I anchor the beads in place by separating out a fine piece of fiber that the bead is strung onto. Run it over the bead and work it into the twist just beyond the bead. By anchoring the bead in place, it makes it possible to spin beaded singles. You don't need that extra ply to stabilize your yarn and hold the bead in place. I've made both plied and singles, but I kind of like the singles because the beads really show well are there is something more delicate about them.
There's one more thing I should add. You have to be more careful setting the twist on beaded yarn. The weight of the beads can pull on the fiber. I set my twist by keeping the yarn on the niddy noddy and running it back and forth through a warm bath of water. I do like to add a small amount of gentle cleanser as well. After the bath I use a wash cloth or towel to blot out some of the water. Then I let it start the drying process on the niddy noddy. When it's at least half way dry, I'll take it off and block it as I do my other skeins.
Now I feel like I'm writing a book. *laugh* I hope I've explained it well enough. It's one of those things that's probably easier to show than tell. I'll make a video next time I'm spinning one and add it to the cue. Bead spinning is definitely a more meticulous process, but the results are just so satisfying! :D