Saturday, February 14, 2009

Gilding the Lily: beading and final finishing scarves

Okay, fair warning... this is a long post with lots of photos. Lynnette will love this one. :)

Today I'm talking about how I bead and finish scarves ( and by extension, shawls etc) so this is a sort of 'tutorial'. I'm working on the four scarves I recently took off the big Woolhouse and you also saw in the fringe twister post. All fringes are twisted, but the tassels are not trimmed yet. Below is my bead stash. It's a hefty bag of goodies! Beads and other shiny things grab my attention like a magpie. I'm always on the look out for beads in certain colour schemes as those are the colours I know I weave more often with. If I get down to Victoria I always stop in at Beadworld at the Johnson Street Market. Tell hubby to stay away for at least an hour and settle in for a good browse as the place is *loaded*.

I start by dumping them all out and then removing obvious mismatches for colour and making a pile of possibles. I let the colours, bead size, yarn grist of the handwoven and my mood 'talk' to me as I pull together a grouping of beads to try. Sometimes I have lots of choice and others not so much. (I make a note in my wallet journal of the colours that need more attention next time at Beadworld.) Finally a few more are weeded out and now we are down to real potential candidates.

Which is narrowed further to the ones I want to work with on this scarf. This scarf is 100% tencel warp and weft. Since I'm a neat freak, they are all sorted into little bowls. Beads need corralling! You still have plenty on the floor when you're done any way...

Then I get out my superfine beading needle ( magnifier lens to thread it with along with my progressive bi-focals!), thread conditioner 'Thread Heaven' and other useful items, such as a bright light. In this picture you can see how fine this needle is by judging it against the ordinary sewing thread.

Thread Heaven is a soft malleable waxy compound that you drag your polyester thread through and it will now magically behave. It reduces the twisting and kinking that can happen with sewing threads. { I have used older sewing threads that were my mothers and they don't do this! What have the manufacturers done in the past years that makes these threads so difficult to work with now?} You can also use a block of natural bees wax and this will accomplish much the same effect. You will need to reapply from time to time as you sew and it washes out. Not that it leaves any sign that you've used it though...

I take a good long length of thread, thread the needle and coat the thread ( run through fingers to eliminate the static charge). Then using no knots, I sew UP the side of the scarf, then back down to the bottom edge again.

Then turning the work, I work the needle across to the first gap between fringe bouts:

Then I start 'composing' with the beads and may try several arrangements before I settle on a combination. Mainly I just go with what feels right. I aim to have two or three feature groups of beads per end and keep to a fixed arrangement. I lick my (clean) finger tip and the beads cling nicely. Pick them up with the needle point and when done I insert the needle back down through the beads MISSING the end bead.

In this case, five blacks, and three reds and I go back down through the two lower reds.

The needle slips into the edge threads and I tug the thread through all the beads. I check to make sure there is no extra thread hung up somewhere. This can happen, so be sure to check both sides.

Then I move the needle across the base of the next fringe bout and come up in the next space. In this case, one of the two special groups per side:
In this spot I have the 'special' beads to thread down back to the base again, always with a bead on the end to hold everything. Check for snagged thread.

Then onto the next section and so on. I find that keeping the sewing thread under tension is a big help in controlling the work and its progress. Much like warp threads on the loom!

Here I've looped the thread over my finger tip as I work the thread back down through the beads. It's also hard to do all these steps AND take pictures but I somehow managed!

Then at the opposite end, just repeat the initial steps to end the work. Turn and do opposite side of scarf. Admire work. Ask opinions of anyone around! If you decide you are not happy about the bead combo, just snip and off they come. I usually go with my first instincts...

Okay one scarf done and three more to go!

Here are the bead combo's for the silk cashmere weft. ( bead stash needs more added to this category!)

The end result.....

Then my personal fav, silk yak blend with it's steely grey sheen:

Then last, the silk wool blend; the beading work is under way here:

And the final edge is done!

They all went into warm sudsy water and soaked for 20 minutes and I squeezed them thoroughly to help shift threads, and also to wash out any spinning oils and possible dye particles. Tencel doesn't shift much or full but the protein weft fibres will move. Rinse twice, with a drop of fabric softener in the last rinse water. I used the spin cycle only in the washing machine. Then I took them to the ironing board and gently worked them into shape and pressed them with a medium setting and no steam. It is more or less to get their shape back and flatten them and remove wrinkles created by washing and spinning. I hung over old towels over night to dry. The next day I trimmed off any weft tails carefully and them gave them a hard pressing with a medium iron, using full steam. (I use a Rowenta iron and like it very much.) Then I carefully straightened the fringe and combed the ends. Held them down with a ruler and then trimmed them off with a rotary cutter at approx 1/2 inch to 3/4's of an inch. Now gently tack sew my new labels into position..

Admire again.... a lot.
My new labels come from Sterling Name Tape Company . They were recommended by Dave
I got some made in black and beige. I just ordered more in white and so I will have a nice selection. They will only go onto scarves, shawls and more higher end goods I weave. ( My next goal is to get new hang tags designed) Okay, here's the fashion parade! 'Scuse the model, she's a bit stiff. :)
Cashmere and silk with tencel

hand dyed silk wool blend with tencel

tencel with tencel.... geat sheen!

Did I mention this one is my favourite?


Theresa said...

Gorgeous work Susan. I can imagine how beautiful
one would feel wearing one of those creations.

Lynnette said...

Great minds think alike, I love the steely grey one too! Thanks so much for this beading lesson, almost like being there and I've always admired your wonderful way with beads. The bead stash is awesome....mine is piddly by comparison. And yes, I love lots of photos - after all they do say a thousand words!

Sunrise Lodge Fiber Studio said...

Thanks for such a great post;) I love the tutorial and the show of all of the scarves. I just got a special request for a remake of one of my scarves that sold with beads....I'm going to use your method with the remake;)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful work! Thanks for showing us your technique. The weaving is lovely, and the beading lifts the scarves to an even higher level.

Alison said...

Your scarves are lovely! Thanks for taking the time for such an informative post.

Anonymous said...

Superb tutorial. Thanks for the tips. I'm partial to the grey one too.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful beadwork. It adds such an elegant finishing touch to each of them.
And your labels are perfect.

Anonymous said...

Susan, I'm the DH of a weaver (Monterey,central coast) and I enjoy reading your blog. It's interesting and well thought. I wish my weaving wife would clean up the dust bunnies and stray threads after each project. But, after 25 years I guess she's not going to change...Robert

Susan said...

Thank you everyone for the kind words..

Bead stash is something that, like the yarn stash, slowly grew. I limit what I pick up now to what I know I'm short of.

If you'd like to try this technique, please go ahead and give it a try. I don't always bead a scarf. Sometimes it just doesn't need it... and also men's scarves don't really call for it. I used to add beads into the fringe and then twist but they can shift during washing and wearing. If the fringe is somewhat loosely twisted, they will all end at the bottom! I moved to adding them as I showed you in the post and they are more secure plus visible from both sides. They are also out of the way for cleaning and pressing.

Robert: Sorry, can't help you with that one but maybe you could lend a hand as she is obviously weaving and could use some help :)


Bruce said...

I've always been impressed with your work. Even your earliest pieces were quite well done, and I knew that it would only get better with more practice, better equipment, and...more shiny beads! ;-}

The way in which you present your work on this blog seems to benefit a great many weavers, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if a major publication asked you to write a regular column for them.

PS, I don't mind going to Victoria with you to shop for beads. Lens and Shutter is just a few doors away from Bead World.

bspinner said...

BEAUTIFUL scarves!!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to write this tutorial.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Oh my gosh, gorgeous scarves, beautiful beads, and a great tutorial! I am speechless except to say that I am saving this post.

R. Delight said...

Oh so very beautiful. Now if they would only invent an internet connection where you could reach out and feel! I too appreciate your tutorials. Thanks for the post, -Renee

Life Looms Large said...

Gorgeous beading - and wonderful scarves!!!

Thanks for the tutorial. I didn't know about that special skinny needle, or about the thread tamer stuff...or for that matter, that my grandmother's old thread that I have kicking around might be well-behaved. I'm definitely saving this post for a time when I try beading. I've done it in workshops....but so far not on my weaving - mainly dishtowels, so beading wouldn't be so great there!!

Once I enter my scarf phase of weaving, you can be sure that I'll be back to learn this again!!

Where are all these beautiful scarves going to end up??


Anonymous said...

Beautiful work Susan. I just found your blog recently (while looking for info on the new Jane table loom). I'm a beader who weaves and have noticed at our annual weavers' guild sale that many weavers are incorporating beads into their work. I would just like to say that I hope you're testing your beads for bleeding, etc. before using them. There are many colors and finishes that just don't stand up to the suggested "care" whether it be handwashing, dry cleaning, or something in between. Your work is really beautiful.

Susan said...

Hello Karen in MO,
Yes, these beads are fine and no colour bleeding. The scarves were washed after the beading and they passed with flying colours ( pun intended :)

I have been adding beads to my handwovens for many years... actually long before it was popular or featured in Handwoven. I always choose glass beads of high quality. Bone is fine as well but no overdyeing as it may bleed. So a natural colour is just fine with some of my silks.

I normally recommend handwashing, hang to dry and a light iron avoiding the beads and fringe.
Keeps it simple...

Thanks for stopping by and staying for more than just the Jane loom.
Speaking of which: both Lynnette and Renee in the comment section here have Jane looms. Take a look at what they are weaving on theirs as well.

skiingweaver said...

Oh, wow, just gorgeous bead work! And scarves, too, so beautiful! I've been feeling myself getting attracted to those shiny little lovelies lately... Uh-oh! :)

Susan said...

Karen in MO...

Drop me a line to
weever at and we'll talk more privately.


Louisa said...

That's a really lovely way to add beads to the fringe! Out of the way but visible from both sides - perfect. Is there a reason why you secure your thread in the selvege as opposed to along the bottom edge where the other stitches are located?

Susan said...

Hi Louisa,
Thanks for your comments!
I run up the thread up both sides as the bottom edge is about to get real busy. It also reduces any additional bulk in that area as sometimes I'm beading a fine silk scarf,

.. and because I can. :)

The goal of beading it this way was to ensure that the beads could be seen from both sides as the shawls I weave are reversable. Usually one side is a bit darker, the other lighter. It would depend on thr owners preference.

Gwen said...

Your scarves are stunning! The beading work is exquisite and the perfect final touch! :)
Thanks for the tutorial - it'll be a long time before I'm doing anything this challenging, but someday... ;)

Jackie said...