Knit Your Own Jewelry

Who says you can only knit with yarn? The truth is, if you can wrap it around your needles and make stitches with it, you can knit with just about anything -- from recycled grocery bags to licorice.

Knitting your own jewelry can be lots of fun, and the results don't have to look like a summer camp project. You begin with gold wire, metallic thread, fine string, or any other unusual threadlike material.

Then you add color, texture, depth, and visual interest by sliding beads in between your stitches. The results can be as elegant and professional as anything you'd find in a boutique.

In this tutorial, we'll cover knitted bracelets and necklaces, although these are by no means your only options.

Additional Articles
arrow Knitting with Beads
arrow Review of Nancie Wiseman's book Knitting with Wire

Where to Find Beads, Clasps and Threads
arrow Bead Boppers
arrow The Bead Merchant
arrow Caravan Beads
arrow Fire Mountain Gems
arrow Second Story
arrow Shipwreck Beads

Other Resources on the Web
arrow Beadwork Magazine
arrow Beadwork

Some popular threading optionsThe Planning Stage
Your first decision is what kind of drape you want your jewelry to have. Would you like it to rest against your skin like a strand of pearls, or do you want a more solid standalone item?

Wire will produce the most rigid fabric, although you can vary the rigidity by choosing a thicker or thinner wire.

Thicker wire tends to be more difficult to manipulate with needles. Fine wire, on the other hand, has a delicate appeal but will easily bend out of shape. If you're looking to create a bracelet for everyday wear, keep this in mind.

Tip: The smaller your needles, the harder it can be to manipulate wire. Consider using a fine crochet hook (whose circumference matches your needle size as closely as possible) for your working needle. The hook makes it much easier to secure loops and draw them through stitches.

Moderately Firm
If you'd like to go for a semi-rigid effect, you can choose from different types of metallic and nylon thread. This can be a good compromise if you want drape but can't sacrifice wearability.

If you want an entirely fluid piece of jewelry, choose a more malleable string, thread, or floss. Many yarn stores also carry fine crochet string, which you'll see in an example below.

Other Options
You can also use fine elastic thread (often available in yarn shops) to create a relaxed yet form-fitting item.

A group of beadsChoosing Your Bead Combinations
Now that you have a general idea of what you want, it's time to focus on the visuals: your beads and stitches.

As you'll see in the photos below, the same strand of beads will look very different depending on how you knit it.

The first image shows the pre-strung beads. (For more details about stringing beads, read the beaded knitting overview.) Next, you see how they knit up with one stitch per row using garter stitch.

And finally, you see how they knit up if you use three stitches per row instead of one. Each row begins by slipping the first stitch. Then you slide one bead over, knit the next stitch, slide over another bead, and knit your final stitch. Slipping the first stitch causes the strand to curl, which can be an attractive effect.

Beads strung and ready for knitting
Pre-strung beads, prior to knitting. The results when knitting one stitch and bead per row
One-stitch row in garter stitch.
The results when knitting three stitches and adding two beads per row
Three-stitch row in garter stitch, slipping first stitch.

While the large pearl looks elegant as a central highlight for the single-stitch necklace, notice how lumpy and awkward it looks on the multi-stitch one.

That's why it's best to use multiples of any larger beads if you're knitting several stitches per row. This helps ensure that the overall size changes are evenly distributed across the entire strand rather than just one side of it.

A knitted necklace using different types of beadsThe necklace at right was created using this same stitch repeat and larger numbers of each size and color of bead. The beads and thread came from a Deanna's Vintage Styles kit.

Such kits can be excellent introductions to the world of knitted bead jewelry. Rarely will you use up all the supplies in your first try, which leaves you a stash of extras for follow-up experiments.

For this necklace I chose not to darn the ends together. Instead, I added a clasp closure attached via two strands of single beads on each end.

Alternative Stitch Options
If you prefer the more elegant pendant effect, try knitting a simple i-cord to the center of your work, then incorporating a few, select beads, and finishing the necklace with an equal length of i-cord on the other side.

(An i-cord is created using double-pointed needles and just a few stitches per row. Instead of turning your work at the end of each row, as you normally would, you slide the work to the other end of your needle and begin knitting again. The result is more tubular than flat stockinette stitches.)

We've just begun to scratch the surface of what's possible. For me, knitting beaded jewelry is as fun and mind-opening as dyeing yarn with Kool Aid. But unlike Kool-Aid's limited flavor selection, the world of beads is truly limitless.

Have fun!