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beads and semi-precious stones

I have been fascinated by beads since I was a child. When I was little, the coolest thing we girls had was a collection of beads each. We would take them outside to show our friends; sometimes we swapped beads if there was a particularly choice one in a friend’s collection, but mostly we just handled and admired them. The fascination has never left me, even if I no longer play swapsies with them!

 

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Beads of blue and green glass
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Garnet beads made into drop earrings using enamelled copper wire
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Garnets, Amazonite, Malachite, and Blue Banded Agate
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Abalone shell, semi-precious cabochons and nuggets from my Mum’s collection of gemstones
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Various tumbled nuggets from my Mum’s collection of gemstones

My Mum used to make jewellery using semi-precious stones and I joined in, loving the smooth surfaces of Tiger’s Eye and Carnelian, and delighting in the rich colours of Lapis Lazuli and Garnet. I still have the remains of her stock of gemstones and love looking through them and handling the cabochons and nuggets. It is fascinating to learn that the same basic material, for instance beryl, altered by the addition of a range of chemicals and minerals, turns into Emeralds (chrome has been added) and Aquamarine (coloured by iron). Of course, the chemical additions were made millions of years ago and under high pressure, and that fact in itself is wonderful! Beryl is also a semi-precious stone in its own right, being available in a lovely range of pastel colours.

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Pastel coloured Beryl chips
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Blue banded and purple banded agate beads

A few years ago I decided to learn beading in order to make myself some interesting jewellery – I love earrings and have a huge collection. I made bracelets, earrings and necklaces, learned to wire-wrap and to create drop beads ready for hanging from ear-wires. The skill in wrapping wire and making beads into something that could hang elegantly has stood me in good stead when I decided to start designing knitting stitch markers.

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Tiger‘s Eye and Turquoise chips made into stitch markers

Having been a knitter my whole life (and a crocheter since my teens), I have always been interested in the construction of knitted materials, and when I found out it was possible to knit and crochet with fine wire and add beads just as you do with woollen yarn, well there was no stopping me! It is a bit more fiddly than knitting with yarn, but very satisfying to make a small object, such as ethereal earrings or a delicate bracelet.

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New Jade chips crocheted into an earring

Recommended reading: Gemstones of the World by Walter Schumann. 5th ed. Sterling NY, 2013.

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top five lace shawl designers on ravelry

Lace shawls are my favourite knitting project. I have knitted quite a few over the last few years. Last year I set myself a personal challenge to knit a shawl a month for twelve months, and I completed the challenge in February 2016. I loved doing it and it gave me great insight into the way shawls are constructed, and what makes a great shawl (as opposed to just a very nice shawl). The following is my selection of five superb lace shawl designers.

Rosemary Hill (Romi on Ravelry)
Romi does design the most beautiful shawls. Last year, during my personal challenge The Year of Knitting Lacily, I knitted Asterope from her collection of Seven Small Shawls Year 1: The Pleiades. In fact I bought several of her small shawl collections and could have knitted any one of them, they are all gorgeous! I love the attention to detail, the interesting construction, and in the case of Asterope, the stunningly beautiful border.

 

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Asterope, on the blocking mat

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Verybusymonkey
Verybusymonkey on Ravelry is a very busy lady indeed. She has published nine collections of shawls as ebooks, as wells as patterns for socks, hats, etc. Her trademark design feature is intricate patterning, not always lacy, that relates to the story of the shawl. For instance, she has designed several sets of shawls on the theme of scientists, shawls named Newton, Tesla, Darwin, Galileo, and so on; each shawl shows an element of the discovery for which that scientist is famous. So the Tesla shawl has a border representing alternating current; the Newton shawl illustrates Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion; the Darwin shawl shows the evolution from a single simple shape through successive layers to a beautiful intricate border. I have not yet knitted Darwin, but I know I will soon!

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Tesla

Nim Teasdale
NimbleNim on Ravelry has produced a fabulous collection of shawl designs. I love the way they are constructed. She will provide two or more20151226_101817.jpg charts for a particular shawl and you decide, based upon how large you want the shawl or how much yarn you have at your disposal, on how many repeats to do of each pattern.  It is a very flexible design methodology, and is a wonderful way of using up every scrap of a precious skein. During my challenge last year, I knitted two of her designs, Whirlwind Romance and  Slow Dance, and I loved knitting both of them. On my ToDo list is Ashputtel and The Peacock’s Tale (although, really, I could knit any or all of them!)

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Slow Dance, detail showing beads

Jane Araujo
Jane Araujo may not have the output of some of the designers listed here, but what she has produced are gorgeous! Nightso20150819_193235.jpgngs is the loveliest all-over-lace pattern you will ever see, and it is so easy! It is another pattern where, as long as you have enough yarn, you can just keep adding repeats, and I like patterns like that! I knitted my version in Baa Ram Ewe Titus, colourway Eccup (a lovely deep teal), but I’m thinking of knitting another one in a yarn with a long colour change,  such as Kauni, as the samples that have been knitted in variegated yarns look stunning. So far I have only knitted Nightsongs, but Jane’s other shawls all feature on my ToDo list, starting with the wonderful conflagration of Lace and Entrelac that is Dianna.

 

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Nightsongs

Anna Dalvi
Anna Dalvi designs beautiful complex-looking shawls with a story behind each one. Her Mystic Shawls collection is full of beautiful airy lusciousness; The Ancient Egypt in Lace and Colour ebook has fascinating designs based on the symbolism of colour in ancient Egypt. I have not yet knitted any of Anna’s designs, but I do love drooling over the patterns! I particularly like the triangular shawl Seth for its bold geometric patterning; and Memphis, because it is a pi-shawl and I really want to knit a pi-shawl!

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Seth, photo copyright Anna Dalvi, from the book Ancient Egypt in Lace and Colour