Beading – it’s not just for the grumpy

Your response to Odessa in all its forms (private e-mails, comments, and discussions on knitting forums) has been simply overwhelming. Thank you. Thank you, again.

I’m happy that the pattern is well-received so far (final judgment when a few hats are finished, right?), and I’d like to let you know that Isela has started a knitalong, and so has Whit; there’s also one on Craftster. Scout encourages you to join her in knitting Odessa for Yarn Harlot’s Olympics (Scout, m’love, are you sure?).

If there are other KALs, leave a comment and I’ll pass on the message to interested knitters.

I’m very (very!) interested in knowing how your Odessas turn out, so drop me a line when you’re done, okay? 😉 Guinea pig #1 and Guinea pig #2 report success, but that’s a very small sample size, eh?

About this Odessa thing – I am certain that the Odessa in Texas and the Odessa in Michigan, and the Odessa in New York are lovely cities, but the Odessa after which the pattern is named is the one in the Ukraine, on the coast of the Black Sea.

Now, let’s get to the meat of this post. The only thing that’s come up so far is beads… what is up with these size 6 beads? I am lucky to have never needed to ponder this question – I just go to the LBS (local bead shop), Beadworks, pick beads which look the right size, and that’s that. But I’ve got Google and Wikipedia, and you’ve got questions, so I’m happy to do a little research.

Bead shape I chose to use seed beads in this project, which are also known as rocaille beads. They are nearly spherical, just squished a bit; they may have a perfectly round hole, or a square one. I understand that sometimes such beads are called E beads, especially in the range of sizes used for this project. Of course you can use more oblong beads, or diamond-shaped beads, or square-ish beads, as long as they fit the yarn as described below.

Bead fit For this project, you want to select beads which, once threaded, move along the yarn with gentle nudging, but at the same time stay put if not tugged. This way the bead has no opportunity to travel to a neighboring stitch (while you’re not looking, of course – sneaky bead!) and you don’t shred the yarn as you knit.

Bead size For Rowan Cashsoft DK, the bead size which satisfies the bead fit requirement is the size 6 seed bead, also known as 6/0.

Seed beads have interesting sizing designations which look like 6/0, 8/0, 10/0, and so on. A smaller number represents a bigger bead, with 6/0 being one of the largest commonly-available seed beads. All of my 6/0 beads are 4 mm in diameter, although on various websites I’ve seen 6/0 beads listed as 3.3 mm – I think this is a minor difference. Approximately 10 beads lined up side by side make up an inch. Most importantly, 6/0 beads are not 6 mm in diameter.

Pre-stringing beads I pre-string using a Big Eye Needle, which has a big enough eye to fit a strand of yarn, but is thin enough to pass through 6/0 (and even 10/0!) beads.

Knitting with beads Let me put up this diagram one more time, because it accurately depicts how one knits with beads (for this pattern).

This concludes our beading lesson. Any questions for the teacher? 😉


42 thoughts on “Beading – it’s not just for the grumpy

  1. Jesh

    No questions, just want to say that I’m totally in love! 🙂 I’ve already beaded, cast on, and stuck pictures on my blog.

    The 3.3 mm listing is, from what little knowledge my jewelry designing mum has passed on, the measurement of the inside of the bead, that is, the hole in the middle, which may explain that difference. That’s because you can have beads that are the same size on the outside, but have different size holes on the inside, and obviously that’s important when figuring out what to string them on!

  2. Chery

    There is an Odessa in Missouri on I-70 east of Kansas City, MO. It’s a little town where my father-in-law went to high school. I like your hat pattern.

  3. jody

    nice info (can you believe such a little pattern requires that much discussion!?).

    i don’t know about beading, but in paintbrush sizing, when you go to sizes such as 6/0, 8/0 it actually means 6 zeroes, 8 zeroes, etc. bead sizing might work the same way. i’m mentioning it because once my mom explained that to me i had that “aha! moment” and understood why the heck they sized them that way. just thought i’d share in case it helps someone else.

  4. Allyson

    My seven year old daughter took one look at Odessa and said, “Oh, I need that hat mommy, in pink of course.” I’ve never knit a hat and have never knit with beads….exciting unknown territory. Thanks for a great pattern.

  5. claudia

    Someone in my comments recommended Japanese seed beads over Czech beads for the smoother hole and more uniform sizing. I can attest that the cheap beads from Michaels that I used were not very uniform in size and sometimes the hole would kind of catch on the yarn. These beads still worked and looked fine, but if I had a choice, I would have bought differently.

  6. Diana

    Great pattern, grumperina! I’m planning to knit one for my roommate.. and think I’ve even talked her into beads 🙂 Can’t wait to try out your beading techniques.

  7. Kathy

    The Japanese beads with smoother holes are known as Delicas. I think they come in two sizes – teeny tiny (11/0 or so) and larger (about 5/0). They are cylindrical and have proportionally large holes. The large size may well have a hole comparable to the 6/0 or E bead. They are great for beadweaving, but since they don’t have the same spherical dimensionality as a standard bead, probably won’t look as pretty on the hat.

    One beader’s opinion. And I work pretty much exclusively with delicas.

  8. Jennifer

    Another way beads can be strung on yarn would be to use one of those dental floss stringers for people who have braces. They’re really inexpensive.

  9. Scout

    I’m so all over this! I’m even going today to my shop (since I don’t have time to browse while I’m working) to pick out my yarn. I already have the needle and the beads. I can’t wait.

    In fact, it’s going to be really hard to wait another what, 9 days?

    Someone asked me on my blog – “Do you think that baby cashmerino could be an acceptable substitution for the Rowan? Because I have one skein of pink that would look awesome in this hat!”

    I don’t see why not do you?

    Thanks again chica for this. I can’t wait.

  10. basak

    I see that we were born probably on the same meridian and possibly the same year, only about 500km apart 🙂 I can see my home city on that map you have! I was wondering already in fact… Lovely hat, btw, I’ll attempt one myself.

  11. Kim

    I only have one question, but it’s not really important, it’s just one of those nagging curiosity type questions. Did I see it right that your bead needle has the eye in the middle, instead of on the end like normal needles do? (Sort of like this: —–[ ]—–) Or am I just totally bonkers? If I’m not bonkers and your needle is really like that.. why is it like that? If it isn’t.. just ignore me. LOL.

  12. Lisa

    I ordered several colors of the Cashsoft since I couldn’t make up my mind. And I found some size 6 triangle shaped beads at my LYS. I also recommend the dental floss thingy for stringing the beads. Can’t wait to get started.

  13. Folkcat

    Former bead store owner here, maybe I can shed some light.

    The commenter who mentioned the paintbrush sizes has it right – the 6/o, 8/o, 11/o designations are a number of 0’s. Bead sizes were originally stated in a number, with smaller numbers being smaller beads. At some point, there were beads so small that they had run out of numbers, reaching 0, so they started using more zeroes – 00, 000, etc. To keep things simple, they would read these as 2/o, 3/o, making it easier to tell how many zeroes. That’s why a smaller number actually means a bigger bead – because it’s closer to zero up the size range.

    Delica beads are not the only Japanese seed beads. There are other varieties that have a more rounded, less cylindrical shape, and they are the ones that were meant when someone mentioned larger, smoother holes and more consistent shapes. Matsuno is a good brand that many stores will carry, and they come in 11/o, 8/o, and 6/o sizes that I’m aware of. The Miyuki company, which is the manufacturer of Delica beads, also offers the more rounded seed beads in various sizes.

    Big-box craft stores are less likely to have Japanese seed beads – more often their seed beads are made in Czechoslavokia, or even worse, China or India. These other countries make usable beads, but you will find more inconsistency in bead and hole size with the Chinese and Indian beads than the Czech. Likewise, the Czech are nice beads, but more inconsistent than the Japanese.

    If you want to find the Japanese seed beads, just look for your local bead shop and tell the owner what you need. It will help if you take some of the yarn you want to work with to show him/her – they’re likely to let you actually try stringing some of the various beads to see what works.

    You may also find that you can work with some pressed glass beads. Commonly made in Czechoslovakia, these are beads pressed in a mold. They are measured by their dimensions in millimeters. 3mm and 4mm round beads are very commonly available in a variety of colors.

    For a little extra sparkle, consider fire-polished crystals. These have faceted sides, not unlike the more expensive Swarovski crystals, but the edges are smoother because the beads receive a final “polish” in a kiln or furnace. Their prices are usually comparable to pressed glass beads.

    Whoever mentioned that the 3.3 mm reference for a size 6/o bead might refer to the hole size – definitely not. A size 6/o bead ranges from around 3.5 to 4 mm in overall size – to have a 3.3mm hole would barely leave enough glass to hold the bead together! I haven’t actually measured any, but I estimate hole sizes in a 6/o bead to be more like 1mm, maybe 1.5, in diameter. 2mm at the most, but that’s unlikely.

    Whew! That’s a lot for a comment, I know, but I hope that it helps clear up the beady issues some!

  14. Kate

    See that spot in the northest corner of your map… yeah, in Poland… now a little south… yes! Krakow! Now see the bumpy stuff just south of Krakow? Those are the mountains where I spent last summer doing my dissertation research.

    I did not knit any hats while there, but I will be knitting an Odessa!

  15. Roseann

    I cast on for my Odessa yesterday morning, and finished it last night. It’s for my niece, minus the beading, and I lightly felted it so it would fit her better. It’s absolutely gorgeous, a perfect pattern.


  16. Jess

    I’ve heard of (but not tried!) two ways to string beads if your needle’s eye isn’t big enough for your yarn:

    – use glue to stiffen the leading end of your yarn, and, while it’s still wet, twist the glued to tighten up the spin, and form a point. Add more glue, if needed to get it as stiff as you want. Once it dries, you can use that pointed end as a needle.

    – string your beads onto thread, then tie the end of the thread around the leading edge of your yarn, and slip the beads onto the yarn.

    Also, Knitter’s Review has an article that shows you how to make your own needle out of fine wire at:

  17. yuvee

    I can’t wait to buy the yarn so that I could cast on for this baby!

    One question though, will Jaeger or Rowan beads work? They have no size stated as far as I know.

    Thanks so much for sharing the pattern!

  18. Eva

    I spent two summers outside of Sevastopol, doing archaeology. I was working with a team from Ukraine (Zaparozhe) and the US. Ukraine has a special place in my heart.

  19. alice

    Well, now I see I’m going to have to add this hat to my list. Both of my father’s parents were born in Odessa, and my grandmother’s reminiscences of the “steps of Odessa” are part of family lore. She emigrated to the US in 1905, having been peripherally involved in student activism against the Czar, so perhaps the steps are no longer there; if so, I don’t want to know about it. My mother’s father was born in Kamenetz, somewhat northwest of Odessa. So, I was destined to make this hat!

  20. i_knit

    I have a childhood friend named Oressa, people always tried to call her Odessa. She looks a little like you come to think of it. hmmm…

  21. sarah

    THANK YOU for this great pattern!!! I just started it last night, and I already love the hat. I recently discovered your site, and I find it really inspirational. Thanks again.

  22. Steph

    I knew you meant Odessa Ukraine right away. Where else would you wear such a stylish hat.

    Thanks for the bead info. This hat is the pattern to get me knitting with beads.

  23. Michelle

    I think I am going to try and knit this in worsted. It would be a great use for 1.15 skeins – I will let you know how it turns out (no beads though : / )

  24. Jennie

    It really is lovely. And very sweet of you to give the pattern away for free! I’m thinking of making it for my mom. Or for a friend’s daughter. Hm, the possibilities!

  25. tevana

    Hi! I LOVE this hat…My friend and I are doing it as a knitalong to get her over her hat phobia. One problem….We can’t find the yarn! Ugh! Seems like only one store in LA carries it and they only have it in pastels….Is there another yarn I can substitute? Many many thanks for your help and this wonderful pattern! Tevana

  26. Kara

    I finished Odessa last night in the light green Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmarino. I had some yarn left, even though the yardage is slightly less than the Rowan. I used Mill Hill glass beads with no problem. It took slightly more than one package. There were 110 beads in the package.

  27. Ann

    I have made 2 Odessa’s already, and they are fabulous, but as mine are intended as chemo caps I altered the pattern slightly to avoid the eyelet that would be created by the YO. In the first, made with Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK, I used Make 1 where you lift the bar between the stitches and knit into it. In the second, with acrylic baby yarn, I was worried that the non-stretchiness of the fiber would result in a hole (meantime I had made a cotton baby sweater using that increase in the sleeves, which left holes), so I used the M1 increase where you place a new loop on the needle to increase. My #1 came out a tad short for a chemo cap (should reach hairline), so my #2 I knit to 6″ before starting the decreases, and also early on increased so that there was 1 extra stitch between each of the raised swirls all the way around. With those mods, it is actually a bit big, so the next one (and yes, there will be a next one) I will omit one of those enlargements, and perhaps will just try casting on 120 stitches as someone else suggested. I may also live dangerously and reverse the swirl direction, as I prefer K2tog over SSK, and clearly a different increase would be needed as well. I am dying to get to my LBS as well as my LYS. Thanks to the posters with the detailed bead info — the first bead shop I went to was rather befuddled by my request, but it turned out OK. Thanks for the great hat pattern! I think I know what everyone on my list is getting for Xmas ’06.

  28. Ann

    One little tip, I had to join balls and used the felted join where you cut half the plies from each end, wrap together and moisten, then rub hard between palms — worked great!! I slid all the beads right over the join. I learned it (and many other things) at (thank you, Amy!). Look here: for “Felted Join: Two Color”. The 2-color join technique is less bulky than the 1-color, that’s why I used it for the beads.

  29. Joan

    Hi there

    Thanks so much for Odessa. My sister is fighting breast cancer and with her head bare it was cold especially at nite in bed so I made one with beads and one without. She just loved it and wears it all the time in place of her wig in the day time as well. I want to try the black sea hat next for her. Thank you so much again for the pattern. God Bless you all


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