The easiest way is to make your snowflakes sparkly is to use thread that has metallic (or otherwise glittery) stuff built in, though as far as I know this sort of thing is only available in size 10. The easiest to find version of this is Knit-Cro-Sheen, which can be found in 10 color/metallic variations (not all of them snowflake appropriate) plus two pearl variations (white and ecru w/ pearl, very snowflakey).
Though I haven't met any in person ,I've also heard that Elmore-Pisgah also has a line of 10 thread with metallic or iridescent filaments built in, called either Dazzing Diamonds, Honeysuckle Dazzling Colors Mercerized Cotton Metallic, or just Article 2001. Another sparkly thread is Twilley's Goldfingering and Multi-Goldfingering, available from Herrschners (search for "goldfingering") or from Susan who sells patterns for crocheted Christmas ball covers (very cool, check them out!).
If you want to use smaller or nicer thread, try crocheting snowflakes with one strand of crochet cotton and one strand of "blending filament". Blending filament is a very fine thread that one crochets or embroiders right along with one's normal thread. Usually one sees patterns calling for the blending filament made by Krenik (found in the embroidery section of craft stores), but for crochet I much prefer to substitute a metallic or iridescent machine-embroidery thread made by Sulky (available at fabric stores, usually near the fancy European thread that comes on long narrow spools). This is similar in thickness to Xstitch blending filament, but less expensive in the long run (much more thread per spool), plus it's a lot more managable to work with -- real blending filament is nightmarishly fragile and tangly, and machine embroidery thread has to be strong and well-behaved or else the sewing machines would do it in fast. If you can't find that, and you're using larger thread like #10 or bedspread cotton, you can add a strand of the metallic DMC embroidery thread that comes on spools (usually found near Xstitch supplies or sewing threads), though I think the Sulky is smoother and easier to handle. These combinations also look nice when you're crocheting "hats" for satin ball ornaments.
Try sprinkling your snowflakes with some of the newer style of ultra-fine iridescent white glitters. The old-fashioned kind of glitter, made of little squares of metallic stuff, is problematic because the pieces look big and very visible against white thread -- I strongly recommend against using it. At your local craft store, look instead for the glitter that comes in little (2"- 4") glass tubes in various colors and different sizes of glitter-particle. This kind of glitter is often iridescent or holographic, sometimes even shaped like little stars etc (groovy, but not useful for snowflakes). Sometimes it's near fabric painting supplies, sometimes with art supplies, scrapbooking supplies, or with other glitters (wherever they are!). The kind to choose is white and looks like sparkly iridescent snow. Buy the ultra-fine size, since it 's tiny particles are invisible (except for their sparkliness -- as long as you don't gob it on!). It comes with different colors of iridescence within the white -- I think blue looks best with white thread, gold with ecru thread (antique snowflakes?), and the green looks mediocre with everything (but it's better than nothing). There is also some metallic holo-glitter that looks good with a silver-gray thread (DMC Cebelia has this color available). The particles of this kind of glitter are visible on white thread, so silver thread works better. "Gray snowflakes???" you ask -- but they shimmer with incredibly bright rainbow colors when the lights on the tree hit them. Little (& bigger) boys love it!
To apply the glitter, use a glue-type stiffener so it will stick. I get the snowflake full of diluted glue, squeeze out & blot off the excess, then lay it out on a paper plate. I sprinkle glitter on one side, turn it over, and sprinkle on the other side. If you use too much, it looks lumpy and hides all your careful stitches, so use just enough to sparkle. Then remove the flake, pour the excess glitter into a temporary container like a paper cup to save it for sprinkling the next flake, and block the glittered flake. Then do the next flake. Your hands will get irritatingly sticky and glittery, so I tend to work near a sink for easy rinsing. I save up flakes to glitter and block until I have enough to fill my whole blocking board, then I empty a kitchen counter to use for glitter and blocking, and de-glitter the kitchen when I'm all done, so that my housemate doesn't stiffen me (a laundry room would probably be better, but I don't have one).
Beads look really nice on snowflakes (that's an understatement, by the way...). To crochet with beads, you need to have all the beads you're going to need strung on your thread before you start crocheting. Size 11 seed beads work with most crochet threads, but it's hard to get them onto #10 thread using a needle. It's easier to stiffen the first 2-3 inches of your thread with something like Elmer's Glue, and pretend the stiff thread is a needle, trimming off the tip if gets fuzzy or bent. With size 20 or 30 thread, a size 24 Xstitch needle works well (and can't poke your finger by mistake), but any needle that fits thru the bead is fine. I usually just stiffen the thread end, though. As for bead choices, I like snowflakes with clear sparkly "rochaille" beads, iridescent & faceted clear beads, and pearly looking beads. You can get big bags of "rochaille" beads cheap on sale at Michael's, JoAnne, or other craft stores. And of course, altogether too many wonderful beads can be found at bead boutiques. Don't buy those teeny tiny overpriced packages they sell at craft stores (like Mill Hill beads) unless they're really all you can find -- bead boutiques give you far more beads per dollar, so you can save you money for important things like thread, hooks, and patterns!
For snowflakes made with tatting thread, I use #15 seed beads (normal #11 seed beads look big and lumpy on such fine thread). These are very small, so not many people use them -- big chain craft stores never carry them, so you will need to go to a specialty bead boutique to find any. Because their holes are so small, I stiffen the end of the tatting thread to string them -- even if beading needles fit the hole, the folded thread at the eye of the needle doesn't. Since tatting thread is so fine, I find that it takes a couple of coats of glue to make the thread-end stiff enough to work as a "needle".
It's a good idea to thread on at least 12-24 more beads than you think you'll want -- if you don't use them you can always put them back in the bag for later, but if you get inspired or counted wrong at the beginning, you can't put on more beads after you've started. Sometimes I just assign a ball of thread to be a beaded snowflake ball, and just string lots and lots of beads onto it, and add more after each flake is finished. A slip knot keeps them from escaping between projects.
So Here's How...
Unless you're a genius at visualizing invisible crochet, you'd best have your thread full of beads and hook in hand when you're reading this. Otherwise you're going to get unnecessarily confused and discouraged -- but the only confusing thing is that there are so many different ways of incorporating beads into your stitches!! The individual methods are mostly easy (well, a couple are a bit odd... but not hard!). It's really just the profusion of possibilities that makes the eyes cross...
To make a chain that includes a bead, push the bead forward right up to the base of the loop where the hook is, and grab the thread just after the bead to make your chain -- hopefully the bead will now be caught inside your chain. You can incorporate beads into any of the chain loops in your snowflake -- just choose loops that aren't going to get filled in with other stitches on subsequent rounds of the pattern. Also be aware that beads tend to make the loops a touch longer -- sometimes adding a bead or two means you can omit a chain or two. If you've made many snowflakes, you'll know when this is a good idea...
In any pattern with a lot of picots, you can replace each picot with a bead picot. Instead of the picot, for example: [ch 3, sl st in 3rd ch from hook], do [ch 1, ch w/ bead, sc in ch before bead]. And it's less irritating to do than a normal picot. How cool...
To do any stitch with a bead, you basically just make sure the bead gets caught somewhere inside the stitch as you're making it. If you really think about it (probably best with that hook and bead-filled thread in hand), there are a lot of different places in the stitch where you can slide a bead in. If you consider yourself a competent and reasonably creative crocheter, please just play with this idea before you read beyond the end of this paragraph. Brainstorm up all the places where you can slide a bead into a sc, then into a dc -- test it by seeing how many beads you can get into a single stitch without having them be end-to-end in the same part of the finished stitch. I've found 3 places for a bead in a sc, 4 places on a dc, 6 on a trc. The main problem is that the beads tend to want to end up on the back of the work, but we can fix this because we're clever.
My favorite strategy to get beads to the front of my work is to push a bead up to the hook before I wrap the thread around the hook for a dc or trc, and crochet the bead in as I'm working off the series of loops on the hook (I usually do this when working off the first pair on a dc, on the second pair in a trc). If you want the bead to end up on the front of your work, it's best to push the bead to the front of the hook just before work off the loop that it's on, or else it will end up on the back of your work, or (on no!) stick out deformedly on the side of the stitch. Don't wait until the stitch is all done to push it forward, or it might not want to go where you want it to, but it does work OK to slide the bead forward just after you've worked the loop that holds it. If you incorporate 2 beads into the initial hook wrapping for a trc, then work them off in two steps (it takes a little manipulation), you can make them both come out on the front of the stitch. An aside: when you put 2 beads on the initial wrap of a dc, you can also wiggle them so one is on the front of the stitch and one on the back, but I'll mention a less lumpy way to accomplish this later on. Another aside: you can also incorporate a bead into a dc immediately after you wrap the hook and insert it into the stitch below, but before you draw that first loop thru. The bead ends up on the back, but you can slide it around to the front of the stitch before you work off all those loops on the hook -- but if you're clever, you'll see that this is just the same as having incorporated it during the hook wrapping process, so why bother? I only mention it because I recently saw a pattern that told you to do it this way...
If you want to do sc with beads, the easiest way is to draw up the first loop, push the bead forward to the hook, then finish the stitch. Alas, this puts your bead on the back of your work. There are a couple of ways to incorporate the bead sooner in the stitch, but they all leave the bead on the back of your work. But if you're as stubborn as I am, you can find the way to cram the bead through so it can be on the front. Here's how: push the bead forward, insert the hook into the stitch below and draw up a loop -- the bead is now incorporated on the back of your work. Cram it through the same hole where the hook just went, so it's now on the front of your work -- the loop will seem a little twisted, but just finish the stitch. Voila, you're stubborn, and you have a bead on the front of a sc! After you've done this a few times, try grabbing the bead with the hook, and pulling it through along with that first loop. It's a little tricky, but once you get the hang of it, it actually works. All of this, of course, only works with seed beads. Bigger beads just won't fit through that little hole...
Say you want your sc's to have beads can't manage to push them through. No tragedy -- you will have to call the back of this snowflake the front, and block it bead side up. This also means that beaded dc or trc should be manipulated so the beads go to the back . I feel that this seems to work best if you wrap your hook without the bead, draw up the first loop, then push the bead (or beads) forward to the hook sometime during the process of working off the remaining pairs of loops. On a dc there will be two such opportunities -- you can choose one or the other, or incorporate 2 beads into the stitch. On a trc, there will be three opportunities, etc.
To make reversible beaded snowflakes, put beads on both sides of your stitches. For sc, first pull a bead thru to the front, then incorporate a bead on the back as you finish the stitch. And when putting beads on longer stitches, I find it looks best to incorporate the front bead when first wrapping the hook, work it off, then incorporate the back bead when working off the next pair of loops off the hook.
I prefer to stiffen beaded snowflakes with starch, since it doesn't stick to the beads and dull their shine.
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© Copyright 1997, 2000 Noël V. Nevins