There is something marvellously vivid about the colouring of the old bead purses. When patterns are knitted, it entails much counting of beads, but it is extremely fascinating to copy the old designs. Some depict a quaint house and trees (Fig. 2).
Another, over a century old, shows a curious star-like design of wonderful ruby beads (Fig. 3). The star in the centre is formed of white beads, surrounded by several rows of cut ruby beads, with a border of tiny flowers on a white ground, finished off with a fringe of fine gold beads. It looks as if it had been knitted in nine panels and afterwards joined together, but this is not so, as each side was knitted in one piece on four needles like a stocking, the panels being narrowed down into the centre of the star. When completed, each side was neatly sewn together and attached to an elaborate pinchbeck frame and clasp.
It may interest the modern worker to imitate the triumphs of the past, in which case the following directions for knitting this bag will be found useful. Beads of thirteen colours are used - dark blue, mid blue, dark green, pale green, orange, pale lemon, cut garnet or ruby beads, red, light pink, chalk white, white for grounding, brown, and gold. The pattern is repeated in each of the nine panels, making a complete circular design when the knitting is finished. Twenty-three beads are required for the top of each panel, thus two hundred and seven stitches must be on the needles for the knitting. To commence with, thread all the beads (according to the directions for the separate rows) on to the finest silk or cotton, then cast two hundred and seven stitches on to the needles, knit a plain stitch, slip up a bead, knit a plain stitch, and slip up a bead for the entire purse. The bead should rest well forward between the two minute stitches.
Directions for one panel are given. Each row, as threaded, should be repeated eight times, making nine in all. The same remark applies to the knitting of the beads. Repeat eight times. Knit on straight ahead in this manner until the pattern and panels are formed and narrowed. Work the second side in exactly the same way, and sew neatly together. Thread on fine gold beads and sew to the edge in loops to form a fringe.
Fig. 3. A design that is over a century old, executed in cut ruby and white beads, and finished with a fringe of fine gold beads
Directions for Threading and Knitting for One Panel
Note. - Each row must be repeated eight times, making nine in all, both in threading and knitting, before proceeding to the following row.
Row 1. - 23 gold beads.
Row 2. - 22 gold beads. Narrow one stitch at end. (Always narrow at the end of each row when directed.)
Row 3. - 22 all white.
Row 4. - 22 all white.
Row 5. - 21 beads : 3 white, 2 dark blue, 2 white, 1 dark green, 10 white, 2 pale green,
1 white. Narrow one.
Row 6. - 21 beads : 2 yellow, 4 dark blue,
2 dark green, 1 white, 3 pale green, 1 garnet, 1 light pink, 2 garnet, 1 white, 3 dark green, 1 white.
Row 7. - 20 beads : 2 yellow, 4 dark blue, 1 dark green, 2 white, 2 pale green, 1 red, 1 garnet, 1 light pink, 1 garnet, 1 red, 1 garnet, and 3 dark green. Narrow one.
Row 8. - 20 beads : 2 yellow, 3 dark blue,
3 blue, 3 pale green, 1 red, 1 garnet, 1 light pink, 1 chalk white, 2 garnet, 2 dark green,
Row 9. - 19 beads : 2 orange, 1 garnet, 5 blue, 2 light green, 1 white, 1 red, 1 garnet,
2 light pink, 2 chalk white, 1 light pink, 1 garnet. Narrow one.
Row 10. - 19 beads : 2 orange, 2 yellow,
3 blue, 1 white, 2 brown, 2 pale green, 1 red,
1 garnet, 4 light pink, 1 white.
Row 11. - 18 beads : 1 dark blue, 1 orange, 3 yellow, 1 pale green, 2 white, 2 dark green, 3 brown, 1 red, 3 garnet, 1 white. Narrow one.
Row 12. - 18 beads : 2 dark green, 3 yellow,
2 pale green, 1 white, 4 dark green, 2 white,
3 red, 1 white.
Row 13. - 18 beads: 1 white, 3 green,
3 white, 1 pale green, 2 white, 3 dark green, 5 white.
Row 14. - 18 white beads.
Row 15. - 17 whiteheads. Narrow one.
Row 16. - 17 gold beads.
Row 17. - 16 gold beads. Narrow one.
Row 18. - 15 garnet beads. Narrow one.
Row 19. - 14 garnet beads. Narrow one.
Row 20. - 13 garnet beads. Narrow one.
Row 21. - 13 garnet beads.
Row 22. - 12 garnet beads. Narrow one.
Row 23. - 11 garnet beads. Narrow one.
Row 24. - 10 garnet beads, one white.
Row 25. - 10 beads : 1 chalk white, 8 garnet, 1 white.
Row 26. - 10 beads : 1 chalk white, 1 garnet, 1 chalk white, 3 garnet, 1 white, 1 garnet, 2 white.
Row 27. - 9 beads : 3 chalk white, 2 garnet,
4 white. Narrow one.
Row 28. - 8 beads : 3 chalk white, 2 garnet, 1 white, 1 gold, 1 white. Narrow one.
Row 29. - 8 beads : 3 chalk white, 1 white, 1 garnet, 1 white, 1 gold, 1 white.
Row 30. - 7 beads : 3 chalk white, 3 white, 1 gold. Narrow one.
Row 31. - 6 beads : 2 chalk white, 2 white, 1 gold, 1 white. Narrow one.
Row 32. - 6 beads : 2 chalk white, 2 white, 1 gold, 1 white.
Row 33. - 5 beads : 2 chalk white, 2 white, 1 gold. Narrow one.
Row 34. - 4 beads : 1 chalk white, 1 white, 1 gold, 1 white. Narrow one.
Row 35. - 3 beads : 1 chalk white, 3 white, 1 gold. Narrow one.
Row 36. - 3 beads : 1 chalk white, 1 white, 1 gold.
Row 37. - 3 brown beads.
Row 38. - 2 yellow beads. Narrow one.
Row 39. - 1 garnet. Narrow one.
A very beautiful bead bag to suit modern requirements can be made of white silk or D.m.c. Coton Perle, on which cut gold beads have been previously threaded. The better the quality of the beads, the more beautiful and scintillating will be the effect.
Instead of threading the beads on to the silk by means of a fine needle, some people find it more convenient to join the cotton on which the hank of beads is threaded by means of a tiny knot to the silk. Then simply pass the beads on to the silk. The knot may prove a little tiresome if the beads are very small, but it is considered to be a quick method of threading beads. When the threading is completed, cast on to a knitting-needle forty-nine stitches, and work backwards and forwards on two needles. This number of stitches will make a bag large enough to contain a small handkerchief and a purse.
Knit one row plain with beads, simply passing the beads forward and knitting them, one bead at a time, with every stitch. For the second row, knit the silk plainly, without beads, then the third with beads, and so on for every alternate row, until the strip is of the desired size. Sew into bag shape, leaving the sides open at the top for about an inch. Finish at this point with a few loops of beads. For a gold and white bag, size 4 1/2 inches by 4 1/2 inches, 3,900 beads are used for the knitting. Good gold cut beads cost 10 1/2d. a hank, four hanks being required for a bag of this size, including the fringe. When the knitting is completed, each bead should rest on the surface of the work.
For the loops through which to run a cord, crochet thirteen strips of plain chain, each one an inch in length, the silk having previously been threaded with gold beads, taking up a bead with every alternate chain-stitch. Sew these little strips about an inch apart around the bag, an inch from the top, to form loops. Run a double gold cord through them, so that the bag can be conveniently drawn up when it hangs on the wrist. For the fringe, a length of 48 inches of closely threaded gold beads sewn on the bottom in inch-deep loops must be allowed.
Some of the old beads on bags were threaded on " gut," but it has not stood the test of time so well as the more simple silk or cotton.
Whether knitting or crocheting is employed for bead bags and purses, it will prove interesting work.