Bead crochet is a beautiful, elegant craft that was very popular in the Victorian era and right into the early twentieth century. It is, however, very time-consuming, and requires a considerable amount of planning to achieve the desired effect. The beads are strung on the yarn prior to crocheting, in reverse order of the sequence in which they will be used. Just as experienced crafters know that crocheting requires much more yarn than one would expect, bead crochet also requires a surprising number of beads. So there is a good deal of preparatory work required before any crochet is done at all.
This tutorial will assume that the reader already has basic crocheting skills and understands simple crocheting instructions. For this practice swatch, begin with plastic pony beads, a partial skein of worsted-weight yarn, and a size G hook. These materials will not produce the most delicate bead crochet results, but are easy to handle for a beginning beader.
Pull out several feet of yarn, leaving the yarn still attached to the skein. Thread 20 beads onto the loose end, pushing them down toward the skein. Now chain 18 and turn, making a single crochet (sc) in the second chain from the hook. Begin a second sc by inserting hook into chain and pulling up a loop so there are two loops on the hook.
Now pull up a bead and hold it very close to the sc. Wrap yarn over hook (yo) and complete the second sc as usual, capturing the bead in the process. Make two more sc stitches without capturing a bead, and then pull up another loop, another bead, yo and pull through to complete the stitch. Complete row 1 this way, capturing 5 beads total and ending with an unbeaded single crochet.
Turn (row 2), chain two, and complete a row of regular sc without pulling up any beads; in bead crochet all the beads must fall on the same side of the swatch, and the simplest way to do this is to work the design in one direction. Turn again (row 3), chain two, complete one sc, and begin another beaded row -- pull up a loop, capture a bead, yo, pull through, and complete the sc, repeating the pattern of row 1 until the end of the row. Continue in this way until seven rows have been completed and all 20 beads used.
This is just the beginning of bead crochet! This same concept, used with different stitches and materials, can create items as diverse as beaded rope necklaces, purses, doilies, and items of clothing. Check local craft stores as well as the Internet for patterns and tips. And don't be afraid to experiment! Bead crochet is an exciting craft that deserves a return to popularity.