Friday, May 31, 2013

TKGA’s Master Knitter Certification Program – Part 1

Nancy, our resident Knit Doctor, just completed The Knitting Guild Association Master Knitter Certification Level Three.  We've asked her to share her experiences. 

        I’ve been asked for details about the Master Knitter program. As many of you know, I completed the program a few months ago and am now a certified Master Hand Knitter. The Master Knitter program of The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) offers certification in both Hand Knitting and Machine Knitting. Since the beginning of the program in 1987, there have been 268 certified Master Hand Knitters (most in the US, some abroad); the machine knitting program is newer, and since I don’t know much about it, I’ll describe only the hand knitting program. It is a three-level program in which a knitter demonstrates his/her mastery of all things knitting, both knowledge of and execution of techniques. It is not a class; you are not taught the skills, you learn them yourself, and the purpose of this program is to demonstrate that you have mastered those skills. TKGA also offers classes; for beginning knitters, there’s a Basics Basics Basics (BBB) class, with lessons including knitting assignments that you mail in, and which are returned with a critique. For more experienced knitters, there are classes in Mosaic Knitting and Finishing Techniques (seams, picking up stitches for necklines and button bands, etc.). For all of these programs, you first need to join TKGA for $30 a year (see; the fee includes their excellent quarterly educational magazine Cast On, and in my opinion the fee is worth it just for the magazine.

            Each level of the Master Hand Knitter program comes with a set of instructions for samples you must knit (swatches), questions to answer, reports to write, and projects to knit. The instructions are copyrighted, so I cannot reproduce them here, but will tell you a bit about them in part 2. You put together a binder of your completed work for that level, then mail the packet in to the TKGA office. They mail it out to members of the Master Review Committee, volunteers who review your work thoroughly and write a critique (as they say, it’s a critique, not a criticism). The critiques are very detailed and helpful for improving your knitting. There will most likely be things you are asked to redo; seldom does anyone pass a level with everything perfect the first time (I certainly didn’t). Once you have passed a level, you are then eligible to order the next level. Once you have passed all three levels, you are granted the title of Master Hand Knitter. The program costs $90-$100 per level, and most of the cost is used for postage in mailing your binder to the various reviewers and back to you. 

            Why would you want to do this? It is not a requirement for any job, though if you want to sell designs or articles or books, having the title would certainly reassure your contact that you knew what you were doing. I did it because I am passionate about knitting, and wanted to challenge myself and improve. I also love teaching, and figured knowing more would make be a better knitting teacher. And I always wondered if I was as good as I thought I was, and whether there were some skills every knitter should know, that I didn’t. Going through the program would help me find out (and I found out that I was good, but I still had things to learn). The program is certainly easier if you are already an experienced knitter, since you’ll have less to teach yourself, but even experienced knitters will likely encounter things they don’t know or haven’t yet tried. When that happened to me, I researched the topic and practiced it until I could do it well. I wouldn’t recommend this for a beginner, but if you’ve already knit a variety of project types - including more involved projects such as sweaters – you should have enough experience for this.

            There is a very helpful, active forum on Ravelry where you can seek help and discuss matters with others going through the program. While they won’t give you direct answers, they can help clarify questions and suggest where to find information.  Some people on other Ravelry groups argue that you don’t need to pay to go through the program to learn, when you can just look things up on Ravelry and Youtube. My argument is that you have to know what you don’t know in order to look it up. If you don’t know that decreases lean to the right or to the left and that you need to mirror them in garments for the best look, how can you look it up?
            My next post will get into more of the specifics of the program and the review process.