Monday, June 10, 2013

TKGA’s Master Knitter Certification Program – Part 2

Nancy, our resident Knit Doctor, just completed The Knitting Guild Association Master Knitter Certification Level Three.  We've asked her to share her experiences. Read Part 1 here.
Inside the brain of a Master Knitter
          My last post talked in general about the Master Hand Knitter program; here are more specifics. There are three levels to complete, each of increasing complexity. Level 1 is an advanced beginner level, and focuses on skills such as correct tension, increases and decreases, weaving in ends, and blocking. Level 2, the intermediate level, is the most technical one, focusing on finishing techniques such as seaming, joins, and picking up stitches, as well as lace and cables. Level 3 is the advanced level, and was the most fun, encompassing fancy stitch techniques like double knitting, brioche, and intarsia, and designing and knitting a sweater and a hat (one Aran, one Fair Isle). All levels require increasing amounts of pattern writing, to prepare you for crafting well-written patterns for your own designs. Even if you have no intention of designing, it’s good to know how to do it, and how to write complete, comprehensible patterns. I now find myself writing patterns for simple designs, and am glad I know how to do it properly, even if it’s just for my friends and me.
            The TKGARavelry group has pictures posted of samples of the knitting required for each level, which will give you a good idea of what’s involved. Just click on a level to see the pictures.
            To order the program, you must join The Knitting Guild for $30 a year, which, as I mentioned in part 1, includes their excellent educational magazine Cast On (go to You can join and order level 1 at the same time. You can opt to receive level 1 by mail or by e-mail. E-mail may take a few days the first time, as they have to open an account for you, and they are a small operation only open weekdays.
            Good organization is important in this program, since you need to keep track of a lot of research. Write everything down; several months later you’re not going to remember which book or website had that perfect bit of information, nor how you solved a particular problem. I kept a notebook, others prefer keeping their notes on the computer. You must give references for everything, even techniques you’ve done for decades; after all, it’s possible you’ve been doing it wrong for 30 years, or there might be better ways to do it. There are questions you must answer about the swatches, and I recommend answering them as you do the swatches, while your memory is fresh. There are also reports to write. I found that leaving all the writing to the end on level 1 was daunting, so I worked on the writing while also working on swatches on the later levels. I could go back and forth when I got bored, and I found I much preferred finishing the swatches and the writing at about the same time.
            You’ll probably encounter some things you think you just can’t do. When I found out I’d have to design a sweater, I was really stumped – where do you even start? I read a lot of books and articles, and worked at it until I figured it out. Persistence pays off, and it’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you succeed through your own efforts. I probably averaged at least four swatches for every one that I turned in - one to figure out how to do the technique, and several more to perfect it, getting better and better each time. And designing that sweater turned out to be the most fun I’ve ever had in my knitterly life. Who knew? 

Sweater Designing is Fun!
            How much time does it take? I did the entire program in two and a half years, which is pretty quick. I was retired from my full-time job, so I had time. Others are still working on it after 10 years. There is no time limit, but if you take more than a year on any given level, you must check to see if the instructions have been updated and, if so, you must conform to the new instructions.
            Level 1 submissions are reviewed by one committee member and a co-chair. They look at every stitch of every swatch, and go over all your written work and project(s), and give you a detailed critique. Even when you don’t have to redo something, they will provide helpful comments. One master knitter famously had a level 2 critique than ran to nine pages single spaced, which he still laughs about (that’s unusual). Level 2 goes to two committee members and a co-chair, and level 3 goes to three committee members and a co-chair. They are all busy volunteers, so this takes time; also, the submissions also have to be mailed from one reviewer to the next, and that too takes time. Expect about 2-3 months to get your binder back. Then you redo things you’ve been asked to resubmit (no time limit here), and mail it back to your co-chair; only the co-chair reviews the resubmissions, so that is much faster, usually a couple of weeks. The committee members are drawn from the Master Knitters whose level 3s were especially good; I am honored to have been chosen to be on the committee, and am now reviewing submissions. If you ask for my help, I am allowed to look at your swatches and tell you any problems I see, but I am not allowed to give you the solution; you have to research it and work it out for yourself.
            Was it worth it? I cannot emphasize enough how much it was worth it. I know SO much more now than when I started, and I thought I knew a lot already. With my greater understanding, I can diagnose and fix mistakes more easily, and alter patterns to my liking. For example, I recently knit a hat that used all SSK decreases for the crown shaping. Since all the decreases were the same, no mirroring involved, I knew that k2tog decreases would work just as well, the only difference being that all would lean to the right instead of all to the left. Since the k2tog decreases are much easier and quicker to execute and look tidier, I confidently changed the pattern. I have also noticed that I knit garments much faster now. I don’t think my knitting itself has speeded up; rather, I think it’s that I no longer hesitate on any of it. I don’t need time to puzzle out directions, or to put off seaming because I’m not sure how to do it. I am a much more confident knitter.
            If you have the time and the interest to undertake this program, I’m sure you will be pleased with how much you’ll learn.