There’s an organization called The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) that…well, I’m not really sure what they do. They don’t say exactly what they’re about on their home page, so I assume that they assume that you know what brought you there. Clearly it’s focused on knitting, and there are conferences and “correspondence courses,” but, oh wait, if you click the Join Today button, you see:
TKGA, with over* 10,000 members, is the largest knitting association in America and a starting point for knitters searching for new ideas, products, markets, patterns and fellow knitters who share the excitement of knitting.
*Should be more than 10,000 members because 10,000 is a countable quantity.
The Master Hand Knitting Program was announced in the Fall 1987 issue of Cast On as a way for members of The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) to have their knitting evaluated using specific criteria and guidelines. It was designed as an educational process, not a competition or contest.
I think that experience and ability are more important than a “degree” in knitting, but I have thought about enrolling in this program because I like recognition of achievement. Wearing something I knit is recognition of achievement by my friends. Publishing a knitwear pattern is recognition of achievement by other knitters. And the designation of Master Knitter (by someone other than myself) would be recognition by everyone throughout the land.
Also, I like school. A lot. I also like homework. And knitting homework? It could be made better only by having Keanu Reeves as my model, mannequin, and idea bouncer-offer.
Upon completion of the program, you’re given a lapel pin that you can wear to Wurstfest or bunco night, but let us consider this choice of lagniappe for a moment. Knitters put pins in their knitting only when blocking. I would have to be threatened with a clown coming to my house with a box of hungry moths to ever stick a pin in a sweater I spent months knitting, never mind getting it near something as delicate as a lace shawl. (Which might be why some of the knitters look a little distressed in the pictures of the pinning ceremony. Yes, there’s a ceremony.) A ceramic yarn ball bowl or rosewood needles engraved with the Master Knitter’s name and designation would be a more appropriate and usable commemoration.
There are three program levels, but the requirements are listed on the TKGA website only for the first level, which tests a knitter’s ability to:
- Look critically at your own work – How will they know if I furrow my brow or squinch my mouth when I assess my scarf or mittens?
- Research different techniques – Research makes me happy.
- Accurately follow directions and patterns – So overrated, but I could do it.
- Accurately measure gauge – Gauge is as mercurial as a Gemini, which means that the gauge I get when I measure at home will be completely different from the gauge the judge gets after the item has traveled to Zanesville, OH. We’ll both be accurate, but we won’t be the same.
- Understand the importance of gauge – It’s more important to understand that gauge lies like a four-year-old.
- Knit garter, rib, stockinette, seed, and reverse stockinette stitch patterns with even tension – I knit seed stitch for breakfast.
- Space increases evenly – Ah, a math word problem: if you have 100 stitches and you want to increase to 110 stitches, how often do you increase one stitch to space them evenly? Answer: k5, (m1, k10) 9 times, m1, k5.
- Mirror increases – M1R, M1L
- Mirror decreases – SSK, K2tog
- Make yarnovers – I.e., make intentional holes in your knitting. I can do that.
- Knit simple cables – I could knit the Celtic braids from Ragna while shucking oysters if they wanted me to.
- Change colors – What does this mean? Stripes? Stranded colorwork? Imitating the blueberry girl from Willie Wonka?
- Weave in yarn tails properly – “Properly” means different things to different people. I tie knots in my knitting, which crosses the border into heretical and would probably get my stash confiscated and me booted out of the program.
- Write a simple pattern – I have a portfolio of patterns, none of them simple, but they might be accepted.
- Knit a simple hat in the round – I’m choking on the “simple” part, but I could do it.
- Properly block swatches – Again that word “properly.”
- Discuss blocking techniques and care of knitted items – “Hand wash in cold water. Lay flat to dry. Don’t loan it to your little sister.”
The thing about a program like this is that knitting has more opinions than a German sausage maker. There are as many people who say “always” as say “never” as say “it depends.” Where the TKGA judge comes down on a particular knitting topic brings subjectivity to something that needs objectivity.
Whether in knitting or in life, I would want to know more about the person judging me. How does she weave in her ends? Is her tension even? Does she always knit a gauge swatch? If she doesn’t get gauge, does she start her project anyway? Does she let her little sister borrow her sweaters and get them back with pins in them?
Still, I might sign up one of these days.
Put Keanu on notice.