I have now successfully completed Level I of the TKGA Master Hand Knitting program. Here is a detailed explanation of what passed on the first try, what required reworking, and what lessons I still have to learn.
Please note that I completed the level working from instructions updated in early 2010, and the instructions are updated occasionally (and were updated sometime this fall), so your experience may vary. They do not often change the big requirements, but they probably will again at some point, and more often they do change or clarify some of the minor stuff like formatting, tagging, etc.
Time: When I completed the program, the requirements were: 16 swatches, a written pattern of one of the swatches, 17 questions, one hat and one written report. I started the program in January of 2009, finished in March 2010, and finished my resubmissions in September 2010. I had significant stretches in that period where I worked on it every day, and I had many months in which I did not work on the program at all. Most swatches in Level 1 could be done in 2-3 evenings per swatch including research, blocking, labeling, and notations. It certainly does not take long to knit them, but sometimes it does take time to get them right.
References: In addition to text references, there is a TKGA forum on Ravelry that is tremendously responsive to questions, there is a forum on the TKGA website, and there are great “On Your Way to the Master’s” articles from Cast On magazine archived on the TKGA website that members can access. At some point, I will probably do a few reference reviews.
I understand that having a reference for everything is weird for some people who have “always known” this or that technique. But part of the joy of this program is cracking open a few books and finding out what other people have known, other ways to use a technique you already know, and maybe a few new techniques. This is a learning program, and even experts who are open to learning, will find that they learn a few things… at very least they will learn how to use references to find new techniques.
Swatches: I knit most of the swatches in the evenings, during work lunch breaks, or on weekends when I had time to focus on the techniques and space to lay out various reference materials. I was asked to redo one swatch, but I will give all the details in a full swatch-by-swatch analysis in another post.
Although I knew many of the techniques required for the swatches, I took the opportunity to try different cast-ons that I didn’t know as well. I felt that I also learned a lot between the swatches and the question regarding when and how I would use some of the techniques. For increases and decreases, I added a few new stitches to my arsenal, having previously only known a couple of methods. For cables, lace, and color changes, I learned how to do the techniques more precisely and with better tension. For all knitting, my tension improved and I get more consistent, smoother fabric now than I did before starting the program.
Questions: The 17 questions ask for information like gauge measurements of swatches, stitch and row counts, why you would choose to do a certain technique, and why another technique produces a certain effect. Because references are required for everything, the questions actually take quite a while. Many people suggest that you answer the questions related to the swatches in conjunction with knitting the associated swatch. This may be helpful, but if you made good reference notes as you did the swatch, it will be easier to answer the questions even if you have to come back to it later.
Some of the questions were fairly light, others took a fair amount of digging to get a good answer. I worked on the questions over several lunch breaks and an evening or two. I had about 13 references and I would estimate that the questions took about 5-6 hours to complete. I felt like some of the questions lead to very interesting information about possible design choices. And although I can’t say I have all the whys and wherefores memorized, I have a working knowledge of where to find the information again, should it be needed.
Report: When I did Level I, the required topic of the report was caring for knitwear. My report totaled about 2.5 pages, I had 9 references, and took me an estimated 3-4 hours to write one weekend. I have heard some people say that the report was very difficult for them, because they haven’t done much scholarly writing in recent years. But for me, this report was a breeze, having written a lot of short papers for classes over the years as a perpetual college student (now working on Master’s degree). And of course, the topic is an important one and like many other aspects of Level I, writing the paper reinforced many concepts that I already knew but perhaps don’t always internalize due to haste or laziness.
Hat Project: The hat went surprisingly well also. I was quite nervous about the ‘jogless join’, being a relative neophyte to colorwork. And I was also unsure how my newly improved tension would translate to knitting in the round. Happily, it all went well. And the hat turned out much cuter than I expected. It looks very nice on my husband. It also went pretty quickly. As I recall I had it done in just a week (which is good considering I work full time).
Pattern for Cable Swatch: The pattern for swatch #15 was a mess. I don’t know what I was thinking. The assignment was to make a swatch of a cable pattern of my choice, and then write up the pattern. The swatch was fine, in fact, the feedback was glowing. But the pattern… argh. I got the general format right, but I screwed up a lot of the stitch counts somehow. It was easy to fix for the resubmission, but I feel quite chagrined that the rows didn’t even add up correctly in the written pattern as I originally submitted it. There were also a few easily fixable omissions/modifications to the gauge information, such as including everyone’s favorite phrase “take time to save time, check gauge.”
Resubmissions: Swatch #8 (see next post), the written pattern for Swatch #15 (see above), and three of the questions. Not bad. I felt the committee was pretty gentle with me considering my attempt to learn a new-to-me cast-on didn’t go well, I didn’t realize how bad it was, and it screwed up my interpretation of one of the questions. The committee chair wrote an extraordinarily gracious, thoughtful, and detailed letter to describe the required resubmissions. I was mentally prepared for some resubmissions, but even had I not been, it would have been hard to be upset by the letter, it was so kindly written. Still, it took time to internalize the corrections, and I dragged my feet on resubmitting. Aside from reknitting/blocking the swatch, the rest of the corrections only took an hour or so.
For the questions, I needed to clarify one question, redo the gauge measurements for three swatches for another, and do a little more research for the third. The committee was kind enough to suggest references that I had access to for all of these, so rectifying the problems were not difficult… except that I still came up with the wrong measured gauge for one of my swatches. They passed me on the resubmission, because I was fine on two and close on the third, but they note that I will have to measure more accurately for Level 2. I still don’t know where I’m going awry with that one. I’m going to need to sit down with some references and really figure out where I’m going wrong with this. I thought gauge was something I really was competent with, but I guess not.
So that, in sum, is what I had to do for Level I of the TKGA Master Hand Knitting program, and my results for all the major components. Next time, I’ll show all my swatches in detail with comments so future Master Knitters can check out my mistakes.
Until next time, keep those needles clicking!