We now return you to the original purpose of this blog…

Way back when (in 2009), I started this blog with the purpose of recording my journey through The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) Master Knitter program.  My craft interests, and thus this blog, have taken a circuitous journey since then.

The Master Knitter program is a correspondence program designed to test a knitter’s ability and comprehension of knitting technique, history, application, and design.  Much like an academic Master’s program (ask me how I know), there is a lot of research, writing, practice, and independent learning required.  TKGA also offers correspondence courses aimed at teaching beginner and intermediate knitters that have more hands-on help from instructors, if you do not feel you are at a level where “mastery” might be in your grasp.  For the Master Hand Knitter program, the expectation is that while you may not be at a “master” level when you begin, through the questions and assignments of the program, you will learn independently, and when your work is evaluated to mark a high level of understanding and achievement, you can pass onto the next level.

How long?  There are three levels to the program, and I passed Level 1 back in 2010.  Considering the rather slow pace of knitting projects in the past few years, completing something on that scale in just 22 months seems kind of extraordinary when I look back.  Although at the time, I was chagrined that it took me so long.  In any case, my husband has just started a Ph.D. program this fall, and our joking challenge to each other is that we are having a race – me to finish the 2nd and 3rd levels to be officially a “master knitter”, and him to earn a Ph.D.  Right now, I consider it fairly even odds… and considering that he is taking the program part-time and it may take him more than 4 years just to complete the coursework (let alone dissertation), you can guess that I’m expecting a slow slog on my end.

What’s my motivation?  Unlike my with husband’s PhD, achieving this Master Knitter distinction probably won’t immediately lead to new job prospects – maybe for some it would, but not for me.  I’m already in a career I like.  I do hope to be a knitting teacher, artist, and knitwear designer in my retirement career, but I’m a looooong way from retirement.  I probably have a good 20 years or more (the way they keep pushing back those things) before full-time knitter/artist becomes my new line of work.  So the Master Knitter distinction wouldn’t get me anything in the immediate sense other than a sense of accomplishment, and probably some props from other knitters.  I think there might also be a shiny pin.

Instead, the real benefit is the motivation to learn and challenge myself to be a better knitter.  I haven’t knit much in the last 4 years.  Between work pressures, finishing that other kind of Master’s, some issues with having a baby, and then actually having a baby, my knitting energy and enthusiasm slowed down for a while.  I’ve been disappointed, as I’ve gotten my mojo back, at how much I feel like my skills have atrophied.  And how slow I knit now!  It’s time to get back on the proverbial horse, get back to the program, and start “leveling up” as a knitter again!

The cost:  Back in 2010, when I passed Level I, I purchased Level II for $95 (the price appears to have been raised to $97 since).  In addition, in order to interact with the program (i.e., buy a level, or submit anything), you must also be a current member of TKGA.  This is, currently, $35/year with possible discounts for choosing the digital subscription to Cast-On magazine or for going with the two-year membership.

Then there are yarn costs:  There are some worsted weight swatches, a couple of laceweight swatches, a colorwork wristlet, one argyle sock (although seriously, I’m going to want to knit a pair so my husband can wear them once approved), and a vest required.  I might actually be able to manage all of this from stash, as I think I optimistically bought all the materials needed back when I purchased the level… the only question is whether I used some of it up for other projects in the meantime.

The requirements (as of Rev. 5/1/15):

Written materials:  A 3-page report on the history of knitting, four book reviews, 16 questions, gauge worksheets based on a couple of the swatches, and a written pattern for one of the swatches.

Knitted materials:  

  • 19 swatches – mostly demonstrating finishing techniques like seaming, buttonholes, and necklines, but also some for colorwork, lace, and demonstrating cable problem-solving,
  • a fair-isle wristlet
  • an argyle sock – demonstrating intarsia and duplicate stitch, as well as sock construction and seaming (because the fancy part of the argyle sock is knit flat!)
  • a vest… I think it’s supposed to have side seams – but maybe there’s an exception if you want to do Fair Isle… I need to find out more as I do love the look of Fair Isle vests.

I think I’m most intimidated by the prospect of the vest and sock, since I haven’t finished anything that technical or shaped or large (in stitch count) in a very long time!

Until next time, keep those needles clicking…


TKGA Master Hand Knitting Level I, Conclusion Part 2

So here is the swatch-by-swatch breakdown of what passed, what squeaked by, and what I needed to redo for my TKGA Master Hand Knitting Level I swatches.  The feedback I describe below comes from the wonderful 4 page letter that I got back from my original submission of the Level I binder.  Continue reading


The podium and the glory

I’ve finished a few things lately:

Master Level I hat project

Master Level I Hat Project

This was a Ravelympics project.  I finished it in just a week.  I was surprised and pleased to have done it so fast.  I got good gauge, and most of my “jogless joins” went pretty well.  I’m a little nervous about one of the jogless joins, but hopefully it will be ok.

Oh, and despite my whining in a previous post that this was a fugly hat design.  It’s actually really nice looking on my husband!  Continue reading


Synchronize your stitches

I’m very excited to report that I’m closing in on the grand finale of my Master Level I project.  Although I’m still feeling very much the distractable hare in this race to the finish-line, I really feel like I have gotten myself back on track this week.  I should be able to finish my last swatch and final question by the end of tomorrow, and Friday, I will join in the mass cast-on to kick off the 2010 Winter Olympics to begin my final hat project!  Synchronize your stitches, everybody! Continue reading


Mystery swatches

Back in June sometime, which was the last time I worked on the Master Hand-Knitter Level I swatches, I finished swatches 7-12 (3 decrease swatches, 1 yo’s swatch, 2 eyelets swatches) and half of 16 (colorwork swatch).  The trouble is I didn’t wash or label any of them, and apparently thought I would remember what my system of knots and stitch markers meant in terms of which numbered swatch was which.  (stupid. stupid. stupid.)  Now I have to sort out 7-9 and 11-12; the swatches within those two sets look distressingly similar to one another.  Please don’t tell me I have to reknit just to identify them!?!?! Continue reading


Making peace with the cables

My confusion over the tight braid cable made me put the whole Master Hand Knitting project aside for a couple of weeks.  I wasn’t ready to call it quits on that tight braid (Swatch #15, first attempt), and yet I wasn’t able to find a solution to make it better.  I even dolefully tried to finish it knowing that I wouldn’t like it.  This was a non-starter.  I guess that makes me a true “product knitter”.  I can’t stand to work on something knowing that I won’t like the results and that it will serve no good purpose.

Now I’m fairly convinced that this “tight braid cable” really just isn’t a very good pattern (or maybe just a bad pattern for this size yarn and needles).  Because it’s so tight, and there is no room for knit stitches that aren’t crossed in one direction or another, there is no place for a shadow to gather.  Cables seem to need Continue reading


A Cabling Conundrum

In order to illustrate the effect of different stitch patterns on row and stitch gauge, the TKGA Level I instructions require a comparison between the top halves of swatch #1 (garter stitch) and #2 (stockinette) with the entire swatch of #3 (seed stitch) and #14 (horseshoe cable).  The comparison of these four swatches means that they all have to be in the same yarn and knit on the same needles.

It might be nerdy, but I found it rather fun calculate the row and stitch gauges and find experimentally what I knew intuitively:  that it takes more rows of garter stitch to achieve the same length fabric as stockinette, or that in terms of stitches per inch a pattern of cable> seed stitch> stockinette> garter stitch.  It really reinforces the importance of making gauge swatches “in pattern”.

After agonizing about the ribbing tension Continue reading


The Versatile Duplicate Stitch

Each swatch seems to be taking me forever, because there seems to be so much to look up for each one.  I’m questioning every basic thing, trying to find out if there’s a better way or ways to do it.  I’ve been reading a lot of those “On your way to the Master’s” articles, they are wonderfully helpful, and often their bibliographies point me to other good resources.

How to get the tension on the edges of a piece correct?  -It turns out that when you end a row, the last stitch always seems kind of loose.  The solution is not Continue reading


One down, fifteen and a hat to go

I have finished knitting Swatch #1.  The ribbing section has a little distortion on some of the stitches, but I’m thinking (hoping) it is minor enough to block out.

TKGA Level I, Swatch #1

TKGA Level I, Swatch #1

I haven’t yet woven in my yarn tails, as I wanted to first read up on the duplicate stitch method of hiding tails which seems to be the preferred method of the TKGA.  Their “On your way to the Master’s” articles are incredibly helpful.  I never really bothered to figure out what I should really do with yarn tails.  I would just take up the darning needle and poke it around a few times on the back of the work until “secure” (“secure” is the universal euphemism all patterns seem to use for what to do with the tail).

Now I have read TKGA/Cast-On’s  “What to do with those pesky yarn tails” article, and I feel so much smarter about finishing!  They had great pictures too where they wove in tails with a contrasting color of yarn so you could really see where the yarn goes and how well it is hidden on the right side.  It turns out to that a carry-and-catch-behind method for hiding yarn tails is acceptable in complicated colorwork (ie. Kaffe Fassett), which is funny, because I thought I had made that method up as a lazy way to “secure” the cast-on ends so I wouldn’t have to go back.  I believe they call it “spontaneous diffusion” when the same idea occurs to multiple people in multiple places without exposure to one another.

I ordered some more yarn that I believe (having researched Ravelry extensively), should be sufficient yarn to get through all of the Level I and Level II swatches and projects.  So here’s the current cost tally: Continue reading