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orkneyknits
05-23-2009, 04:23 PM
Hello everyone,

After much trepidation, I finally ordered and have just received the instruction packet for Level 1 of the Knitting Masters Programme by TKGA. I was a bit nervous before actually venturing into this, and now that I have it in my hands, am even more so. Although this may be delusional on my part, Iím not anxious about the 17 questions and report; writing comes very easily to me and Iíve done a fair amount of it. Also, Iím a musician, both performer and teacher, and so breaking down tiny problem details, sorting them out and fixing them, and then explaining it to someone else is what I do every day of my life.

Iím also very good at following every minute rule, and so I have every intention of submitting exactly as they request, every last thing labelled and referenced.

However, the knitting part is suddenly extremely overwhelming. I have been knitting constantly for 43 years (since the age of 7, and Iím now 50), and have done some of everything: Ganseys, all sorts of cabling, lace, intarsia, large needle Fair Isle (Icelandic), small needle Fair Isle (Shetland), socks, mittens, flat, circular, in every gauge imaginable. I use a modified technique from the North Sea islands my family comes from, which uses even less motion than German/Continental, and it produces a very, very even, consistent stitch, both knitted and purled. The other issue is that I cannot wear wool or any other animal fibre and therefore never block anything except for scarves for other people (when it comes to socks, I like Ann Buddís opinion, which is that when worn, the foot stretches the sock to fit, and besides, no one should be looking that closely at your feet). Iím actually thinking this will be in my favour, as I have always had to knit knowing there was not going to be any forgiving blocking happening at the end of the road.

But all that experience also means that I do what I do, and Iíve become concerned that if (or when-- Iíve read it happens more often than not) the swatches are returned for improvement that it will be beyond me to fix them.

So my question is: Has anyone here ever done the KMP? How picky were the judges? Has anyone examined every single stitch and then had a swatch returned with even more perfection expected? Any other experiences with this youíd be able to share?

Thanks,
Amie

MoniDew
05-23-2009, 06:49 PM
holy cow! if you aren't good enough, I don't know who could be!?!
You already are a master knitter, whether or not they ever deem you so. Besides, there's a difference between having high standards, and having impossible ones. They can't be so picky that they eliminate all candidates! If they were, the only master knitter in the universe would be....God!

orkneyknits
05-23-2009, 08:48 PM
Thank you, MoniDew, you are very sweet, but I'm not feeling very masterly at the moment! But you make a good point, that if their standards were so high that no one could meet them, then what would be the point. I have read up on this a bit both on the TKGA site and Ravelry and many people mention having taken their Basics course, first. I just never considered doing that, as the title sounded as if it were designed for knitters without, well, 43 years behind them. But if I get a bunch of the swatches back (there are 16 in Level 1), I might do that and then try them again.

It's just a little intimidating that only about 200 hand knitters have finished and passed all 3 levels. Interestingly, unless the couple of Pats and Robins are male, every single one of them are women. (There is 1 man who has passed all levels for machine knitters.)

Thank you for your feedback!

~Amie

knitasha
05-23-2009, 09:13 PM
Amie -- I have not done the Master's program (though I intend to when my situation changes) but many people on the TKGA message board comment on how helpful, positive and caring the judges are. For most of the assignments, the judges don't care about how you produce the samples -- just the results you achieve. If the samples don't meet the standards, you get detailed advice on how to improve them. Most people only seem to get one or two back to re-do. Many of the people in the group are experienced knitters who say they have learned a tremendous amount. I think it is because The Masters is not a "course" per se, but a self-teaching program where you research ways to improve what you have been doing for years. You have access to some great resources and to a group of helpful people, and you can do the work at your own speed. There is no "pass" or "fail" -- just the pleasure of becoming a more skilled, more confident, more creative and more thoughtful knitter. (My role model is Rox, who is active in the TKGA group on Ravelry. Read some of her posts and you'll see what I mean.)

BTW, in addition to those who have finished all three levels, there are hundreds who take long breathers between the Levels, or complete as much of the work as they choose. As for the Basics course, if you've been knitting for 43 years, the only thing it would do for you is familiarize you with the format of the responses. Hardly necessary for you.

PS. I would love to learn more about the Orkney technique for producing consistent stitches. Has anything been written about it?

orkneyknits
05-24-2009, 10:58 AM
Thank you so much for that information and reassurance! The guidelines and requirements for references on every single swatch and every single statement make it all sound very, very demanding. I told a neighbour and fellow knitter who has her PhD about the set-up of the programme and her response was, ďgeez, it sounds like a doctoral dissertation!Ē Which is the whole reason I want to do it-- being self-employed, I always set the criteria and so I havenít had to meet up to anyone elseís exacting standards in any area of my life for many, many years, and I think itís a good exercise. I also think itís a good way to feel what my students feel, every detail scrutinised, even if itís not on a musical instrument.

It does seem to be about refining what you already know. For example, the first sock they want is in level 2, an argyle. So unless you want to devote a year to that sock, itís probably not really the place to learn to knits socks or intarsia, or get experience working with fingering yarn. Itís good to know that the judges apparently give detailed and helpful advice. ďYour edges arenít exactly evenĒ is the kind of thing Iím was worried about-- I wouldnĎt know what to do with that.

Thanks,
Amie

orkneyknits
05-24-2009, 10:59 AM
As for Orkney knitting. . .
Iím not aware of any videos demonstrating this, or any writing on it unfortunately. I think it just got passed down through generations. I also donít know when in Orkneyís 5000 years of inhabited history that knitting first showed up. But I can try to describe it: There was a leather waist or hip belt with a pouch which was placed on the left (if you were right-handed). The pouch had holes punched into it was filled with raw wool. You used long sock pins (DPNs). One end was inserted into one hole (there were multiple holes so that you could place the needle where it was most comfortable for you) and held under the left arm and in the left hand. The right needle is pretty much at a right angle to the left. The working yarn was held in a bag on the other side of you. I donít use the belt or bag, and I hold both of my arms at pretty much the same position as each other, but the needles are still at fairly right angles to each other.

You hold the working yarn close to the fabric with your left hand, between 2 fingers (I use my index and middle fingers), and ďpick offĒ the stitches with the right needle. Itís just a small movement where you insert the needle front to back through the stitch and then grab the yarn with the needle tip and pull it through towards you and off the needle in one motion. When purling, you come forward, that is, from back to front, through the stitch, again just picking up the yarn with the needle tip and pulling it back through. Itís incredibly fast and uses very little hand motion and once youĎre used to it, you donĎt have to look at your work as you knit. The trick is the tension of the yarn held between those 2 fingers-- it just slips through as you work, and you never have to stop to adjust it or move it. You switch needles as normal for either in the round or flat knitting.

Nowadays there is a minor industry of hand knits in the isles, but much of it is done on machine (when you knit on a machine in your own home instead of a factory, it still qualifies as hand knit; if itĎs truly hand knit, it will be qualified as knit ďon needlesď). There is also a very rare breed of seaweed-eating sheep only living on North Ronaldsay, the most northern isle in Orkney. There are only a few thousand left, communally owned and tended and hand-sheared by the 60 people living on the island. The sheep have a double coat; the highest recorded temperature ever recorded in Orkney is 75 degrees and the highest sea-level winds in the world were recorded at North Ron. So you can imagine nature weeding out any less well-covered ovines! The wool is very heavy with lanolin and has a rough charm. I buy mine there, but Iím sure it can be found on the Internet (just look for North Ronaldsay wool), and there is a woman who specialises in designing with the fibre.

~Amie