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Many pursuits are worthy of our time for their own sake, but there's a certain je ne sais quoi about having a piece of paper that announces your competency to the world. Happily, for those of us who enjoy diplomas, degrees, and even employee-of-the-month awards, we can also soothe our knitting egos through programs available from The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) and the Craft Yarn Council of America (CYCA). We might even learn something too! (I did.)

TKGA's Master Hand Knitting Program (3 Levels)

In the fall of 2003, I decided to embark on the path to Master Knitterdom. Sure, I wanted to advance my skills, but what my egocentric little mind really wanted was the coveted "Master Knitter" pin and certificate. So I joined TKGA (a requirement to be in the program) and sent in my money, currently $30 for Level 1. A week later, I received a folder containing a photocopied packet of instructions. I was ready to go!

Essentially, each level requires the knitter to produce a series of swatches illustrating various techniques. The program begins at Level 1 with simple stockinette, ribbing, decreases, etc. and progress to entrelac, traveling stitches, smocking, and other more advanced techniques by Level 3. In addition, participants are asked to answer questions, write reports, draft patterns, and in the upper two levels, produce finished garments, including self-designed Aran and Fair Isle/Scandinavian garments in the final level. There is no time limit for completion, but the most recent set of program instructions must be followed. (Free updates are available to participants.)

I was so motivated to finish Level 1 that I got through it in only 9 days! Once I had all of my swatches and written work (16 swatches, 14 questions, and 1 report for Level 1) organized in a binder, I mailed it off to TKGA. About a month later, I heard back from the review committee. I passed! On to Level 2.

Level 2 (21 swatches, 17 questions, 4 book reviews, 1 report, 1 vest, and 1 argyle sock) took considerably longer to complete, mainly because of the vest. I started in December of 2003 and was finished the following July. I was elated. Not only was I (almost) one step closer to Master Knitter status, but I really improved my skills, particularly with Fair Isle knitting and seaming. Working carefully to ensure my swatches would pass muster with the very high standards of the committee meant I had to rip out and start over a few times, and practice techniques until I got them right. It was also a great excuse to buy some more knitting books! When my notebook came back, I had a few corrections to make to some of the patterns I wrote (I forgot to include the metric needle size, among others) before I could officially pass, but thankfully I had nothing to reknit.

Currently, I am working on Level 3, and hope to finish up this summer. Working on the swatches in particular is great for the warmer months, since they're small and don't get hot and sweaty in your lap. I have learned so much through the program -- I now feel competent knitting just about anything, and don't get put off by even the trickiest of patterns. The best part is that now I can design my own sweaters, even complicated ones, something I was terrified of before. Of course, I'm still looking forward to "getting pinned" at a TKGA conference once I pass the final level!

CYCA's Correspondence Certified Instructor's Program (3 Levels)

Okay, maybe I'm a glutton for punishment (or my thirst for recognition is really severe!) but this past summer, I also enrolled in the CYCA Correspondence Certified Instructor's Program. Am I planning a career as a knitting teacher? Probably not, but it would be nice to know I'm qualified just in case. Plus, CYCA sends participants a pin and certificate for each level, not just at the end. Bonus!

In the CYCA program ($60 total for Levels 1 and 2) you are not required to demonstrate as many knitting techniques as the TKGA program, but you must show an ability to write lesson plans and teach others to knit. To help, CYCA sends you a huge Instructor's Manual binder as well as a book on how to teach knitting. Among your assignments are knitting swatches, designing sample projects, and writing lesson plans. At each level you must also complete 15 hours (20 hours at Level 3) of student teaching, which can be teaching a group in a store or just teaching your niece in your living room. There is a time limit to complete each level (up to one year maximum for Levels 1 and 2 combined.)

In Level 1, students knit sample swatches for increases, decreases, basic cables, ribbing, plus a self-designed beginner project and pattern. It took me only about a week to prepare all of the materials for Level 1, but a bit longer to get through the student teaching hours (luckily I have people around me who want to learn!). The most important lesson I learned trying to teach others was that everyone has their own knitting style, and the teacher must be able to adapt. Good for me to learn, I'm sure! When I completed my 15 hours, I sent my lesson plan binder with my swatches and the beginner projects I'd created to my teacher, designer Evie Rosen. CYCA fancies a more intimate approach to feedback, so students are asked to set up "interview" appointments with their teacher. The teacher asks the student various questions to test their knowledge of knitting and of teaching techniques, as well as providing feedback on the submission.

I passed, and started to work on Level 2. In this level, students are asked to demonstrate short rows, colorwork, buttonholes, and calculate and write an original sweater pattern for an intermediate knitter, design two beginner projects, and write lesson plans for an intermediate-level class. Students are also required to send in a finished garment, though it does not need to be self-designed, which of course means you can send in a sweater you have already knitted instead of having to knit one especially for the program. Once again, students contact their teacher for an exit interview. In total, I completed both levels in three months, and currently hold the rank of Certified Knitting Teacher (with a fancy pin and certificate to prove it!)

I might look into becoming a "Professional" teacher by trying Level 3, but I want to be a Master Knitter first. Then all shall kneel trembling before me! The weak shall fear my powerful needles! (Wait -- I probably should have kept that to myself.)

Anyway, don't be afraid of the ego trip that comes along with completing either of these programs. It's good for you AND your knitting. Especially your knitting. Good luck!


For more information, contact:

The Knitting Guild Association
Craft Yarn Council of America


Amy teaches 1st and 2nd grade gifted students by day, and spends way too much time knitting by night.