Notes: After farting around for over half a decade I’ve taken on Level 1 in earnest. Actually I was relearning a lot of new ropes, namely stranded knitting, and working on improving my knitting…a lot of apprentice work. The new and very much improved 2016 TKGA Level instructions are exceptional. They require a Preliminary Swatch (great idea!) and the Project is a mitten with a stripe at the wrist and top of the hand — a great improvement over a hat that wasn’t much of a challenge.
If you are going for the TKGA Masters in Hand Knitting please join Ravelry and then the Ravelry TKGA Masters Group. Also bookmark ArendaHolladay.com and Suzanneknits.com — both offer a wealth of advice.
Now on to my old 2010 notes..
The Knitters Guild Association (TKGA) offers a 3-level program knitters may take to earn the Master Knitter’s certification. TKGA stresses that it’s not a professional certificate on the level of Master Electrician, etc., but it’s still a highly respected certificate I’ve wanted to earn for quite a while. I’m working on Level 1 (of 3).
Wools I’d recommend for Level 1 are: Plymouth Galway, Cascade 220, and Lion Brand Fisherman’s wool. This level calls for a smooth worsted weight yarn in light colors. Heathers and fluffy and novelty yarns are forbidden, as is Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride (a nifty, nice yarn — but too fuzzy for TKGA requirements) . For my money Galway is the closest to a true worsted weight yarn; it’s 4-ply (think nice, round, plump stitches) and 100% wool. TKGA recommends staying away from artificial fibers like acrylic because wool swatches block better, and blocking is a huge deal-breaker as to whether the swatch passes or fails.
Needles: Whatever you have been using and have been happy using is always your best choice. I use Addi Turbo Circulars, and Knit Picks Options Interchangeable Circulars (Nickle-plated). After doing a half dozen Preliminary Swatches on three different yarns (Galway in Dark Blue, and Pink; and Cascade 220 in Summer Sky) I decided to take Arenda Holladay’s advice and try Lion Brand (no heathers or darks) in off white, and Paton’s Classic Worsted Wool.
Here is a picture of the first of the 2011 Plymouth Galway swatches that I blocked.
I wet-blocked this because it’s a cable and thus draws in quite a bit. These generally need a good soaking so that the fibers are pliable and amenable to “the rack”. I soak in luke-warm water 10 minutes, gently turn over and soak another 10 minutes. Then I carefully scoop up the swatch, do a small squeeze using the palm of the hand holding the swatch, stick it in a small lingerie bag, and put in in my top loader washing machine on a short final spin setting.
Looking at the above swatch with 2016 eyes, I’m inclined to think I over-blocked it and that the finished swatch should have looked more like Mae West.
This process does not stretch the swatch out of shape. A note: I generally wet-block 100% wool, but this method is not good for all fibers. Knitty.com has a good tutorial on blocking for different fibers.
Block ’til your head drops off! Blocking makes for a more professional looking and better fitting garment. I cringe when I look at some of the stuff on Ravelry that hasn’t been blocked because the beauty of the stitches and patterns they make don’t show. Lace demands to be blocked to show off the lovely patterns created by all those little holes. However….
A word to the wise about blocking cables. I recently pulled out a lovely cabled hat because after I blocked it all the integrity of the pattern disappeared; the poofiness and character of the cables flattened. I will knit this pattern again, but won’t make the mistake of blocking it.
A cabled hat that has been knitted in the round is often a horse of a different color. Eyeball your cabled creation and if you like the way it looks and wears, let it be. If it needs some blocking, do it as gently as possible; it will probably get by laid flat. My mistake was using a balloon to block mine. Even though I blew up the balloon to have negative ease it stretched the fabric.