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Certifiably Awesome: Becoming A Master Knitter

Feb 21, 2013

by Linzee McCray

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Like many who enjoy working with their hands, I find it hard to resist trying something new. The result is closets that bulge with half-finished crocheted afghans and woven twig baskets. I bounce from embroidery to photography to sewing, and the “jack of all trades, master of none” adage clearly applies: my skills are respectable, but hardly expert.

Lisa Wilcox Case is just the opposite. Case is a certified Master Knitter, a designation that requires countless hours to earn. Her notebooks, filled with carefully constructed samples of lace, buttonholes, entrelac, ribbing, and intarsia, exemplify her command of the craft.

Lisa learned to knit when she was 12. “I vividly remember my first project, a sweater of iridescent, teal yarn that would probably have melted if it got close to a fire,” she says. “I laboriously knit the first three inches and something was wrong and my mom said to start over. I just bawled.”

Despite that setback, knitting struck a chord. Her needles kept clicking through high school, college, her first career as a librarian, and her second as an endodontist. In 2007, Lisa decided to give the Master Knitter certification program a try.

Certification as a Master Knitter is granted by The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA), a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the craft. “We’re an educational organization and this is a way to recognize people who have mastered a broad scope of knitting,” says Debby Johnston, the TKGA Member Programs Coordinator. The program, started in 1987, requires knitters to produce samples, answer questions, and write brief reports. “You have to be able to take constructive criticism because very few pass the first time — the average person has to rework some samples,” says Johnston of the evaluation process. “But those who pass [to date 268 hand knitters and 17 machine knitters] can hang their hat on that title — if they want to design patterns for magazines or a yarn company, the certification provides credibility. And I do think, no matter what your field, that people like to be recognized by their peers.”

Taylor Friese, a college senior who started knitting at age 8, hopes to parlay certification into teaching. She’s completed the first of three levels of the TKGA Master Knitter certification and is also pursuing the Craft Yarn Council’s Teacher Certification.

“Teaching makes sense because I care so much about knitting and want to share it with others,” she says. But the personal challenge is equally important. “When you do something a lot it can get boring, and you need something to get your spark back,” says Taylor, who takes her knitting everywhere she goes. “Certification is a way to prove to yourself that you’re good at something. And the bragging rights are nice, too.”

Lisa, who earned the Master Knitter title in 2010, especially appreciates that it taught her to reexamine her knitting. “When I first started I thought ‘This will be a piece of cake!’ and knit seven swatches in a single evening,” she says. “Then I thought about how it would look through the eyes of an expert, which was a revelation. It forced me to critically evaluate my own work, something I really hadn’t done for the 40 or so years I’d been knitting.” She re-knit all seven swatches.

Linzee McCray

Lisa Wilcox Case knitting (while wearing a sweater she also knit).

Lisa also appreciated learning multiple ways to accomplish a single task. “Most people know one way to make a button hole and one way to cast on,” she says. “This forced me to expand my repertoire and gave me more tools to use in making things, making them fit, and customizing them, resulting in a much nicer garment.”

Taylor, who looks forward to completing the TGKA course after completing college in May, knows that credentials aren’t for everyone.

“You don’t need to be certified to be a master knitter, but a well-crafted object is so rare nowadays and fully learning a craft is amazing,” she says.

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3 Featured Comments

  • prettyladyknits

    Ann Braddock from prettyladyknits said 3 years ago Featured

    I'm a member of the TKGA and have nothing but the utmost respect for the master knitters. I would have loved to tried this program but too many ideas seem to pop into my head to be able to stick to the program that is required for the master knitter certification. It is a wonderful association.

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 3 years ago Featured

    Mastering something is one of the most satisfying things one can do in life. An expert thinks they know all there is to know about something, but a master discovers that she'll never know all there is to know about it --- a master never stops learning.

  • kpoklemba

    Katie Schmitt from PassengerSeatArt said 3 years ago Featured

    Knitting is so much fun. My husband and I traveled the country working on a web series about bed and breakfasts and knitting was a great way to while away the hours. However, when I see knitting by a master, it takes my breath away. Thank you for sharing your passion!

92 comments

  • maggiesraggedyinn

    Mary Robertson from MaggiesInn said 3 years ago

    I have so much respect for someone who strives to be a master knitter. I love to knit, in fact it is an addiction, yet I know I will never be a master. I love playing with colours too much which leads me towards many types of crafts which I get lost in.... therefore I know that I will never have the time to be so precise. Great article!!!

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 3 years ago

    Knitting is such a beautiful art! I crochet and have tried my hand at knitting but find it more difficult. That's ok though because I can just purchase beautiful knits that I find here on etsy!

  • memckeen

    LovelySquid from LovelySquid said 3 years ago

    From a master gardener to a master/soon-to-be-master knitter, congratulations on the feature! It is so important for us to maintain our knowledge of traditional crafts. Thank you for being our link link to that knowledge. I wish you both continued success in spreading the love of knitting.

  • lovelygifts

    Linda from lovelygifts said 3 years ago

    Beautiful work!

  • TEJIDOS

    TEJIDOS from TEJIDOS said 3 years ago

    I'm in constant awe of the beautiful knittings on here. I crochet, and done some interesting things with that...i look forward when i have the patience to make some interesting things with knitting, but until then i will just have to watch from a distance...

  • LivingVintage

    LivingVintage from LivingVintage said 3 years ago

    A worthy goal, but don't see the point. I'm a knitter, better than many, and I don't need a piece of paper to prove it. Take a look at what I produce.

  • BirdEnergy

    Genise Park from GeniseParkArts said 3 years ago

    I love knitting! Never knew that you can get a master knitter certification. Thanks for the post.

  • prettyladyknits

    Ann Braddock from prettyladyknits said 3 years ago Featured

    I'm a member of the TKGA and have nothing but the utmost respect for the master knitters. I would have loved to tried this program but too many ideas seem to pop into my head to be able to stick to the program that is required for the master knitter certification. It is a wonderful association.

  • ArtDecoDame

    Desiree from ArtDecoDame said 3 years ago

    Beautiful work!I admire knitting so much.I don't have the hang of it myself (I can barely crochet!) but I keep practicing.

  • MrsGingerandWasabi

    Marta DQ from tribomo said 3 years ago

    I think is great that there is a certification as a Master Knitter! I just started knitting and it looks like the possibilities are endless, so much to learn! Great post!

  • kgpaintings

    Kirsten Gilmore from PaintingsByKEGilmore said 3 years ago

    I respect the care and time you are putting into mastering your craft. I tell my art students that good painters also need to strive for mastery of the technical side of things.

  • blueroompottery

    Marietta from blueroompottery said 3 years ago

    I love knitting and started when I was around 6 yrs old (trying to make dresses for my dolls, LOL). I really admire so much what you do and am so happy to see you featured here. I didn't know you could get a certification for being a master knitter... always learning something new! Thanks for sharing :)

  • amysfunkyfibers

    Amy Gunderson from amysfunkyfibers said 3 years ago

    Love the story! i began knitting when I was in 6th grade, it has led me off to so many branches in the fiber arts.

  • vinylclockwork

    Scott from vinylclockwork said 3 years ago

    An Awesome Skill

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 3 years ago

    Woderful!

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 3 years ago

    I love your story and love knitting also. I also crochet, but I knit more than crochet. Thanks for sharing.

  • wolfcreeker

    Kelly Jean Ramstack from kejeara said 3 years ago

    What a great article. I've been knitting for a few years and didn't even know about Master Knitters!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 3 years ago

    I think the only piece of good advice my mother ever gave me was to collect qualifications for anything you feel you enjoy or you're good at. It's immensely satisfying to be able to do something well, but having a recognised qualification is the only way to really PROVE how well you can do it.

  • peacesofindigo

    Dawanna Young from peacesofindigo said 3 years ago

    I am in awe. Knitting is such a beautiful art!~

  • StringBeardCraftery

    Stephanie from StringBeardCraftery said 3 years ago

    I'm struggling to become a knitting noob! I'll keep my one hook instead of two needles for now :). Congrats to all who have "Mastered" their crafts!

  • anamarko

    Ana from ANAMARKO said 3 years ago

    Awesome!

  • StyleGraphicDesign

    Maria from StyleGraphicDesign said 3 years ago

    Great work!!!!

  • kristinasmiley

    Kristina Smiley from CreativeEndeavorsKS said 3 years ago

    Such an inspiring story! Thank you for sharing!

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 3 years ago Featured

    Mastering something is one of the most satisfying things one can do in life. An expert thinks they know all there is to know about something, but a master discovers that she'll never know all there is to know about it --- a master never stops learning.

  • Kampsun

    Maria from Kampsun said 3 years ago

    "You don’t need to be certified to be a master knitter, but a well-crafted object is so rare nowadays and fully learning a craft is amazing" Now this is well said. I totally agree! Very interesting article to read as I am a fanatic knitter myself. Hardly an expert, but I really love learning!

  • Jusadreamin

    Jusadreamin from Jusadreamin said 3 years ago

    Love your story I to love love to knit my favorite is Irish fisherman knit thanks for sharing

  • jwlc

    Josephine from MettleMakes said 3 years ago

    Your passion is so encouraging. What Patrick said (2 posts above) is such a healthy perspective too: "a master never stops learning"

  • jwlc

    Josephine from MettleMakes said 3 years ago

    Apparently I can't count. 3 posts above :)

  • auntjanecan

    Jane Priser from JanePriserArts said 3 years ago

    Wonderful! I love knitting and enjoy learning new techniques. I didn't know about the Master Knitter program. What a wonderful thing! I love looking at great knitting here on Etsy.

  • purlsofcolour

    Purls from purlsofcolour said 3 years ago

    Wow, never knew that you could become a Master Knitter. Now that is tempting...!

  • avisday

    Allison Davis from hundredstitches said 3 years ago

    what an awesome accomplishment (and title)!

  • anordicrose

    virginie lykins from anordicrose said 3 years ago

    Oooh ! Interesting, I would like to know it there is a master crochet course/certificate...

  • meanjeanarts

    Jean from Meanjeanarts said 3 years ago

    Thanks for the information! I was unaware of the certification, but I am very impressed with Lisa for attaining it. I see so many beautiful, creative and worthy hand knit offerings from so many Etsy shops...I consider many of the shop owners to be masters.

  • anotherghostquilts

    Nancy from anotherghostquilts said 3 years ago

    It's nice to see people who really hone their craft. Great piece as always, Linzee.

  • thelandlockedsailor

    The Bosun and Sarita Li Johnson from TheLandlockedSailor said 3 years ago

    I've been meaning to work towards this certification FOREVER. It's pretty challenging! Great article.

  • AudMod Admin

    Audrey said 3 years ago

    Wow, even as a knitter, I had no idea! Thanks for opening my eyes. Great post!

  • BozenaWojtaszek

    Bozena Wojtaszek from BozenaWojtaszek said 3 years ago

    Great article! It is interesting, in(all?) handworks it is usually the matter of hours spent on mastering your talent and skills. No short cuts unfortunately :)

  • HandiworkinGirls

    HandiworkinGirls from HandiworkinGirls said 3 years ago

    I had no idea such a thing existed. What a clever way to preserve such a beautiful (and relaxing) handicraft.

  • CafePrimrose

    Amanda Gynther from CafePrimrose said 3 years ago

    Wonderful!

  • CSKrafts

    CSKrafts from CSKraft said 3 years ago

    Very interesting! Thank you!

  • dahliasoleil

    Paulette from dahliasoleil said 3 years ago

    I can't knit to save my life.But I will be taking the Craft Council Crochet Certification this year.Sadly a lot of people don't take you very seriously as a teacher without some certificate to "prove" you know what you're doing.Funny story ... a lot of people confuse knitting and crocheting ... I had a lady pick up one of my cable knit hats at an outdoor market and argued with me that it wasn't crocheted but knitted.lol.I wish I had caught it on video.I don't know how many times I've had to pull out my hook and explain knitters use 2 straight needles and that I do not knit anything.

  • beadeddragons

    Brittany from beadeddragons said 3 years ago

    I really want to try knitting soon. I just learned how to crochet last year, so I'm trying to master that before I move on to knitting. Thanks for putting up the article. I always enjoy reading up on craft stuff. :)

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 3 years ago

    Who knew? Is there a certified master neglectful dishwasher? I think I have a shot at that. I love this. It reinforces everything I want to hear about the dignity of craft. Thank you, Linzee.

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage from accentonvintage said 3 years ago

    Thanks for the post! Great craft to master!

  • ittytyty

    NABS from NewAgeBOHO said 3 years ago

    Something to strive for. I have been designing my knitwear for years - just simple things but I can't help but know that achieving this kind of knitting status would improve all of my designs. Each time I learn a new finishing technique or some other way in which to wrap or bring my yarn to the front to change the texture of my finished work I feel like I've just won a prize. I knit and crochet and must admit while complex projects or work do not seem to have a lot of general appeal (and so I don't usually post them for sale on my page), I still enjoy doing them - just for the challenge of winning that imaginary prize!

  • pancakeandlulu

    Aimee Knerr from pancakeandlulu said 3 years ago

    wonderful article!

  • misschristiana

    Christiana Odum from YarnDarlin said 3 years ago

    AWESOME!

  • thefrontporch2

    Lisa from TheVintagePorch said 3 years ago

    I used to sit and knit for hours upon hours and loved it. This has inspired me to take up my knitting needles again.

  • peshka

    Peshka from Peshka said 3 years ago

    Wonderful craft! Thanks for the post!

  • lapuzelo

    Lapuzelo Wild from lapuzelo said 3 years ago

    nice article~! so true that once you start crafting, all those ideas pops out every mins and you'll want to try and work on the new ideas right away, anytime, anywhere!

  • ThreeBarDGifts

    Monica from ThreeBarDGifts said 3 years ago

    Sounds like a great program especially if you are wanting to work with a publishing company to promote your original patterns. I'm impressed by anyone who has taken the time to master their craft.

  • StudioCherie

    Cherie Killilea from StudioCherie said 3 years ago

    I agree with Taylor, when she said "When you do something a lot it can get boring, and you need something to get your spark back...” Yet it is through the repetition that we master our crafts. I have found that teaching others to make what I make has been exactly what I needed to burst free from boredom. That and being open to new ways to make button holes...6 and counting.

  • 1274PeriwinkleLane

    Charlene from 1274PeriwinkleLane said 3 years ago

    Gaining a credential always means something! Thank you for the inspiring story!

  • christineshmisteen

    CHRISTINE SHMISTEEN from TheArtOfFinerThings said 3 years ago

    Every time I try something new with knitting, end up feeling like the girl on the "oops" page.

  • gaiadesignstudios

    gaiadesignstudios from GaiaDesignStudios said 3 years ago

    Wonderful!

  • FrostingFactoryStore

    Jaci Brooks from FrostingFactoryStore said 3 years ago

    Your talent is awesome.

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 3 years ago

    I really admire someone who can knit....I have such a time with it....Lovely!

  • kpoklemba

    Katie Schmitt from PassengerSeatArt said 3 years ago Featured

    Knitting is so much fun. My husband and I traveled the country working on a web series about bed and breakfasts and knitting was a great way to while away the hours. However, when I see knitting by a master, it takes my breath away. Thank you for sharing your passion!

  • PeeledBananasToGo

    Margarita from PeeledBananasToGo said 3 years ago

    I didn't even know you there was such a thing as a Master Knitter Association. Fabulous! You have inspired me, Lisa, to consider this for my sewing -the next Master step! NEVER stop learning

  • caseysharpe

    Casey Sharpe from caseysharpe said 3 years ago

    The coolest thing! I love having a goal to work towards, so certifications are pretty awesome. As well as over ambitious projects, particularly in knitting. I don't knit often, but I consider it 'fiber therapy' when I get a tad burnt out from making jewelry. Although there's certainly a sense of humor in the fact that I find it therapeutic, since I've put myself through things like learning to knit in the round on dpns, and picking a pair of fingerless gloves to learn on.

  • alumak

    Aluma from ALUMAhandmade said 3 years ago

    Beautiful!!

  • DeepSilence

    Sonja Bikić from DeepSilence said 3 years ago

    So nice.

  • FabricFascination

    Kym from FabricFascination said 3 years ago

    Very interesting. I dabble in knitting. Love those socks!

  • lapisbeach

    Lauren from lapisbeach said 3 years ago

    Loved the article! I adore knitting and it has always been the things that "stuck" for me too! I can totally appreciate how much work, hours and dedication to the craft went into the certification - way to go girls!!!

  • PurlyEwe

    Amanda from ThePurlyEwe said 3 years ago

    This article is so inspiring!

  • carley465

    CAT Tillinghast from CATTATTING said 3 years ago

    Beautiful work. Loved the article and found it to be very inspirational.

  • SomeKindOfPretty

    Catheryn Dallenbach from SomeKindOfPretty said 3 years ago

    Amazing! I have always been impressed by people who can knit/crochet. My twin can do both. She has tried to explain it to me, but my eyes just glaze over. I have never been able to wrap my mind around it! lol So I will stick to my jewelry making and stare in wonder at all the beautiful things that people knit and crochet. :-)

  • bethanyguentherpeter

    Bethany and Bekah from FadeAndGlow said 3 years ago

    I can't stop looking at that photo in which she's knitting something that looks quite complex to a newbie knitter, but she's also wearing a sweater she knitted and the sweater is incredible! I'm still at kni1purl1 and can't even imagine making something like that. Amazing.

  • lmouer

    Lynsey from lmouer said 3 years ago

    Love those socks! What a great craft!

  • brenniequilts

    Bren McCloskey from brenniequilts said 3 years ago

    What a great article! I never knew about this. I have been knitting since I was 7, definitely don't consider myself a master, or anywhere near it, but I do love it! It is so relaxing and helps my hands with little aches and pain--they go away. Thanks for such a great piece.

  • HHknits

    Helene Hughart from HHknits said 3 years ago

    I am aware of this program and have people in my knitting group that have the certification. Wonderful if you have never had any evaluation of your work. I was lucky in that it was taught to me first by my mother and than during my formal school years while growing up in Austria after WWII. Today they no longer teach it in school and I am sad because it has given me so much joy.

  • electricbluebird

    electricbluebird from electricbluebird said 3 years ago

    The same thing is offered for crocheters. Its a ton of work!

  • electricbluebird

    electricbluebird from electricbluebird said 3 years ago

    The same thing is offered for crocheters. Its a ton of work! BTW, who did the artwork at the top? I love it.

  • lauraprill

    Laura Prill from lauraprill said 3 years ago

    very inspirational post!

  • mycellardoor

    mycellardoor from mycellardoor said 3 years ago

    This is a great article. I had no idea that a master certification existed, but I am going to be putting this on my to-do list to start this year.

  • rugbybeast11

    Amanda from OtterCreekDesigns said 3 years ago

    Wow. This article really makes you think about all the hard work that goes into a handmade item. It can be easy to underestimate something intricacy but this reminds you how much there is to learn about each branch of crafting (and can be applied to lots of other professions too). Sometimes you just don't take the time to realize it.

  • nativestrandsjewelry

    Rachel from PeppersJewelry said 3 years ago

    I never heard of a Master Knitter until I read this article. Interesting read! Thanks!

  • buffalogirls

    Ludmilla from buffalogirls said 3 years ago

    Same ner' never heard of a Master Knitter. My mom would definitely qualify. I love knitting. It is like yoga, very addictive and completely relaxing. And also as I am finding out knitters have a great sense of humor. I got great greeting cards designed just for knitters.

  • bellallure

    Betina from bellallure said 3 years ago

    Beautiful story and products!

  • SpaceMauve

    Caroline Bee from SpaceMauve said 3 years ago

    interesting !

  • WatchWithDaDa

    Alice Irwin from WatchWithDaDa said 3 years ago

    What a wonderful certification programme! One of the great things about knitting is the range of ability levels that you can work effectively in. It's possible to knit a scarf with little more than garter stitch under your belt, but the depth of knowledge and skills that one can aspire to is very exciting.

  • bariand

    Arina Kushnir from bariand said 3 years ago

    Great!!!

  • RememberADay

    Jenny Rose from RememberADay said 3 years ago

    I tip my knitted hat to you, m'lady. Well done!

  • jessiemccann

    jessiemccann from jessiemccann said 3 years ago

    Great article! I have never heard of master knitter before reading this article. I am always in awe when I get to see some beautiful knitted pieces.

  • Motleycouture

    Motleycouture from Motleycouture said 3 years ago

    I admire anyone who masters a skill working with their hands in any art form. So creative and it shows in the pieces that they design. Would love to learn how to knit more than one stitch. My mother could look at a knitting or crochet stitch and sit down and just work away. Wish I paid more attention. Great feature!

  • theindiehandmade

    Ombretta from IndieLab said 3 years ago

    Amazing! Great certification program!

  • christinagrivetti

    Christina Gr. from BlueStockinette said 3 years ago

    This is going on my To Do list! As a knitter (&crocheter) every project is a challenge, especially because I'm always trying at least one new technique. I've found that pushing the boundries of your skills is the best road to improvement! May the world embrace knitting love! :-)

  • FoxyGloves23

    Marie Cashin from MEmbroideries said 3 years ago

    Wow ! I hope to knit more and better.... sometime.... it's fun to try new ways...

  • LittleWrenPottery

    Victoria Baker from LittleWrenPottery said 3 years ago

    I always joke that my mum is a master knitter but i didn't know you could actually become one! Shes always my go to person after a lifetimes experience of knitting

  • brokenasphalt

    Chris from brokenasphalt said 3 years ago

    This is awesome

  • bluebirdluxe

    Eileen from bluebirdluxe said 3 years ago

    So interesting and fun to read! I had no idea there were certified Master Knitters! I always admire those who can knit such beautiful pieces! I enjoy knitting, I'm still quite the novice (though I am kind of a pro at dropping stitches). When I made my first cable stitch, oh goodness.. I had to give myself a little pat on back, I thought - hey, this is looking pretty fancy, maybe I'm not so bad at this. ;) Seriously, it was a proud moment! Linzee, this post is making me want to head over to my local yarn shop and sign up for classes!

  • tillyflopdesigns

    Julie Nelson Rhodes from tillyflopdesigns said 3 years ago

    Really inspirational and honest article ... ooh to be *that* good ... something to aspire to ...

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