Michael Harrigan Tells Us More About Being A Master Knitter

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We are lucky to have Michael with us again this month! If you missed Michael’s story you should catch up HERE

One question that we were asked a lot after Michael’s first article was “What is a Master Knitter and how do you become one?”

The Master Hand Knitter certification is offered by The Knitting Guild Association (www.tkga.org).

Over the past 18 months I have submitted an extensive amount of work to the Guild’s committee for review, with a total of 9 Master Knitters critiquing the work. It included:

● 4 research reports
● 6 book reviews
● 2 magazine reviews
● 63 questions about knitting techniques
● 4 knitting gauge worksheets
● 57 sample squares of stitch patterns
● 6 projects, including an original sweater (right) and hat design
● extensive bibliography

The letter reads, in part:

“Congratulations, you have successfully completed all of the requirements for Level 3 of the Master Hand Knitting Program. You are now a fully qualified Master Knitter with all of the rewards and responsibilities associated with that title. We hope you will use your extensive knowledge to help other knitters achieve better results in their work.”

As you can imagine there are not very many men who have participated. A historical fact, however, is that men were master hand knitters for centuries – from the Middle Ages to the Victorian Era, when powerful knitting guilds controlled the training of master knitters and the production of hand knit goods. It was the introduction of the knitting machine and commercially produced knitwear that made the years of training no longer necessary and hand knitting became a pastime for women.
With the current popularity and resurgence of interest in hand knitting, I’m pleased to be one of the men who is committed to mastering and preserving the tradition.

Master Hand Knitter Final Project Fair Isle Gansey worn by recipient
Master Hand Knitter Final Project Fair Isle Gansey worn by recipient

Knitting Guilds in Europe: 13th through 18th Centuries

The first knitting guilds in Europe were established during the latter part of the Middle Ages, and membership was limited to men.

As knitted garments became fashionable and sought after by the wealthy class, professional guilds started to appear in Europe, with men controlling the development of the craft and the market. The earliest guilds were established in France by the mid-13th century. The craftsmen of the guilds were required to pass rigorous tests to demonstrate a high level of skill before membership was granted. Elsewhere in Europe knitting guilds appeared as well. Craft guilds were set up in the Netherlands in 1429, and by the mid-16th century, Dutch stocking knitters were so skilled that the King of Denmark hired them to teach their technique to Danish knitters. English knitted stockings were exported in quantity by this time but there were no knitters’ guilds in that country. Knitting was established in the Scottish lowlands by the 15th century. The history of Scottish knitting basically paralleled that of the English, although Dundee bonnet makers formed a trade guild in 1496.For a young man to become a Master Knitter was a major commitment. It required spending three years as an apprentice or journeyman and an additional three years travelling throughout Europe learning new techniques and finding new patterns.

After the time spent in training, the apprentice would be required to pass an exam in order to be admitted to the guild. There were several items that had to be produced – at the level of a master – including a cap, a pair of stockings or gloves, a shirt, waistcoat or woolen jacked, and a knitted carpet or wall hanging.

Apprentices had 13 weeks to complete the exam and the items they produced were judged on mastery and artistry.




Dayflowers and Honeybees Rectangular Lace Knit Wrap Click Image to BUY
Multicolored Reversible Garter and Eyelet Knit Bandana-Style Shawlette Click Image to BUY
Silky Wool Garter and Lace Knit Lace Scarf – Original Design Hand Knit by Me Click Image to BUY
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