Tia Smith ’23: Master Hand Knitting Program

Summer 2021

About the Project

The Benenson Award supported me in my endeavor to improve my technical skills in hand knitting as I worked through the first level of The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA) Master Hand Knitting Program.

Since the age of 10 years old, I have been an avid knitter. YouTube videos and rented out library books guided the progression of my learning. Through self-instruction, I often acquired advanced knitting skills before mastering beginner ones. For years, I desired to complete a formalized knitting curriculum which the Master Hand Knitting Program provides.

I began the summer by making slight modifications to my style of knitting in order to meet the prerequisites for the level one curriculum. I experimented with knitting with the tips of my needles instead of the shafts and gave my purl stitches a slight tug to produce an even stockinette stitch fabric. To prevent the uneven tension in edge stitches, I wrapped yarn in the opposite direction than usual or worked the first couple of stitches in each row tighter. The simplest changes in hand movements greatly impact the outcome of a fabric.

The level one curriculum includes the completion of several knitted swatches used to show competency in gauge measuring, tension, increases and decreases and more. In addition, research-based written work consisting of an essay, worksheets, and responses informed how I executed a skill. Much of my time was spent searching through knitting books looking for corroborating sources for each technique that I utilized. This research provided a strong sense of purpose to my knitting.

After sending in my initial submission of the level one curriculum, I plan to supplement my knitting education with TKGA mini-courses, short-term correspondence courses focused on a specific knitting skill, as I await for my knitted and written work to be evaluated.

I have learned that while there is no one right way to knit, there are methods that every knitter could employ that can not only improve the appearance of their work but make their fabric stronger allowing for their works of art to last a lifetime.

Reflecting on Arts Amidst COVID-19

My experience throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced my identity as an independent learner and has encouraged me to evaluate my progress in the subjects of my interests. While knitting has been the most constant art form in my life, I struggled to solidify mastery in many basic or intermediate skills. The support from Benenson allowed me to dedicate time to experiment with and explore various knitting techniques that I had often brushed aside. Now, I knit with a deeper sense of purpose as I better understand the intricacies of producing a quality hand made item.