Knitting requires sharp thinking, deft motor skills, and lots of time to develop and master a range of different techniques. As a lifelong knitter, Diedre Young of Peoria knows this firsthand and finds the craft beneficial to her well-being as a whole. Each day she carves out time to knit—“regardless of what else may be going on”—typically an hour in the morning before work, and occasionally after. She even takes her knitting on the road so she has a token to remember her travels. It has a “calming effect,” she explains, which belies the lengths she went to in order to become certified as a Master Knitter through The Knitting Guild Association (TKGA).
Several years ago, Young was asked if she was a Master Knitter. “I didn’t even know that was a thing!” she exclaims. “So I googled it and ‘TKGA’ was the result of my search. I made contact with them immediately and enrolled in the Master certification program the same day.” That was more than five years ago. She recently achieved the coveted Master Knitter status, which is quite significant considering there are only 347 Master Knitters in the entire world—and just eight in Illinois.
The demanding certification process requires applicants to complete three levels, each comprised of multiple projects and 19 pattern swatches, along with detailed written reports, reviews and references. “Each element, including knitted pieces and written material, must be perfect—and I mean perfect,” she declares. “Pattern writing, terminology and charting is a big part of the program, and if one comma is out of place, it’s rejected.”
As a self-taught database programmer at her day job, Young understands this perfectionism well. Her own database development company, Arwen Enterprises, supports her other businesses: Parsec Enterprises Inc., a local watch repair business, and Zantech Inc., a watch supplies company, both co-owned with her husband Marc. “Attention to detail is as essential to writing code for a data structure as it is to knitting and pattern writing,” she explains.
Each level of the certification process has a designated time limit in which to complete the work: 12 months for Level 1; 18 months for Level 2; and 24 months for Level 3. Detailed guidelines and requirements are provided by TKGA to complete each level, which is judged by a panel of Master Knitters—“some of the best in the world,” according to Young. “Many times, pieces must be completely redone to meet their exacting standards.” Even as she says this, she points toward a basket of rejected swatches in her knitting studio, admitting that she had to redo pieces in each round.
Holding various swatches, she points out the details and nuances of each. Some are composed of separate knitted elements stitched together to achieve the desired pattern; others require multiple patterns and stitching techniques involving more than one needle. Exact calculations must be made to create an acceptable pattern, Young says, stressing the importance of math and the measurements involved in knitting.
While she’s reached the pinnacle of her craft, Young is still constantly learning new techniques—and she takes it with her wherever she goes. “I was very close to my grandmother, and I rarely knit without thinking of her. This program was a challenge and I love challenges, but also it was a tribute to my grandmother. I know that she would be proud,” she explains. “I have a number of skills, but knitting is the skill I value most.” PM