Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Formal Educations in Hand Knitting Design

I've shared the quote below before about formal education.

"Being formally qualified is overrated. Passion and results can be the best credentials there are. When we try to hide out lack of qualifications we actually weaken the potential strength of our brand. Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Steve Jobs. All billionaires. All college dropouts. Jimi Hendrix couldn't read music. Rachael Ray never went to cooking school. John Fluevog went from working in a shoe store to creating his own shoe empire."

Danielle Laporte The Fire Starter Sessions

Last week I answered an email from a knitter looking for direction in acquiring the skills to be become a professional knitter. I've written about this several times but the questions made me think it's time for an update.

Unfortunately there is no direct route to attain a degree or certification. Some designers do go the fashion school route, they learn about garment construction but often if knits are included in the program they are machine not hand knits. The focus is generally on manufacturing jobs and the main stream fashion retail world. Sizing targets industry standards and ignores specialized fit requirements. What we do in the hand knitting world is really very narrowly focused. Hand knitters have their own distinct subculture and aesthetic. I've also done a fair bit of machine knitting and depending on the complexity of the machine it can be a very different pursuit and skill set.

My educational background was founded in my personal interest in garment construction and fit. My focus was the wider range of custom garment construction in both fabric and knitting. I've always been intensely interested in fashion and I studied it through magazines, TV, movies and theatre.

I've taken many classes in sewing, couture techniques, tailoring, millinery, pattern drafting and knitting. Some were at the continuing education programs offered by the Board of Education in my city but they offered no accreditation. Most teachers had either run their own garment related business or had worked in the manufacturing end of the business. Some were completely self taught, others had graduated from a fashion program or they had completed an apprentice program. Since I was taking the classes for my own interest and enjoyment and never intended to make this my career it was of no concern to me that I didn't end up with a piece of paper proving my accomplishments. 

I asked a few industry insiders, how did you end up doing following this path?  

Kate Atherley says purely by accident. She was an avid recreational knitter, and a co-worker introduced her to the owner of the Naked Sheep (a local yarn shop), she started teaching at the shop, and developing designs for them, and it went from there. Another introduction to the owners of Needful Yarns got her started on pattern writing and tech editing.  

Fiona Ellis told me she left University and set up a free-lance fashion business. An agent who sold her design concepts to fashion houses introduced her to Trisha Malcolm,of Vogue, who encouraged her to submit to the magazine.  

Glenna C. says personal interest is what drove her. She wrote patterns for the kinds of things she wanted to knit but couldn't find patterns to match. Publishing her own designs was a logical extension of her interests. She has no formal training in the garment or craft-related world. She started with the help of the Vogue Knitting book chapter on designing patterns, and learned as she worked. She has explored different kinds of garment and accessory designs by practicing and building her skill set slowly. She tells me "I have definitely learned a lot in the last few years! 

These are the programs I have been able to find: 

This Hand Knitting Design Certificate is no longer accepting new students, it was the first mainstream  program I have ever heard of. It doesn't appear to be part of the regular program as it is under the Rhode Island School of Design Continuing Education header on their web site.

This online program is in the UK. 

The Craft Yarn Council has a teacher certification program here. They also have begun to offer their Certified Instructors Program (CIP) in association with the Center for Professional Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology's (FIT).

The Knitting Guild Association has a Master Program here.

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