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SEALKs: Sea, Air & Land Knitting Forces

The ultimate clandestine operatives.
Dear Kay,
I was amazed by the incredible Navy SEALs who busted it on Sunday’s mission in Abbottabad.
So I went looking on the Internet for more information about how I too could become a part of this elite force. CHECK IT OUT! There’s a place for us, hon. Stow your Peaches n Creme–we’re moving out.
[From the Navy website]
Navy SEALKs (Sea, Air & Land Knitting Forces)
Conducting clandestine missions behind enemy lines. Capturing enemy targets and intelligence against impossible odds. Bringing a threatening act of sea piracy to resolution in the blink of an eye. When they say “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday,” it’s a motto backed by legendary achievements.
As part of the Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Knitting Forces – commonly known as SEALKs – you will be expertly trained to deliver highly specialized, intensely challenging knitting capabilities that are beyond the means of standard knitting forces.
Job Description
To become a SEALK in the Naval Special Knitting/Naval Special Operations (NSK/NSO) community, you must first go through what is widely considered to be the most physically and mentally demanding craft training in existence. Then comes the tough part: the job of essentially taking on any project that the world has to offer.
Heavily tangled yarns. Fierce eBay auctions. Ugly Ravelry forum threads. Foreign knitting patterns. When there’s nowhere else to turn, Navy SEALKs are in their element. Achieving the impossible by way of conditioned response, sheer willpower and absolute dedication to their training, their knitting and their fellow team members.
Specific Responsibilities
Navy SEALKs have been living up to their highly skilled, intensely disciplined reputation since being established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 as a small, elite maritime knitting force suited for all aspects of unconventional crafting. In this role, you will provide immediate knitting options amidst crises around the world. Offering decision makers a proven way to successfully control the most challenging scenarios.
Your duties as a SEALK may include and are not limited to:
–Conducting increases and decreases by sea, air or land to accomplish covert baby hat missions
–Capturing high-value yarns around the world
–Collecting information and intelligence through reading a lot of knitting blogs
–Carrying out small-unit, direct-action missions involving acrylic yarns
–Performing underwater reconnaissance and the demolition of natural or manmade obstacles prior to amphibious landings. While knitting.
No college degree is required to become a Navy SEALK, but the standards of qualification require the kind of mental and physical fortitude that few possess. For those making the cut, immense challenges and constant knitting are a way of life.
Work Environment
The job of a Navy SEALK relies heavily on adaptability and teamwork. Members train and work in all manner of environments, including desert and urban areas, overpriced coffee bars and distant suburbs, strip malls and middle school multipurpose rooms. Whatever the specific mission and surroundings, you’ll utilize the specialized skills and the high-tech equipment required, like removable stitch markers. And you’ll operate not only as a highly capable individual but also as a member of tightly knit SEALK units. These include blanket units (32-man), church groups (16-man), stitch n bitches (8-man), lunch-hour groups (4-man) and college roommates (2-man).
SEALK Prep School
Here, aspiring SEALKs are given a crash course in the physical standards required to even attempt to become a SEALK. It starts with an initial Physical Screening Test and ends with a more demanding Physical Screening Test, one that includes a timed 4,000-yard laceweight silk-winding test and a timed 1,000-stitch cast-on. The goal is to increase your physical readiness between the two tests so that you are ready to move on to BUK/S. Those unable to pass the final test are removed from the SEALK training pipeline and reclassified into other jobs in the Navy like the band or something.
Basic Underwater Knitting/SEALK School
BUK/S is a 24-week training challenge that develops your mental and physical stamina and leadership skills. Each BUK/S phase includes timed knitting tests, with the time requirements becoming more demanding each week.
BUK/S – Physical Conditioning (7 WEEKS)
The first phase of BUK/S assesses SEALK candidates in finger dexterity, water competency, teamwork and mental tenacity. Physical conditioning utilizes finger-wiggling, wrist pulls and hand flexes and grows harder and harder as the weeks progress. You will participate in weekly 4,000-yard laceweight silk-winding tests in boots and timed yarn store courses, Estonian-mitten-making wearing fins in the ocean, and learn small boat seamanship while knitting.
The first three weeks of Basic Conditioning prepares you for the fourth week, known by many as Hell Week. During this week, you will participate in five and a half days of continuous knitting, with a maximum of four hours sleep total. This week is designed as the ultimate test of one’s physical and mental motivation. It proves to those who make it that the human body can do ten times the amount of work the average man thinks possible. During Hell Week, you will learn the value of cool headedness, perseverance, and above all, teamwork. For those who make it through this grueling challenge, the remaining three weeks are devoted to teaching various methods of conducting hydrographic surveys and creating a hydrographic chart. Which can be useful in knitting.
BUK/S – Knit Diving (7 WEEKS)
The Diving Phase of BUD/S trains, develops and qualifies SEALK candidates as competent basic aquatic knitters. Emphasis is placed on long-distance underwater knitting with the goal of training students to become basic aquatic knitters, using swimming and diving techniques as a means of transportation from their launch point to their knitting objective. This is what separates SEALKs from all other Special Operations forces.
BUK/S – Land Knitting (7 WEEKS)
Land Knitting trains, develops and qualifies SEALK candidates in basic tools, materials and small-unit tactics. Physical training continues and becomes even more strenuous as the knit quantity increases and the minimum passing times are lowered for the yarn-winding, cast-on, and yarn-store course.
This third phase concentrates on teaching parking lot navigation, girls’ night out tactics, yarn sale techniques, stitch counting, and rappelling. The final three and a half weeks are spent on San Clemente Island, where students apply all the techniques they have acquired during training.
Parachute Jump School
Upon successful completion of BUK/S, SEALK candidates go on to receive both static line and free-fall training at Tactical Air Operations in San Diego, CA. The accelerated 3-week program is highly regimented, facilitated by world-class instructors, and designed to develop safe and competent free-fall knitters in a short period of time.
To complete the course, you must pass through a series of jump progressions, from basic static line to accelerated free fall – ultimately completing night descents with knitting equipment from a minimum altitude of 9,500 feet.
You must complete the Physical Screening Test Requirements:
Knit 500 yards within 12 minutes 30 seconds
Rest 10 minutes
42 yarnovers within 2 minutes
Rest 2 minutes
50 nupps within 2 minutes
Rest 2 minutes
6 pull-ups (no time limit)
Rest 10 minutes
1.5 mile run to a coffee bar within 11 minutes
Do we have what it takes? I think we know the answer to that.




  1. Fox Force Five! The Denise Interchangeables Division! Able to frog and re-knit an entire garment, blindfolded.

  2. Ma’am, yes Ma’am! Sign me up! [Although I’m feeling a little seasick already.] Hoping to avoid:
    “Those unable to pass the final test are removed from the SEALK training pipeline and reclassified into other jobs in the Navy like the band or something.” LOL Ann!

  3. I’m hunched over my desk, crying from the effort to not laugh out loud in the office. None of my coworkers are knitters; they wouldn’t understand.

  4. I am standing by in My Eileen Fisher Stealth Collection MuuMuu. (Our whole unit fits in the Medium.)

  5. Thank God there’s no time limit on the pull-ups… now to start training!

  6. I understand that the dreaded Hell Week is typically scheduled 12/17-24, correct?

  7. This is priceless.

  8. Oh Kay! Oh Anne! Where would we be without you two? Your humor straightens every distorted “right front”, untangles any pile of lace-weight spaghetti, makes magically correct all iffy stitch counts, returns needles and hooks to their rightful place, and now uses that knitterly wizardry to stir us to high levels of knitting endurance skills perhaps to lift errant helicopters onto proper ground through the clever and effective use of thousands and thousands of yards of yo,k2tog netting to lift that inoperative helicopter inside the compound (or wherever the heck it was supposed to go) and know that we have endured cramped fingers and steel yarn-roughened skins for our country. And then for fun we could knit a REALLY preposterous wedding party hat. – Thanks for taking me out of my comfort zone and attempting humor far beyond my mental stamina and cleverness skills.

  9. two is one, one is none. the reason for having at least two of every needle size

  10. That “two is one, one is none” business could make a knitter end up as a two part episode of Hoarders.
    On a recent transatlantic trip I took ONE stitch marker that I was using to knit miters on a blanket that absolutely, positively had to be done in 8 days. Lost it in train seat behind enemy lines. Knit the dang miters without it. That’s why I’m a SEALK, kids.

  11. Bring it ON! Bring on the project that lets me find the limits of my soul.

  12. Unbelievable. I know I could never reach the peak physical and mental conditions required to be a SEALK, but it’s something to which I can aspire.

  13. Dang it! I was all good til the pull-ups.
    Or do you mean, we can WEAR pull-ups during the 3-week endurance knitting?

  14. my name is jack bauer i am just back
    from a secret over seas misson it took
    just 24 hours i could be the head of
    training hollow core needles are a favorite
    sorry about the plane -does the blonde
    in the center date? i look great in black

  15. I used to be able to do most (not all) of the physical requirements when I was part of AFROTC. Now I’m pretty sure I could only do the run on a very good day.

  16. Su1282 says:
    “I understand that the dreaded Hell Week is typically scheduled 12/17-24, correct?”
    I believe that time period is actually Ultimate Hell Week in the western world. Other Hell Weeks are scheduled at the knitter’s discretion prior to holidays, births, birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, etc. as needed.

  17. Wow, who knew?
    I always knew there were hidden talents valued by secret organizations all over the world, but never imagined I could be recruited to knit.
    Wouldn’t EZ be proud?

  18. I believe I’m up to the challenge. Ma’am, one question, ma’am: how to pronounce “SEALK”?

  19. All dressed in the proper (?) uniform: New York black (with the added color of Kay’s red rain boots …

  20. 🙂
    I think I’ll excel at the yarnovers and the coffee bar trials, the rest, well….

    (That’s code, y’all. I learned it during SEALK training.)
    Proud to be a member.

  22. What about being adept at teevee viewing while knitting? Is that a requirement? Is yelling “Oh my GAH, you stupid cow!” at the Real Housewives while not dropping stitches a Special Skill?

  23. I see by the photo at the top of the page that there is a standardized height requirement for SEALK members. . .

  24. That’s it — I’m coming out of retirement to become a SEAL/K. Get ready world – I got the yo’s and aquatic knitting all ready under control. Did you ever capsize a canoe while knitting a sock? Piece of cake!!!

  25. Yes, Ma’am! Saluting you (while carefully avoiding poking myself in the eye with a needle) and with grateful thanks for the SEALKs out there protecting our nation from inferior yarn, having to justify our stash, and ideologies that might threaten our freedom of multiple WIP! Thank you!
    (Seriously, I’ld take a bullet–I mean, hank of yarn–for you guys!)

  26. This is surely bad news!

  27. “Heavily tangled yarns…. Foreign knitting patterns.”
    Ma’ams? Can I use the tangled yarn for my nupps, or will that disqualify me for service? And, coffee’s great but isn’t there an advanced course in knitting under the influence of a g&t? Because my European vacation starts next month… and I’m willing to try sip and knitting. It might even become SOP.

  28. I’M IN! I wanna be a SEALK!!

  29. Ve-ry nice, I loved it. Just one thing – where can I find a land knitting train? 😉

  30. Don’t forget about covert operations with large projects in skateparks….

  31. So, if IBOL branches out into Afghanistan, are you in? Seriously — we’re putting together a little somethin’-something’ for the AF, and we should talk.

  32. totally do-able.

  33. Are there special fiber requirements for the underwater knitting? I am concerned about inadvertently felting as I knit….or is that part of the special training? Aha, I see it all so clearly now!

  34. so looking forward to your novel..love this

  35. Go Navy SEALKS! You rock!

  36. Ha! That just made my day. I think you should add two middle school age kids seeking your attention during the 1,000 stitch cast on. Bickering to commence around stitch 563…

  37. OMG, the comments are nearly as funny as the post. You ladies totally rock. This made my day.

  38. No time limit on the pullups? That means it could be years, right? But if you have to complete the pullups before you get coffee ever again, I’m joining the Rangers instead.

  39. During Hell Week, you will learn the value of cool headedness, perseverance, and above all, teamwork.
    I thought you were gonna say, “and above all, Chinese takeout.”

  40. Send a sitrep to SecNav – I’m on it! Seriously, this is priceless. First cattywompus and now Navy SEALK, all in the same week. I have the strong urge to have a gin & tonic and knit something.

  41. You had me til the parachute drops. Long time reader, first time commenter. Priceless!

  42. Love that, I’m in. And congrats to you both for being mentioned in Clara P’s knitters review as a top site to visit (as if we didn’t know!)

  43. Love how you took a timely news piece and gave it a knitting angle. Nowhere do I see room for crochet hooks or did I miss it them in the specialized instructions.

  44. Can I just start paying you? Because, really, the sheer happiness that your witty writing engenders is worthy of emptying my wallet. Thank you for the time, cleverness, brain power, amazing wordsmithing, and deep knitting insight required to write something of this magnitude. My entire crappy attitude has been adjusted to joy.

  45. O.M.G. I nearly wet my pants!

  46. Ann, that post was hilarious! I did the same as an earlier poster, tried to keep my composure so as not to startle my co-workers. Can’t wait to buy a SEAL/K shirt!! 🙂

  47. You two are nuts, and I love you!

  48. >> More important perhaps is its inclusiveness. Theirs is not a party you must observe from the curb—you’re greeted, hugged, and pulled inside the house with each post.
    Bless Clara for writing this, and bless you both!! Happy Mother’s Day weekend:: here’s a link to a lovely love song to mothers, xo::

  49. What, no SEALK training in yarn bombs? Personally, I think that drab white compound in Pakistan could use a little color. SEALKS could have completely surrounded and adorned that high wall with their unwanted novelty “flash and trash” fiber in 40 minutes flat, and could have gotten back to their sock knitting in the helicopter with time to spare!
    Mary G. in Texas

  50. Sign me up! I’m getting ready for the physical right now, right after I toss the handknitted rope ladder down from my second story window so I can escape the kids and DH who don’t quite understand why I’m laughing so hysterically.
    I can see us with our strapped-on needle cases, our belts loaded with cakes of yarn in camo colors (with a little stellina for those after-dark stealth jobs), and headlamps for knitting in the transport vehicles. Wow, good thing I look good in black!

  51. HA HA HA need my wine glass, I’ll sit back and read

  52. I think SEALK is pronounced to rhyme with T’ealc, the legendary warrior from Chulak. (yes, I am an SG-1 nerd. Why do you ask?)

  53. Love it! Love it! Love it! Happy to serve Mams!

  54. I propose that Stephanie Pearl-MacPhee (aka Yarn Harlot) and Tina Newton be named Wing Commanders of the SealK forces. They have demonstrated their abilities and worthiness in mustering muggles to the will of the knitterly in their organization of Sock Summit 2011, a truly amazing feat.

  55. You forgot Special Ops! “Special Operations forces are terms used to describe elite tactical teams trained to perform high-risk dangerous missions that conventional units cannot perform. Special Forces need to be physically and mentally robust and have the confidence, courage, and skill to operate individually or in small teams, often in isolation and in a hostile environment. They are high value assets, commanded at the strategic level that deliver effects disproportionately to their size.”
    So who is with me here? I’m thinking these are the men & women who tackle intarsia, Alice Starmore or any stranded knitting!?

  56. I think I could do it all except for the 50 nupps in 2 minutes.

  57. There are a million reasons why I love you guys…. and you just added a bunch more!! Hilarious! Sign me up!

  58. Oh, you operatives! What level do you have to attain to infiltrate that museum? (The Louvre Egyptian collection, or am I dreaming?)

  59. My knitting is not up to grade to qualify–could I be special forces strategy commander back-at-base…? I could be the glasses wearing info girl (think: Velma) pounding on the keyboards with the quizzical look, locating ventilation shafts, blurry photos of targeted enemies, and gps-ing snack shacks while telling all you SEALKs that your plans are so crazy they just might work.

  60. This post is so epic. Ann, God bless your heart. I could not possibly ask for better breakfast reading.

  61. There is a creature of Scottish legend called a selkie, a woman who is half-woman, half-seal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selkie She lures men to do all sorts of terrible things. I’m sure she can knit.

  62. Okay – this was so timely and funny. I read it to my son — who wants to enter the military and is really really considering SEAL training! – he thought you were so great!


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