COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — There is a common misconception that knitting is just for grandmothers, said Master Knitter Lesli Lanteigne of Columbus.
She said the hobby is enjoying a newfound popularity among the younger generation and the advent of online knitting communities: such as ravelry.com and knittingdaily.com, has helped spark interest.
"There's a huge jump in the young people learning to knit because there are so many instructional videos on YouTube," Lanteigne told The Republic (http://bit.ly/1424WEH ). "Many are teaching themselves by watching the videos over and over."
Lanteigne, 52, is one of roughly 250 master knitters across the globe. And she's using her knowledge to help educate others about knitting.
Lanteigne was first introduced to knitting at age 8 while on a family vacation to visit her grandparents in New Zealand. When the family returned to the United States, Lanteigne found there was no one else she knew who knitted.
She learned on her own and continued to knit into adulthood. Often making sweaters, scarves and shawls, Lanteigne would give her finished projects to family and friends as gifts.
In 2009, the former computer programmer was told by a friend about The Knitter's Guild Association and the Master Knitter Certification program.
"I Googled it and read up on it," Lanteigne said. "Within a week I signed up."
The master knitter certification is a three-tiered program, which increases in difficulty as the student progresses through the levels.
The program involves a complementary mixture of knitting, research and design. Students are required to complete projects, which they submit to a committee for critique before they're allowed to advance to the next level.
The most challenging part was designing projects, such as a hat and sweater, from scratch, Lanteigne said. She spent a lot of time looking through stitch dictionaries to find "the right types of stitches" to use.
"I've knitted for more than 40 years," Lanteigne said. "And getting this certification wasn't a walk in the park. By levels two and three, it was very challenging."
Lanteigne received her Master Knitter Certification in March 2012 and became one of four master knitters in Indiana and the only one in Columbus and south-central Indiana.
"I'm proud I'm the only one in the area," Lanteigne said. "I've had several friends who knit who are starting the program now."
The mother of two does caution that the master knitter program is not something a beginner should try to tackle. You should have at least a year's worth of knitting experience before you pursue a certification, she said. Otherwise, the coursework could be frustrating.
Since receiving her certification, Lanteigne has been teaching basic and advanced knitting techniques at the Knitters Nook in Columbus and In A Yarn Basket in Bloomington.
Tools of the trade are evolving to fit the times, Lanteigne said.
Knitting needles no longer come just in the basic aluminum style of yesteryear. Today, knitters have a range of choices from wood and bamboo to carbonite steel, or what Langeigne calls the Ferrari of knitting needles.
Lanteigne said the type of project she's working on usually dictates the type of needles she uses.
"Sometimes I have interchangeable sets that are wood," Lanteigne said. "I also have some that are the Ferraris. As more needles come out, what I liked best seven years ago versus today are different."
Even the availability of new fibers is changing the knitting landscape.
At one time, wool was the dominant fiber most knitters used. Today, knitters have their choice of a range of fibers from alpaca and yack to bamboo. Although variety is nice, Lanteigne said she prefers to stick with wool.
"I think it is more my heritage," Lanteigne said. "I received wool sweaters from when I was born. I'm used to wool. I like its texture and warmth."
Nyra Miller, owner of the Knitters Nook in Columbus, has been knitting for three years and is a member of the Knitting Guild Association.
Lanteigne's certification was definitely a selling point for Miller, who hired her to teach introductory and advanced knitting courses at her store. Miller said she appreciates Lanteinge's confidence and ability to truly encourage customers to try new things, such as patterns they may think are too difficult.
"There's a comfort level in knowing that Lesli has so much experience," Miller said. "She is a huge asset to me, the store and customers."
To those who are considering picking up knitting, Lanteigne recommends getting a decent set of tools, including needles of different sizes, tape measure and stitch holders. But above all, don't be afraid to ask for help.
"Knitters are very friendly," Lanteigne said. "There's a camaraderie among knitters. They like for others to learn to knit."
Information from: The Republic, http://www.therepublic.com/