Tuesday, March 01, 2016

So what is Craftsy anyway?

Sometimes at my quilt guild we rattle off program names like block of the month, fat quarter drawings, and stash for cash work, forgetting that new members may not know how our programs work, or even what a fat quarter is. I’ve been talking about Craftsy a lot, and while you may be familiar with it if you read lots of craft blogs, you may not.

Here’s me on the set of my Craftsy class, Start Appliqué

Craftsy is essentially an online, video-oriented learning platform for all things creative. One of the big differences between a TV show or DVD is that there’s an interactive component to the classes: you can ask the instructor questions (and benefit from other students’ previous questions and the answers), share pictures of your work, and get inspired by other students’ work. Committing to answering students questions is part of what we instructors agree to when we sign on with Craftsy, so you won’t be asking into the wind.

I resisted taking online classes like this for a long time, since I tend to be a pretty conventional book learner. In high school, the AP classes I did best in were the ones with really solid textbooks, not ones where we watched films or did participatory group projects. So for learning quilting and craft techniques, my first port of call has usually been a book. But there are certain things that just don’t lend themselves that well to written description or static illustration.


When writing my appliqué book, I found it really difficult to describe how do needle-turn appliqué. I hope I did a decent job, but as I found when teaching in person, it’s much easier to show students how to hold the needle, how to manipulate the fabric, and how to place their stitches than it is to write it out. And in my Craftsy class, you get that visual, in-person guidance with the added benefit of close-up camera shots and the ability to back up and rewatch until you really understand something.

My first bullion knot attempts, using different threads

Bullion knots occurred to me recently as a good way to make feet for my pigeon quilts. I’d seen the stitch demonstrated before but never attempted it myself. Now that I was picking up needle and thread, I needed to see it again. I could have sifted through dozens of YouTube videos of varying quality, but I knew Craftsy would give me quality, high-definition instruction from the best-known bullion knotter I can think of, Sue Spargo. So I enrolled in her class, watched the bullion knot section several times, and set to stitching. My first few knots weren’t quite right, so I repeated the segment again and immediately knew what I’d been doing wrong. Seeing the stitches actually forming was just what even an old-school book learner like me needed.

One of Sue’s class samplers—bullion knots are only the beginning!

While Sue was demonstrating a bullion knot edging, she pointed out that sometimes your loops don’t form quite right and showed how to correct them. Craftsy calls moments like these “troubleshooting,” and that’s another area where their teaching model differs from DIY TV. Advertising-driven television doesn’t like to dwell on what might go wrong; it just wants you to be carefree and happy and immediately run out to buy stuff. Craftsy instead is selling the instruction itself, so they want you to be confident that you’ll be able to handle any bumps that could come along when you put that instruction to use on your own. When instructors make mistakes on set, they usually keep shooting as we work through it, because those are often the exact trouble spots our students run into. (Though when we realized that I shot a whole segment without the machine threaded, we did have to start over—yes, the thread was supposed to be invisible, but not nonexistant!)

Craftsy wants their students to be happy, and they want their instructors to be happy too. I’ve worked with several craft-oriented media production companies, and Craftsy stands out as one that goes out of their way to make the behind-the-scenes process smooth, smart, and fun for everybody involved. If we’re enthusiastic about our experience, it’s a lot easier to make students enthusiastic about the classes they take! The company also recognizes that we instructors tend to be running very small businesses around the creative pursuits we love, so they help us out by giving us the chance to share in the profits of our own classes and any others we promote. So if you enroll through one of my affiliate links to, say, Sue Spargo’s embroidery class, you’ll get a discount and I’ll get a little money too. And that helps me be able to create more things to share with you!

To spread the joy even further and celebrate National Craft Month, Craftsy’s currently offering the chance for one student to win $1,000 for the craft-based charity of the winner’s choice! Depending on the number of new students who sign up, the donation will be doubled, so if you’ve never taken a Craftsy class, this is a great time to try it out! Since Craftsy offers full refunds if you aren’t happy, you have nothing to lose, and spectacular new techniques to gain for your quilting and crafting. The National Craft Month offer only runs until March 13, so click here to try a class today!

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