I have this idea of myself as a super-crafty person, and it's true to a point: I'm handy with a needle, I can throw together costumes in a few hours, and I'm fun to do Play-Doh with.
But compared to most Etsy sellers, I'm a rank amateur and spend a lot of time aspiring to crafty greatness. But who has the time or money to sign up for a class, hire a babysitter, and block out the necessary mom-time?
A new site, Craftsy.com, runs online courses in a number of crafts, from knitting to gardening to paper-crafts, sewing, and even crochet. Oh gosh, is this the year I finally learn to make those cute little crocheted animals also known as amigurumi?
I’ve depended on YouTube tutorials for years -- I still can’t braid a Rosh Hashanah challah without one, and they revolutionized my shirt-folding. But they’re one-shot deals -- it’s not like I could learn anything really complex that way.
Sympoz.com is a Colorado-based company that noticed how much people like to use videos to figure complicated tasks and developed a pretty cool system of online learning that lets students ask questions, discuss amongst themselves, and take notes. Just this month, they launched a sub-site called Craftsy.com just for wannabe DIY-ers like me. I had a sit-down with Stefanie Japel, their knitting instructor, to learn more about the site and how it can help you go from all-thumbs to fancy-fingers in no time flat.
How does Craftsy differ from other online learning sites?
The platform is unique in that you have access for an unlimited amount of time. As the video is playing, you see other students’ questions and how they were answered, you can respond to them, you can post your own question -- it’s a truly interactive experience.
If I ask a question, what’s the turnaround for an answer? Surely it’s not instantaneous?
No, but depending on the instructor, it can be within a couple of hours, and certainly within the day. But the great thing is -- even if they don’t get right back to you, often other students will have your answer or will have already posed the same question.
What else can people do on Craftsy?
It’s a place for crafters to have a community. Not only are all the classes together in a visually appealing place -- you can also post your projects to provide inspiration to others and get ideas for your to-craft list.
Hang on a second. Now, I’ve never crocheted before -- which class would I take? I don’t see one called “101” or “Beginner.”
We consciously shied away from labeling courses “beginner,” “intermediate,” or “advanced,” because we don’t want students to pigeonhole themselves or feel intimidated. If you watch the sample video for each course, you’ll get a short but detailed explanation of that class, so you can make a decision based on your skill-level rather than choosing blindly.
The classes run about $60 (with a 50 percent discount for CafeMom readers). How does that compare to, say, the weekend workshop at my local knitting store?
It’s really a steal. I’ve been traveling and teaching for years, and people will pay several hundred dollars for a weekend-long workshop. Of course, it’s not really a replacement for that personal attention, but it’s a great way to supplement what you have access to locally. There isn’t someone right there to help you place your hands, but you can learn at your own pace, and you don’t have to block out a weekend or hire a babysitter.
I’m amazed, also, at the number of people who are ill and don’t have the ability to get out so easily.
Right, it’d be quite the thing for a bed-rest mom, too.
Or just a busy mom. I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old, and I know how hard it is. You can watch for an hour, maybe, after they go to bed, and enjoy some mom time without having to intentionally schedule a huge block of dedicated concentration.
Could I post a video of me knitting to figure out what I’m doing wrong?
No, but you can post a photo with your question.
Let’s run through what you see when you take a class.
Each class has several videos that you watch in order. Underneath, there’s a spot to take notes, and when you take a note, the video gets a little “bookmark,” like a sticky note, so when you go back to look at that note you can re-watch that part of the video when you need to.
Then you can also see other people’s questions and the answers they got from the instructor and other students, sort of like comments on a Facebook post. If your question still hasn’t been answered, you can ask it there.
You also get several PDF files with course materials: the patterns used in the class, summary of ideas (like a syllabus), links to other sites that might be helpful, and a glossary.
And when you’re all done, you can post your projects and show off.
What are the classes in?
Right now, there are classes in knitting, crocheting (taught by well-known needle crafter Vickie Howell), container gardening, quilting, sewing, jewelry-making, and paper arts. And we’ve got more classes coming up -- so many great suggestions from our community! -- like “Drab to Fab,” which is about furniture up-cycling. And the instructors are really world-class.
Hot diggity! CafeMom students can use this link to get 50 percent off any of the Craftsy courses. What craft do you wish you could do? Do you think an online class would work for you?