Review of Craftsy.com – online crafty classes

As mentioned in my introduction post in this series of reviews, I want to take a close look at a number of online learning platforms which focus on the niche area of creative and crafty pursuits. First we’ll look at Craftsy.

Video tour

Here’s a quick video tour showing some of the features mentioned in this review.

Multi-mode for everyone

I wanted to start off by confirming the myth of “Learning Styles” has been soundly debunked. So PLEASE stop saying you’re special because you’re a visual learner, or an aural learner. You’re not special. (OK you’re special, just not like that.)

Two things do hold true for all learners:

  • We all learn better when we learn through multiple modes.
  • The highest bandwidth learning experience is always going to beat out the less rich experience.

Therefore, live, in-person will be better than online, and video will be better than paper. And providing the same content in video, as well as in printed text and images will always beat out one single mode. However, learning tactile hands-on activities while watching a two dimensional recorded digital video is likely to pose challenges.

So any of the online learning platforms I’m reviewing in this series will need to work around this problem if they are to teach creative and making activities. How they do so and to what effect is what makes them different.

What’s in the Craftsy box?

My_Craftsy

The Craftsy platform includes:

  • Video player for online streaming.
  • Apps for Android and iOS for offline viewing.
  • Note taking and bookmarking capability.
  • Downloadable PDFs

Interactivity includes:

  • Comments and questions marked along the timeline and appear as you watch the spot.
  • Responses from instructors and students.
  • Project sharing, comments on fellow learner’s projects.

Tips to get the most out of Craftsy:

  • Watch the entire course all the way through while you craft or in transit.
  • Add bookmarks and take notes.
  • Return back to the class when you’re ready to tackle the tasks and you have your materials ready.
  • Use the browser to skim to specific tasks and steps.
  • Challenge yourself to complete classroom activities, take photos and share your work. The feedback from other students can be a great motivator.

Overall impressions of Craftsy

Craftsy videos are very well produced, well lit and usually at good angles to see all the action. However, there are limitations to the studios. In videos which require information about soaking knits or yarn for example, they don’t have a sink or show a real situation. I’ve noticed more on-location shots in Interweave videos for example. So in that sense it is limiting.

Some criticize the pace for being too slow. Another way to say it is: it’s thorough.  I appreciate that instructors don’t skip over things. If an instructor says you need to continue on a row, they show that again step-by-step. If you think it’s slow, do something at the same time you’re watching.

I like to knit or spin while watching the videos, though I don’t necessarily follow along at first. I return later and work on specific tasks or techniques when I’m ready. For example, in the Shetland shawl course, I have watched all the videos, but go back to watch techniques when I’m working on a specific part.

The “Improve your knitting” class with Patty Lyons is one of the classes which was great to do right along with her. I paused, rewound, played back and inspected her actions to learn new methods for forming knit and purl stitches. If you thought you knew everything about knitting, that is a great course to go in depth on techniques to save you time and improve ergonomics.

Read reviews of Patty Lyons courses

Craftsy’s catalog

craftsy-_catalogThere is a massive and growing catalog of craft-focused courses. Mainly the courses would appeal to beginners and experienced amateurs.

That is one consistent criticism I have come across: good for beginners, not too attractive for more experienced learners. I think this is one of the issues of per-class purchase. They can’t assume any prior knowledge or experience so beginner, redundant topics will be covered again and again. While that is fantastic for beginners, an experienced learner with feel like they purchased something they can’t make use of… ‘why do I need to see how to spread fondant *again* in every video’? Still each instructor will likely have their own tips for even beginner skills.

As Craftsy has introduced new areas, they tend to start out with the more essential and basic classes. Later they seem to expand those topics with content which will be appealing to those with more experience. For example, in the topic of Spinning they started with one basic handspinning class about using a Spindle and then they added more well-known authors and instructors with more detailed exploration of methods and techniques.

More than crafts?

The Craftsy courses focus almost entirely on crafts, baking, and photography. There are some courses for budding businesses, mainly in their Art & Photo section and cake sections. Baking is big business!

Craftsy also sell craft supplies alongside their classes business. Some classes come with bundles where you can purchase a specific kit. Be warned though, some courses don’t come with the same exact materials the instructors used in the course.

Craftsy’s special sauce: Their app

Most of the creative learning platforms I’m reviewing only offer live-streaming access. That limits where and how you can learn, which is an unfortunate limitation for a medium that is attempting to increase accessibility.

The app for Craftsy is stellar. You can select and save videos to watch offline. So if you’re going on a long journey, or away from your nice fast wifi, this is an excellent option.

You can also add bookmarks and notes for future review.

Tip: Keep an eye out for discounts

Craftsy is dangerously addictive. I notice people mentioning they “stock up” on courses when a sale comes along. It’s a very clever marketing tactic on Craftsy’s part.

The classes are easy to watch and the marketing incentives are enticing. Sure, you might not have considered that course at the full price, but at 50% off it suddenly seems pretty attractive. When the price gets down to around the mental $10 or £10 mark, you might start comparing to other small purchases and then they look down right affordable. It seems that many Craftsy fans tend to rely on the sales and discounts to come around, and then pounce. The learners feel like smart shoppers and Craftsy still earn great income at scale.

So – to play the game right, make sure you’re subscribed to their newsletter and keep an eye out for discounts before you buy.

Also, if you’re going to make a purchase, consider going to the instructor’s website or blog. They often have their own affiliate code which allows them to extend a discount directly to fans. The instructor also gets hopefully a little bump in their commission, which is nice too. You might have noticed I linked to Patty Lyon’s website (http://pattylyons.com/online-review-improve-knitting/) to refer to the craftsy course. From her site you can save $20 by using her referral link.

Have you used Craftsy? I’d love to hear what your favorite class is, or which class would you not recommend?

Comparing online learning sites for creative people

In my soon-to-be former life I created learning materials, classroom guides, live webinars and instructional videos. I can appreciate a good learning experience, and look at it with a critical eye as well. After studying learning and technology however, I concluded the best thing technology can do to facilitate learning is to get out of the way. The best technology focuses on communication and access to help people connect to each other and the content so learners can socially construct their understanding of a topic.

My opinion about over-programmed multi-media “all in one” learning management software is pretty strong. Building the equivalent to a CD-ROM nowadays doesn’t make much sense. Even selling DVDs is likely to cut off markets soon, “I wish this had been a Craftsy course. My new laptop doesn’t even have a DVD player,” as one reviewer pointed out.

In fact, after seeing my nephew teach himself programming through YouTube, I think YouTube has been one of the most effective learning platforms. However at some point – sifting through cruft on YouTube can be a hassle and you might be willing to pay for higher quality instruction. I’m fascinated with the range of online learning freely available now. From Udemy, Khan Academy, Udacity and Coursera, there are new platforms popping up to offer instruction at a range of prices from providers who might be experienced educators, or even enthusiastic amateurs. And now more and more subject specific platforms are rising to the top.

Comparison of creative skills online learning platforms

The range of platforms available specifically for teaching creative skills from photography, cooking and sewing is amazing. Sometimes they also delve into related skills around entrepreneurship, inspiring people to branch into new income streams.

How do these creative learning platforms compare?

They all have a few things in common:

  • Instructor led classes with a trusted, credible, experienced guides.
  • Video player in browser, some with an offline player for tablets or phones.
  • Downloadable extras such as worksheets, step-by-step instructions, patterns and reference materials.

Some have unique differentiators built around their community of learners.

Some platforms are subscription based, where you lose access when you no longer subscribe. Some allow you to purchase life-time access to per-course. Skillshare allows you to earn free credits through referral. (Go ahead, click my referral link to pop me a free month!) Creativebug has a unique hybrid model. This allows you a low-cost subscription of $4.95 USD, per month. Each month, you can earn 1 credit per month to select forever-access to your favorite courses. That’s a great way to encourage loyal subscribers.

I’ve summarized some essential information about popular platforms below. This isn’t an exhaustive list. For example, I considered but didn’t include Interweave. I love their catalog of videos, but there is no platform included. You can’t pause the videos, bookmark or save notes, etc.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll review these learning platforms listed here. I’d love to hear if you’ve tried these out and what you think. Are there any platforms you love that I’ve missed?

Platform A-Z list
Payment model
Price range
Offline?
Notes
Craft Daily
https://www.craftdaily.com
Main topics: Beading, Crochet, DIY, Jewelry Making, Knitting, Mixed Media, Quilting, Scrapbooking and Paper Crafts, Sewing, Spinning, Weaving
Subscription $19.99 monthly or $199.99 annual Streaming only Focus on crafts, subscription to Interweave video library. Run by Thought Industries who also run craftonlineuniversity.com

Free? No free option or trial option.

Craftsy
http://www.craftsy.com/
Main topics: Sewing & Quilting, Cake & Cooking, Yarn & Fiber Arts, Art & Photo, Home & Garden, More (jewellery and paper)
Pay per course £9.99 – 35.50 Offline with the app Focus on crafts, some entrepreneurial topics. Discounts and frequent incentives entice purchases.

Free? Selected Free course give an idea of how the platform works.

Creative Bug
https://www.creativebug.com/
Main topics: Work-alongs, Sewing, Paper, Yarn, Quilting, Jewelry
Subscription OR pay per course. $4.95 a month with options to save courses. Offline with app Both brief tutorials, and courses made of multiple lessons written together.

Free? You can try out the platform for free for 14 days. No credit card required.

Creative Live
https://www.creativelive.com/
Main topics: Photo & video, Art & design, Music & audio, Craft & maker, Money & life
Pay per course $49-$150+ USD Streaming only Longer form courses, and downloadable materials. Live students in the class and online. Lecture-style teaching with live Q+A.

Free? Live streaming of selected courses, and re-broadcasts of courses. Usually a class has a free preview.

Skillshare
http://www.skillshare.com
Main topics: Design, Photography, Business, Film, Technology, Fashion, Music, Gaming, Culinary, DIY, Writing, Crafts, Other
Subscription $9.95 a month or
$96.00 a year
Streaming only Wide range of well-known educators. Broader than just crafts. Range of video quality.

Free? You can try the premium level for free for 14 days, credit card required.

Serious FOMO: Ysolde Teague workshop in Dublin

Thankfully my dad, and his oxygen
tanks got out before this got out of hand

When my dad’s car caught on fire (but he escaped unscathed), it occurred to me: I should really go for a visit. When his lung collapsed and he ended up in the hospital, I thought: you know, a visit might really cheer him up. When he ended up needing his 3rd surgery/procedure in a week: it became blindingly obvious: get over there, get over yourself.

FOMO, yo. FOMO. 

I have an awkward situation with my own health, and work stuff which meant the only time I could visit my dad would mean I am going to miss the shawl design workshop with Ysolde Teague at This is Knit.

I’m also missing my own 3(!) workshops for Drupal Open Days on May 16th! One is already booked up, so cancelling was not an option. For that we’re going to resolve by doing it remotely, with help on the ground. 🙂

I feel shitty, horrible and selfish saying this: But I’m really gutted that I’m missing her workshop. I feel like a having a toddler tantrum. Now that I know what FOMO means (See Knit British, episode 6), I’m pretty sure I’m afflicted with it terribly.

I was just at This Is Knit over the weekend and thoroughly enjoyed my sock knitting class. So, yeah, I’m not going to get much sympathy.

You should go instead of me! May 17th, This is Knit, Dublin

Ysolda’s designs are wildly popular because they are not only beautiful but also clever in their construction.

Here you can see happy people participating in the same shawl design workshop Ysolda gave in Amsterdam.

There are 2 spaces available on the workshop. And I think you should join them!
Go here and search for Shawl Design Workshop, with Ysolda Teague.

Shedding a tiny tear. Tiny tear.

But that is outweighed by the relief I feel knowing I’ll be visiting my dad soon. All of his kids are going to be there and now we can talk about having some fun, a party, and celebrate him getting better. Because, dammit this shit has to stop and he is getting better. End of.

My amazing shawl idea *sigh* which will never be!

I love that there’s ‘homework’ for the workshop.

I was having delusions of grandeur that I could make a shawl design which was modern/geometric but also “treesy”, in a nice thick warm wool. 

Of course I didn’t get far with swatching. Clearly I would have to resolve the stockinette v reverse stockinette issue in some way, and decide on the tension which makes drapey fabric but still has enough texture contrast.

Anyway, I’ll have to shelve it, and hopefully catch her at another event, where her workshops invariably sell out!

I learned how to make socks!! This is Knit, Dublin.

It was Local Yarn Shop day in the UK on Saturday, but instead I ended up in a great yarn shop in Dublin: This Is Knit. They really should expand this special holiday all over the world!

I would have visited my lovely LYS, Textile Studio, but I couldn’t resist the chance to learn how to make socks. I work with learning technology, instructional design and e-learning in my real life. But I really really love learning from people. We can work to develop the best learning software but there’s nothing like a human. It’s wonderful.

This Is Knit also have places on the Ysolda Teague Shawl Design Workshop. You should sign up to this one of a kind awesomeness. Click through from their workshops page to see the list of events: Knitting and crochet courses in Dublin. 
 

Sign in This is Knit workshop area
The sign in This is Knit workshop area

The Sock Course with Helen!

My teacher was HelenMc. She was so good! Thank you, Helen!

She helped me get over the humps where you’re just trying to understand it intellectually, but your brain just needs to do the action to feel the right movement, and lock it into place. Helen taught me Judy’s Magic Cast On. After a few times, the light dawned on me when she showed me how the cast-on stitches made a purl side and knit side. I literally exclaimed: “IT’S MAGIC!”

Helen arrived with two tiny sample socks. They both follow the same pattern with the same number of stitches. The wibble purple one is with sock yarn, the relatively gigantic one is in DK weight. But oh dear how cute.

Here, Helen is showing me how to start the magic trick.

After the lesson was over, this is the state of my ridiculous little sock. Compare that with Helen’s!

I did my second mini sock on my way home. I think it came out better. See the red one below?

Ok I won’t turn this into a yarn review. The blue one is Studio Donegal tweed, single ply, which is so lovely especially after it’s washed. So soft. The red is Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester, three ply. That looks dyed in the wool, with glistening golden highlights in a rich red. Wow.

Anyway, I fully recommend workshops at This is Knit. They have a nice workshop area in the mezzanine floor.

First sock on the left, second on the right!

Also, this history of British Socks, by Kate Davies is very good!