Monday, March 18, 2013

Craftsy Crazy

OK. I’m going to admit it. Craftsy is the best thing since the in-person workshop! I tested the waters recently with a free class on Short Rows with Carol Feller. This is definitely not your amateur YouTube offering! No, it’s professionally filmed and edited and you get over two hours of clear step-by-step instruction from Carol with her lovely soft Irish brogue and a PDF of the class notes. The only thing that separates this from the regular paid classes at Craftsy is that the discussions are student-led rather than instructor-led. There is still a lot of good information available so this proves that even the “mini-classes” are totally worth checking out.

Another good thing about Craftsy is their money-back guarantee. If you aren’t happy they really will refund you. The paid class prices may seem high, some as much as $50, but there are sales offered and deals can occasionally be accessed from instructors blogs or home pages. I think the price goes down after the class has been available for awhile as well. The interface is quite good. You really do need a high-speed internet access though. I occasionally had trouble with the HD video stalling but was able to stop, go away and come back to fix it. You can also reduce from HD to regular if that helps. It always remembers where you leave off and you can rewind, add video notes (aka “bookmarks”) and replay anything as many times as you want. Apparently your class access never expires but you may not get quick answers from your instructor if time has passed. I’ve also heard that earlier messages in the discussion area disappear after awhile, which I think is a bummer. I get a lot out of reading other people’s questions and the answers they receive. If they are deleted then I’m actually losing some good information. Boo. But those are the only problems that I’ve found. So far. I’ve accessed my classes from both my big desktop computer and from my netbook. Even on the little netbook it isn’t a bad experience if I use full-screen mode and my earphones. You can also use an iPad or iPhone but I’m not sure the screen is terribly useful on the latter if you really want to see what’s going on. Might be enough to jog your memory if you’ve already seen it and you just need a hint on what to do next.

So far I’m up to 5 classes signed up, 3 freebies and 2 that were paid for. You can also get workshops, which are more like “a-longs”, patterns, yarns and fabrics through Craftsy. In my Sew The Perfect Fit class with Lynda Maynard, I received an actual Vogue pattern (not a PDF) to use which took a really long time to get here, more than 6 weeks. And then I somehow ordered the smaller rather than the larger size. Whaaah. It’s always a tough call for me since I’m right on the cusp of the usual sizing split. Not that this dress is remotely my style at all anyhow. Understandably now I’m a little reluctant to go with something that needs delivery to Canada as always it’s a crap-shoot on timing and customs issues. I think I will stick to things with digital downloads instead.

And speaking of classes with materials included, I saw that Natalie Chanin is presenting her Hand-Embellishing Knit Fabric. As a fan of Alabama Chanin’s garments I’ve always had a craving to try this technique. However I already have 2 of her 3 books plus I found out I already own the Vogue jacket pattern included in the class. I also have all the other items that I need (fabric which of course needs to be dyed first, paint, thread, stencil material) to just DO IT! I’m inspired now. The jacket (Donna Karan’s V1263) looks much nicer “Chanin-ized” than the pattern envelope version does. Of course if I do the whole thing with hand-stitching, I’ll never finish so I plan to use a combination of hand- and machine-stitching, especially on long construction seams. Unfortunately as always, it’s gotta wait in the stew pot that is my version of a queue along with everything else. I’m hoping it bubbles up soon and doesn’t get lost in the sludge on the bottom!

Meanwhile, I’ve been slowly plodding through Lynda Maynard’s The Perfect Fit class without doing any of the actual work. But that’s ok. I’m learning a lot about her fitting approach which uses a similar method to the one in Sarah Veblen’s Perfect Fitting book. You sew a muslin and then chop into it to release tight areas and add fabric patches underneath to fill in the gaps and pin them in. Then you pin out fullness wherever you need to. Lynda works from the top down and the most import part of the demonstration to me was how she transfers the changes back to the paper pattern. It’s pretty intuitive, at least to me, and I found her methods methodical and clear. Unfortunately to really use this in your own sewing, you pretty much need a fit buddy – and I don’t have one. T-Man is always willing but doesn’t have a clue what to do and I don’t know anyone else locally with the time and the skill or even the desire to play fitting games with me. It can be done on my own but it takes a lot of putting on and taking off, trial and error, mirrors and possibly photos to see the back. I have 2 bodices I want to fit so I’ll be putting some of what I’ve (hopefully) learned to use very soon.

Interestingly both Lynda Maynard and Kenneth King recommend the same thick textbook on fit for their students, one I hadn’t heard about before. It was originally published in the 1980’s but this is the 2009 revised version:


I found a copy on here but it’s nearly $100 so I’m going to have to save my sadly-now-defunct Canadian pennies for this one. The reviews are uniformly glowing and it seems to be what I need to round out my collection of books on fitting. I personally have so many fitting issues that it is not a simple task to make closely-fitted garments in non-stretch fabrics work properly on my body. Besides, I’m an unabashed bibliophile. Any excuse for another book!

So have you tried any online classes? Besides Craftsy there are offerings from PatternReview and CreativeBug and I’m sure others as well. What I don’t like about CreativeBug is that it’s more of a subscription-based service where you pay a monthly fee and get access to all classes. That kind of automatic-renewal thing bugs me especially if you aren’t interested in seeing everything but they seem to be offering more “a la carte” single classes recently. My initial impression is that more of their classes are beginner level or product-focussed rather than technique or skill based. PatternReview’s classes are all (of course) about sewing and the prices are on the higher end. They seem to have some excellent offerings though and the deal is similar to Craftsy’s. I don’t know if the quality of either of these are equal to Craftsy’s nor do I know anything about how well their interfaces function because I haven’t tried them. Let me know if you have!


Dixie said...

I'm taking a class on Craftsy on fitting pants. It's taught by Sandra Betzina. She knows what she's talking about, but can sometimes be a bit flakey. I got a free pattern, which took about 4 to 5 weeks. I've watched several episodes, but haven't started the work because it would be so much easier with a fit buddy, which I don't have. Don't you wish you could go out and rent one?
I do like the Craftsy format.
I bought the fitting book you show above, and it is very good. I use a combination of fitting techniques from several sources, rather than just one.

Jean at said...

I've never taken a class online but this sounds good. it would be a whole new world for me. I also love Natalie Chanin. I have two of her books and was interested in what you had to say!! I even went so far as to investigate a weekend workshop she hosts in her hometown in Alabama. It was too pricey for me, but it would be sooo cool.

My birthday present to myself was to enroll in a silver working class, for jewelry primarily. I'll learn basics that also include soldering etc. Can't wait for it to begin. I was inspired to get back to sewing because I couldn't afford the clothes I loved, and this is similar. I'll just make the stuff I love!! Hmmm, I also want to make leather handbags. Guess that'll be next.

Jean at said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Louisa said...

So how would you like to just hop on over here to Vancouver, Dixie! We could have a really fun time fitting each other, doncha think?

Thanks for the good word on the fitting book. It helps that you think it's worth the high price.

We had Double Jeans so I hope you don't mind that I deleted your repeat comment, hon'. Your jewelry class sounds neat. T-Man took a couple of those years ago and really enjoyed them. I try to stay away from hot stuff myself!

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pao said...

Haven't taken any on-line classes either. Still seems weird to me. I'm so old-fashioned! So I'll see what you think...