Did you know that March is National Craft month? With that in mind I thought I would highlight why I am such a fan of online craft classes, why they are a real bargain, and why they are an incredible way to learn a new craft or develop a new skill. All from your computer, laptop, or smart phone.
A Little History
I first learned sewing in 1970s by taking one semester of Home Ec and reading sewing books which contained line drawings, not photos. It was adequate and following the blind-squirrel-finds-a-nut method of learning, I was able to figure out sewing patterns and sew a thing or two. But I always longed to know more.
When my children were young I did a lot of sewing and occasionally took classes at local fabric stores (anyone remember Cloth World???). Again, I learned something new; but time and money were at a premium around our home and this was not an effective way for me to increase my skills. So, I plugged along at a snail’s pace, always longing to grow my sewing skills.
Etsy, Craftsy, and an Email
Fast forward a decade or two and one day I was contacted through my Etsy shop from someone at Sympoz/Craftsy. They were a new online learning platform and looking for people to create Workshops – similar to online tutorials. (Note: Craftsy no longer offers Workshops). I loved this idea and so we formed a partnership and I created two Craftsy Workshops.
Because Craftsy was so new they were still trying to figure out exactly what they were all about. They had Workshops and Video Classes. The topics were all over the place, and they were working hard to fine-tune their platform. In the beginning some of the courses were excessively long and rambling. Occasionally, the video quality would cause a lot of buffering, making it difficult to view the video.
Bit by bit, the rough edges fell away and a lot of these issues were resolved. Craftsy began offering video classes taught by some top-notch sewing and crafting educators who had been teaching their subjects for years. As Craftsy’s repertoire of classes grew, they took off and it wasn’t long before others noticed and a couple of new platforms emerged which I will highlight below.
Benefits of Online Craft Classes
Truly, online craft classes are incredible and they have allowed us to learn new skills from some of the best artists around. The classes are now succinct and focused. Some of the most creative crafting educators are now able to teach you new skills. Best of all, you’ll never miss a thing because you can pause, take notes, and rewind. Try doing that in a live class.
There is now so much variety available through several online learning platforms such as Craftsy, Creativebug, and CreativeLive. (affiliates) Each platform is unique in its own way and offers different methods for relaying the information. This variety has improved the quality of the individual classes; but it also has opened crafty doors to individuals who have different learning styles. Find the right platform for your learning style and you will be unstoppable.
Because each of the different learning platforms are unique in the way they present their information, I have broken them out and listed their features.
Disclosure: I have included affiliate links to the different learning platforms and some of their classes.
I have been personally involved with Craftsy from its early stages. I’ve seen them grow, expand, and improve year after year. It’s no secret that I love their platform and enjoy their classes. Here’s a shocking fact: At last count I have 61 Craftsy classes! So, when I recommend Craftsy, you can be sure I’ve reviewed the class before recommending it.
- Craftsy offers classes for a fee ($25-$50 average) depending on whether there is a sale or special offer.
- Classes contain approximately six or seven different lessons on a particular topic. Each full lesson is about 25-30 minutes in length and is broken down into small segments that can easily be mastered.
- Most classes have a downloadable materials list. If the class uses a particular sewing pattern, it will be mailed to you once you’ve purchased the class.
- You can take notes and the platform will leave a small mark to remind you where the note was taken. You can ask the instructor a question and she will respond within a day or two. If you are having trouble with a technique, you can attach a photo of your work to your question. Within the Q & A element you can also leave comments or answer questions. This creates a bit of a community within the class, similar to if you had taken a live class locally.
- If you have the Craftsy app, you can download the class to your tablet and watch without needing the internet. I like to do this on long car trips or plane flights.
- Once purchased, your Craftsy class never expires. Occasionally Craftsy will retire a class that you have purchased. While others can no longer purchase the class, you have lifetime access and can re-watch as often as you wish.
- Craftsy now sells fabrics, notions, kits, and even their own lines of yarn and fabric. Many of these supplies come in kits that coordinate with a particular class. This one-stop approach saves you time, takes away a lot of the guess work of choosing materials, and creates an opportunity for more finished projects.
- Members of Craftsy can open a store which is similar to an Etsy store where you upload patterns and tutorials that can be either free or for a fee.
At first glance you might think that Creativebug is identical to Craftsy. From the start Creativebug has approached online craft classes differently. Their video style is artistic, their content presentation is beautiful, and their teachers are exceptional. The platform’s commitment to artistry and creativity come through the minute you click on their site.
- Creativebug does not charge a fee for each individual class. Instead, they charge a $4.95 monthly subscription fee. You have unlimited access to ALL classes each month that you are subscribed. You are able to keep one class a month for every month you are subscribed, and your saved classes will not expire even if you cancel your subscription. The monthly subscription cost is $4.95 monthly or you can purchase a 6 month or 12 month subscription. When you start looking through the classes this will make better sense.
- If you are unsure about committing to a monthly fee, you can try-before-you-buy with Creativebug’s 14-day Free Trial.
- Creativebug has a collection of over 600 art and craft classes. Some are short and focused on understanding a particular technique – such as inserting a zipper. Many are very detailed classes that cover everything needed for that topic. There are also courses that help you develop a skill over time.
- Rather than a simple written biography, Creativebug takes the time to produce a short, documentary-like video about their instructors. These videos make taking a class feel really personal. A few instructors have ‘deeper look’ videos that take you into the artist’s life and help you really understand what influences their art. I highly recommend watching a few of these videos.
- Creativebug is focused on creativity and their online classes feel more like learning documentaries. Because of the instructor videos, I find myself connected to the teachers and can’t wait to learn. The classes have such a personal feel and I am inspired to create art rather than learn a skill.
- The class lengths vary greatly. Some videos are about an hour in length and some are under 20 minutes. This means that you can log in and create something quickly. On the other hand, there are some lengthy classes that thoroughly cover their subject. This gives you a ton of learning options.
- One of the best features is the professional videos of simple things like reading a knitting pattern. I know you can find these on Youtube, but the Creativebug videos are way more engaging.
- The website is easy to navigate and focused on providing excellent online classes. Since all they offer are online classes, they excel at online classes.
- There is a artist’s boutique feel to the entire Creativebug platform. While they offer some of the same topics as Craftsy, Creativebug’s artistic approach makes them unique and (in my opinion) well worth the $4.95 per month.
You may be inclined to think that CreativeLive is just like Craftsy or Creativebug. Again, this platform is completely different and the best way I can sum them up is to say that the classes are like an amazing continuing education class with total focus on the student gaining knowledge about a particular subject.
- One of the things that sets this format apart is that many of the classes have either an audience or a live class. You watch the instructor interact with students as she explains a new technique or idea. While this isn’t true for all classes, it is more common in the craft and maker classes.
- The classes are very thorough and include a large number of lessons. Think about this as though you’re taking a continuing education class at your local community college.
- Some classes are a lot more expensive than you would expect. However, the quality of the classes is in line with a live event that you might pay a lot of money to attend. Since there are no travel expenses involved, $79 seems like a bargain. I’ll put this in perspective: I paid $150 to take an all-day class at QuiltCon last year. The teacher, Cheryl Arkison, has a similar class on CreativeLive for $29. The same teacher, nearly the same subject, but a fraction of the money I spent.
- CreativeLive classes have lifetime access and are available for streaming and are downloadable to your computer, tablet, or phone.
- While the platform isn’t particularly designed for crafters, it works well for many crafting subjects. CreativeLive’s commitment to using the best instructors in their field means that these classes will be high quality and extremely informative.
- Something I love about CreativeLive is the On Air classes. Just log in and you can watch a class for free because it’s on air. You will get an idea about how the classes are presented and have a better understanding of the platform.
- Upcoming free classes are scheduled in advance and you can RSVP to these classes. I believe there is a limit so it’s best to sign up early. Notice how some of the classes are for one day, and some classes last the entire month. If you look at the line-up you will notice there is a class on recording heavy metal music and then down a bit is one on crochet. Truly there is something for everyone at CreativeLive!
To help you understand the quality of the information presented in a CreativeLive class, I enrolled in a non-crafty class called Fast Start Nikon D750. This class is a complete guide to my new camera. The camera’s instruction manual is 537 pages (that’s 17 hours of reading at 2 minutes per page). Although I’m somewhat familiar with Nikon cameras, I knew I still needed some instruction.
I could’ve taken a class at the store where I purchased my camera. Classes are $69-$129 per course and 40 miles one-way from my house. I’ve taken a couple of classes through the store and there’s always someone who monopolizes the the entire class with questions. Plus, I never get all of my questions answered and usually leave confused rather than confident.
My learning experience with the CreativeLive class is the complete opposite. I can take the class at my own convenience. The outstanding instructor, John Greengo, is an excellent teacher; and he provides clear, thorough, and easy-to-follow instructions. The class includes a Fast Start Guide that breaks down the 537 page manual into an easy-to-follow 9 page pdf document that can be downloaded to my computer or phone.
In five hours the class covers sixteen lessons and provides everything needed to get the most out of my camera. There is no way I could ever find a class of this caliber for $49 with the ability to review the class over and over again. Best of all, I’m confident that I will be able to take awesome photos.
I believe the best way to see which platform fits your learning style is to join each platform’s email list. Within a few weeks you should be able to determine what fits your budget and learning style. Since it’s free to get on the email lists for all of these platforms, I believe doing this will help you see which one works best for you.
By now I hope you have a clear understanding of the three different platforms available for online craft classes. As you can see each platform is unique in its own way. Craftsy is a one-stop shop for most of your crafting needs. Creativebug helps you unearth your inner artist. And, CreativeLive approaches subjects from a continuing education point of view.
Find the learning platform that speaks directly to you. Learn something new. Explore the crafty side of life, and you will hear your soul sing for joy!