online classes

I recently wrote an article for a quilting magazine about online quilting classes and courses – and tested out a few — and asked some of my twitter followers for their favourites as well.

I was able to view quite a few of the Craftsy classes for free, thanks Craftsy! And really I love this site. It has an excellent (small but edited) range of free and paid classes. I like that you can take the classes at your own pace and there is an active online community forum. Craftsy does have a select amount of free classes, most notably the ‘block of the month’ and the mini classes, which give you a taste of what to expect of the longer paid classes. The website allows you to preview the classes and then simply add the class to your shopping cart, once paid you can access the class whenever and for as long as you like.

I really liked that the classes were broken up into segments of about 10 to 30 minutes each, each one with a chunk of information or a separate project. I watched a few of the classes — mostly the quilting classes, Elizabeth Hartman and Weeks Ringle are two of my favourite quilt designers / authors and so I was pretty excited to watch their classes. Both really thorough and they are both excellent presenters. But both very different classes.

Elizabeth Hartman shows how to make several particular quilts, she has patterns and cutting instructions and talks about fabric and colour too — there is a lot of talking and information — but in a very structured way, she is quite thorough in showing her practical steps in making the quilts.

Whereas Weeks Ringle’s class is about designing quilts — that pre-sewing stage. Weeks chats more, I think her classes seem more improvised, she discusses her philosophy of quilt design and community and philanthropy and shows us lots of the quilts she has made, many of which do not appear on her website and which I have never seen before. As a big fan of Weeks I was really excited to stick with her on this design journey.

I also watched Malka Dubrawsky’s class on wax resist patterning. Really practical and useful class, Malka talks really fast, but it’s easy to keep up, the craftsy platform means you can pause and take notes really easily as you go. I found Malka incredibly fun to watch though, and because I love her aesthetic and her fabrics I was really interested and excited to watch her work and hear her talk really passionately about her subject. This class is all about dyeing fabric and has a lot of technical information — but is ‘home user friendly’!

I also watched a couple of other classes by quilters who I was less familier with and I also sampled some non-quilting classes – the artisan bread making and cheese making classes were very interesting too!

One of the best thing for me about watching these classes is getting an insight into the designer / maker behind my favourite books and blogs and designs — they discuss their philosophy of life and making as they work, which I really appreciated and was just a really great added extra about these classes. The artisan bread class was a great example of this – I loved listening to Peter Reinharts ‘slow rise’ breadmaking philosphy and methods.

Erica Spinks, from answered my twitter request and told me her experiences of taking online quilting classes — thanks Erica for your thoughts!

I don’t do project-based classes, but look for classes in specific techniques or design. I found that local classes in the subjects I wanted either didn’t exist or were on at times that didn’t work for me. So, I started to look online for classes.

I took my first online class in 2009 with Quilt University and have done several more with them since. They were based around class notes each week, with access to the tutor through an offline chat set-up. You can load photos at any stage to a class album for comment by other students and the tutor.

I’ve also done Jude Hill’s ‘Cloth to Cloth’ course, which included notes, a dedicated blog and YouTube videos. Currently, I’m working through a class with Weeks Ringle on Designing Modern Quilts. It has some notes, fantastic videos and a forum for discussion.

The main way my quilting experience has been enhanced by these classes is convenience and accessibility. By this I mean I can learn about subjects I choose, when I want. I prefer online classes to face-to-face ones because I can do them at my own pace. If that means a lesson a week or six lessons in a single night — well, that’s my choice! I also have great notes to refer to later and videos I can rewatch when I need to refresh certain points. If I choose to join in discussions, I can but, if I prefer to work alone, that’s okay too. I’m an independent learner so this style of teaching suits me perfectly.

There’s none of the hassle of travelling to workshops and carrying masses of stuff (and often forgetting something critical, like the sewing machine cord) either. I continue to use skills I have acquired from online classes in my own quilt designs. It would have to be something quite special for me to do another face-to-face workshop.

Below is a quote from Craftsy’s Co-founder and COO, Josh Scott.

I asked Josh what the future holds for Craftsy:

“Craftsy has experienced tremendous growth over the course of the last year.  As we approach 2013, our goal is to increase the number of courses offered and grow our audience.  We are producing 15 new 4-6 hour classes each month and will continue to ramp production in order to produce over 250 new classes in 2013.  Many of these new classes will fall within existing Craftsy class categories (e.g. quilting, sewing, knitting, cake decorating, etc.), but we’re also looking into opportunities to branch out and create courses in new categories.  In addition, we will continue to expand accessibility options for our users.  On the heels of the launch of our iPad app in October, we’ll introduce a Craftsy iPhone app in December.  The new app will allow students to access course content on the go, making Craftsy even more convenient.  We look forward to increasing our offerings to meet students’ needs in the months to come.”

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