Friday, 9 October 2015

Craftsy Mini-Reviews (Part 1)

I mentioned that I bought the recent Craftsy October deal, which is a month "all-access pass" to all of the courses on the platform. I paid about £8, though I know other people have paid everything from US$20 to US$10. I decided it would be worth doing if I really ploughed through a lot of classes quickly on topics that interest me enough to be curious about the content but that I don't think I'll use enough to consider paying for the class individually.  I am basically house-bound by illness at the moment and have nothing better to do with my time, so I've already gotten through quite a few classes.

There are no links in this post, by the way, because generally there's a lot of paid-for-shilling and affiliate linking for Craftsy going on in the SBC attached to what I therefore consider to be highly dubious "reviews". Nobody pays me to do or say anything about sewing (since I'm the minnow-iest minnow in the blog world I doubt anyone ever will) but to remove all doubt I just won't link at all. You all know how to get to their site.

I'll also just note before I start that I'm not the hugest fan of the Craftsy platform overall and I'm therefore not the easiest sell on the classes and quite critical of them. Previously, I ended up with some classes I bought and never really watched or finished, plus a couple I bought and did enjoy and find useful. Often the difference between watching and not watching was how annoying I found the instructor.

More generally, very little about the way Craftsy is put together works for my personal learning style, and the interactive elements with the teachers and other people have zero appeal to me. This is totally subjective, of course -- if you learn well from videos and enjoy the community aspect then I think Craftsy can be a really great tool. I just don't, personally. At the end of last year I concluded that, overall, putting a lot of my crafty budget into buying classes was not a good investment for me personally.  Thus, so far in 2015 I've only bought one new class (the Alabama Chanin class, of which I've watched maybe a quarter because I find her annoying) plus this all access pass.

To take advantage of the all-access pass then, because I know I don't learn well from just staring at video, I've been taking a lot of hand-written and hand-drawn notes while I watch as that is how I learn best. Since I know I'm only going to have access to the classes for a few weeks, however, my learning preferences and the situation actually marry up pretty well -- the fact I like to write and draw to integrate new information means I'll also have a record of the classes I've taken even after my access to them is revoked at the end of October. Even though my reviews below are a bit mixed, I'd say that so far I'm really happy with the all-access pass deal.

I made a bit list of the classes I'm interested, and split it into five categories: Techniques/Tips/Reference Classes; Pattern-making and adjustments; Fitting; Tailoring; and Knits. I'm watching them in no particular order, just what grabs me at the moment I log on, so I have to admit the classes I'm reviewing are kind of all over the place. This is what I've watched so far:

Techniques/Tips/Reference Classes:  

20 Things To Know Before You Sew by Janet Pray. This is really aimed at the very beginner sewer but I watched it on an afternoon when I was feeling really ill and just wanted to have something easy to distract me on screen. It was quite good although I am not at all the intended audience so I did skip over large-ish sections that I didn't think I needed to listen to. Janet is a confident lecturer and she presents the material clearly. I picked a couple of little tips on marking and thread tracing that I kind of knew but that were nice to see demonstrated, and one handy marking tip I'd never seen before that I actually loved and plan to use from now on -- it was almost worth watching the class just for that. I would never have bought the class as a stand-alone because it's not really my level, and I don't plan to revisit it.

Choosing and Using Your Favourite Fabrics by Sandra Betzina. I have very mixed feelings about this class, which I watched straight through with no skipping. In terms of the material, a lot of the information was familiar to me, but I picked up a really good handful of tips for specific fabrics that I think are going to come in very useful in the future. There's also a useful handout you can download that has recommended needle sizes etc for lots of common fabrics. It's nothing you can't find on the internet, but the sort of thing that is handy to have on one sheet. My mixed feelings really come from the instruction. As a presenter Sandra is very enthusiastic and kind of charming and witty at times, but at times she is scattered and breathless and disorganized, which annoyed me as a viewer. She also has some really aggravating verbal tics (she says "Now, do you see?" over and over, and "Now, do you understand?" as well) that really grated by the end of the class. She shows off a lot of garments, but they're all such a specific, self-styled-eccentric-suburban-art-teacher style that it got a bit dull (although, kudos to her for wearing and discussing her overly tight knit dress in such a charming way). Again, this is not a class I ever would have bought as a stand-alone, and not one that I feel any need to revisit now I have my notes, but I did think it was worth a few hours of my time overall.

Pattern-making and Adjustments

Pattern-making: The Skirt Sloper by Suzy Furrer. This class has been discussed by quite a few people in various places I frequent, generally positively. I absolutely loved it. Suzy is an exceptionally good instructor - probably because she is an instructor as her day job - as she is very clear and precise in the way she describes what she is doing and why. I have been interested in this class for a while because it's the first in her sloper series and also the easiest. I am definitely going to try to draft a skirt sloper based on this class later. However, I have very little interest in ~~~designing my own skirts. I want the sloper as a basis for a straight skirt patterns, and to choose sizes and adjust commercial patterns, so whereas I took masses of notes and spent ages watching the first half of the class, I skipped gently through sections on drafting variations (except for the sections on drafting waistbands, facings and linings, which I also watched straight through, as they will also come in useful, in my opinion, when changing commercial patterns). I hadn't bought the class as a stand-alone for precisely this reason, knowing that fully half or more of the content was not interesting to me. With good notes (and a reference book) I shouldn't have any problem making the straight skirt sloper without revisiting the course, but in my opinion if you DID want to draft lots of different skirts yourself, it would almost certainly be a good investment so you could revisit frequently. I am planning to watch all of Suzy's other classes on Craftsy while I have the all-access pass.


Pattern-making for Knits: The Essential Slopers by Judy Jackson I watched this after the Suzy Furrer class, but I was a little disappointed because it didn't match my interests nearly so well. Whereas Suzy's class is all based on flat pattern manipulation, Judy's knit class is based on draping on a dress form that matches your body measurements, which I do not have and do not anticipate obtaining any time soon. (I love my inherited dressform, named Flossie by my mum, her original owner, when she was brand new in 1964, but she's at best a rough approximation of my size). I did get some useful information here and there in some sections that interested me, but the main point of the class -- making knit pattern slopers -- didn't work for me because of the draping. However, I thought Judy was a really good, clear and personable instructor and if you do have a dressform that would allow you to drape fit a knit sloper, I think it would be a great class. I have thought about buying this class before so I was glad I hadn't paid for it, and now I know that it wouldn't be worth revisiting for me.

Sewing Knits That Fit by Dyanne Marte  Definitely the worst of the classes I've watched so far. The instructor is very glamorous (though I hate some of her clothes) and probably has a lot of knowledge but she's not the best at transferring it. I found her explanations generally poor and often unclear. She seems very nervous throughout and she has lots of verbal tics that drove me up the wall, the worst of which is a tendency to draw out her vowels a really long time if she's talking and doing something at the same time, e.g. pinning, which is almost all the time. ("There's a looooooot of eeeeeeeeeease"). I also found the content really suspect at times -- increase the bust size of a t-shirt by adding an inch to the side seams! Make the shoulders wider by adding an inch at the shoulder seam! Um. I definitely didn't need to pay for tips like that, thanks, and I definitely won't be going back to revisit that course.

I'll be back with more mini-reviews when I've watched a few more :D


  1. Thanks for the info. I also have the October pass, but I like to make my listening/watching time count.

  2. I signed up as well - and right now I'm loving all of Pam Howard's classes. She's a very clear instructor, to the point, but also has a good sense of humor which pops up now and then. I imagine I'll end up buying a few of her classes so I can keep referring to them. Which is probably Craftsy's strategy with this pass!

    1. I'm sure it is their strategy! I really WANT to like Pam Howard's classes but the one I have watched she talks SO SLOWLY that it drives me insane. However, I have since discovered that you can speed up the video, so maybe I should try it again.

  3. Thanks for the round up! I started watching Suzy's skirt sloper class (and then life got in the way), and I agree that she's a great instructor. I'm looking forward to getting back to it.

    FWIW, I'm not much of a skirt wearer myself, but I'm actually interested in the drafting exercises for the sake of learning how to do it. Kind of like learning how to make a souffle, even if you don't plan to make souffles all that often. In any case, as Suzy says (and as others in the SBC have done), you'll need the skirt sloper if you move on to the bodice sloper and want to combine your drafted bodice with a skirt to make a dress. And I DO wear dresses. Success with the bodice sloper class seems to be a bit more dependent on your body being closer to industry standards (which mine isn't), so we'll see how that goes.

    1. Oh! that is a good point. I will have to think about that.

      I am also wondering about how well the bodice sloper will work for me given how far I am off the "norm" -- not quite to the extent that you are I know, but far enough! I have not looked at the class properly, though. If it does princess seam slopers at all I will definitely DEFINITELY be doing it.

  4. Thanks for the summary. I saw the all-access pass, but decided not to sign up. I already have a few Craftsy classes that I have yet to watch!

    1. Yeah, I might not have done it if I hadn't been in this situation where I have nothing better to do for long stretches of time and can just sit and watch. As it is, it's a good time filler as well as a good way to burn through a lot of classes quickly.