Where have all the students gone?

Are in-person sewing classes going the way of the Dodo?  And if you are asking, “What’s a Dodo?” then you actually have the idea.  There are a tremendous number of learning opportunities online, from blogs, to webinars, to videos, to vlogs, to online sewing education providers… I think it’s marvelous.  I love the fact that I can sit down at my computer at any time of day or night and take a class on just about any sewing subject, often for a reasonable sum.

But the key words for me there are “at my computer.” My computer cannot look at terrible thread nest that just occurred at my sewing machine at 2am and help me figure out

a) how to fix it

and

b) how to avoid it happening again.

If I want to really improve my skills both rapidly and to an exceptional degree, there are three things I require. First, I need to learn the skill; second, I need to practice the skill; and third, I need feedback on my skill.  Computers, books, and teachers can all give me the first two, but the last one can only be found with a local human teacher.  Yes, it’s true that I do not need feedback on every skill I learn – many are relatively simple to learn by myself – but there are skills and troubleshooting that are much more efficient and effective when another experienced teacher can look at your work and help you out.

And what about our social needs?  I don’t know about you, but I find my interactions with friends decreasing each year.  I feel I don’t have time, and even when I find time, my friends don’t have time to get together.  But a sewing class allows you to get together with other like-minded people and enjoy your hobby together.  Awesome!

Although I love the online community and opportunities for learning, I am sad to see the decline in the number of students taking sewing classes in local dealerships and fabric shops. Is this really what we want? No more quilting bees? No more touching fabrics and looking closely at another person’s excellently sewn hem in order to learn from her (him)?

I’d love to hear your opinion. What do you look for in a sewing class?  Do you ever take in-person classes in your community?  Do you learn exclusively online?  How important is it to you to develop your skills to a high standard?  Do you just want to complete the project? What kinds of classes draw your attention?

I wish you a very beautiful new year full of sewing opportunities of all shapes, sizes, textures, and techniques!

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Original Sewing and Quilt Expo – Minneapolis, MN 2014

I have written about the OSQE before, and I was not complimentary. I have a new experience to share this year!

I have attended the OSQE four times now, and this was by far my best experience. To get the negatives out of the way right off the bat, the venue was not big enough for a conference of this size, making the vendor hall(s) and finding rooms confusing and frustrating. Next year they will be at a different location, which should solve this problem.

In the past I chose my classes according to the techniques or projects I thought sounded interesting, and I was consistently disappointed in the instruction and often in the projects. This year I took a different approach and chose the teachers instead of the topics. My classes were all I hoped for and I learned something in every class. The class I learned the least in was with an excellent instructor, but I apparently knew that topic better than I realized.

The instructors whose classes I chose were: Linda McGehee, Laura Murray, Cynthia Guffey, and Cindy Losecamp. Instructors I know are excellent, but I was unable to attend classes with this year are Lorraine Henry, Linda Lee, and Carol Steinbrecher. If you ever attend the OSQE, try to take at least one class with a few of these instructors and I think you will go home with new information.

Cindy Losecamp has great hands-on classes. The challenge is that although her projects are designed to be completed in the time given, and I have always finished mine, they are always tight on time. It helps if you know how to run an embroidery machine before taking her class, just because it will help you complete your project in the time allotted. Her projects are always beautiful and full of techniques you can replicate at home with your own embroidery designs.

Laura Murray is “the” Paintsticks lady, as far as I am concerned. I have owned paintsticks for a while, but I never took them out to play. It was fun to use them without being responsible for the clean-up. What a great workshop!

Cynthia Guffey is personality plus, but regardless of what you think of her personality, she is one of the most experienced dressmakers you will meet. She knows so much, and what I most admire about her is that she is constantly learning herself, and continually experiments and tries to improve on current sewing techniques. In her classes you will learn how to be accurate and sew more and rip less. She is one who believes in doing it right the first time. I tend to rush more than she would like… 🙂

If you want to learn about how to fit and alter patterns, Lorraine Henry is the teacher you just can’t miss! She will teach you how to alter patterns using the seam alteration method, and her experience as an excellent dressmaker means she knows how to fit patterns and then put them together beautifully. She is also one of the sweetest, most giving people you will meet.

Anyone who sews has probably had a friend or family member ask her to mend some clothing item, and we all know it is not as easy as it sounds. Carol Steinbrecher alters and mends professionally and knows all the ins and outs of replacing zippers and hemming pants, to name two commonly requested repairs. Take her image class also to learn about personal style and how to dress to impress.

I hope I will get more opportunities to take classes with these awesome instructors. I am so grateful that they take the time to pass on their incredible skills. If you get a chance to take even one class with them, do so. Not everyone is willing or able to share their knowledge or talents in a way students enjoy, so it is special when you to study with someone who can teach you something, whether you are a beginner or an experienced needleworker.

Craftsy: A great opportunity for excellent online learning

Read below to find out how to sign up for a free class!
What is Craftsy?
Craftsy is a worldwide craft community offering online classes. It also has a patterns marketplace where independent designers can sell their patterns; a supplies shop with great deals on yarn, fabric, and class kits; and a projects section where members share pictures of their latest craft successes. With over two million members and counting, Craftsy has something for just about everyone, in categories ranging from quilting, sewing, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, and more.

Behind the Scenes: The Making of a Craftsy Class
Before filming even begins, hours and hours are spent determining what content will be covered in each class, and how to best teach specific techniques to the camera. Instructors work with an instructional designer to create an in-depth outline of each lesson, and decide how to best prepare props or “step-outs” that show what your project should like at different steps. Instead of a scripted class, instructors follow their outlines on camera to create an authentic and engaging teaching experience.

Most Craftsy classes are filmed in one of five Craftsy studios in Denver, CO, assuring that every part of the production process goes off without a hitch. They fly in instructors from all over the world to spend several days filming, then spend several weeks turning hours of footage into a two to three hour class experience that has been watched, rewatched, and reviewed by industry experts. The final result is an HD-quality video that takes you in-depth into specific topics in any given craft category- from cooking and fine art to sewing and knitting.

What IS the Craftsy experience?
Craftsy classes are designed to have all the benefits of an in-person class, with none of the drawbacks. Available online and on-demand, you always have world-class instructors at the tip of your fingers. You can retake the class as many times as you want, and the 30-second repeat feature allows you to watch the same section over and over again until you get every technique just right.

Watching a Craftsy class is like having a first-row seat with some of the best instructors in the world. Even better, classes have a 100% money-back guarantee.

Try online learning today with a free mini-class from Craftsy! Choose from 23 Free Craftsy Classes ranging from drawing and painting to sewing and quilting, from knitting to cake decorating and more.

Sewing and crafting classes online

Have you heard about Craftsy? If not, be sure to read on. If you have, I hope you’ve had a chance to take one of their wonderful, reasonably priced courses, especially since once you buy a course, you can watch the videos as many times as you want over any time frame. Learn in the comfort of your own home at your own speed. Not only that, but they have free classes you can download to try before you buy.  They also have apps for your tablets and handheld devices so you can learn anywhere.

My favorite way to watch video courses is to watch them all the way through first, then go to my sewing machine and try things out, referencing the video along the way. You may have a different style, which is why these courses are so wonderful; they fit everyone’s learning style in some fashion.

The downside to independent learning, of course, is the lack of social interaction, either with your fellow classmates or with a teacher from whom you would like feedback on that seam you just sewed. Craftsy and YouTube and other sites like this will never completely replace the classes offered by qualified teachers at your local dealerships and sewing machine shops, but they sure expand the range of who can learn and when, making them a fabulous resource!

Go ahead, jump in! The water’s fine! Sewing, cake decorating, knitting, and on and on and on…

Here is what Craftsy has to say about itself:

What is Craftsy?
Craftsy is a worldwide craft community offering online classes. It also has a patterns marketplace where independent designers can sell their patterns; a supplies shop with great deals on yarn, fabric, and class kits; and a projects section where members share pictures of their latest craft successes. With over two million members and counting, Craftsy has something for just about everyone, in categories ranging from quilting, sewing, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, and more.

Why should I take a class online?
Online education isn’t just for schools and universities anymore. Craftsy courses provide you the convenience of a world-class instructor in your home, whenever you want to learn. Online education, no matter what subject, is a great alternative to in-person classes for a number of reasons.

With many online learning opportunities being on-demand, you are able to learn at your own pace, anytime. Online learning is a fantastic alternative to in-store craft classes for people with busy schedules or who have difficulty leaving the house. It also allows you to watch a troubling section over-and-over again, so you can see exactly how a technique is carried out, or refer back to your class for relevant concepts before beginning any new projects.

Favorite sewing projects

I have been thinking about designing a nice beginner – intermediate project for those of you reading and following my blog, as a thank you, but I am having a terrible time deciding what type of project would be best. I do know I would like to include a serger component, and my preference would be to incorporate machine embroidery as well, but sometimes I know I get carried away and try to include every technique I know into the same project. Does anyone else have that problem?

So, with that in mind, I have created this poll and I would greatly appreciate your input on what I should do, at at least what I should do FIRST. I do hope to create more projects as we go along.

Since I am still recovering from my horseback riding accident, mentioned in a previous post, the project itself won’t start for at least a week, so there’s plenty of time for your input.

You can choose more than one option, but if I left off your favorite idea, please leave it for me in a comment. Thanks! I am excited to see the poll results.

Another Sale Not to be Missed

Craftsy is currently having its wonderful up to 75% off summer sale. That means you can sign up for up to 4 classes for the same price as you would usually pay for one class. Wow! And once you “buy” a Craftsy class, you can watch it and refer back to it over and over for the indefinite future.

To be honest, I have not tried the beginner serger class, since I didn’t think I needed it, but I have heard excellent reviews of that class on my Yahoo groups. The diversity of classes offered just keeps growing, so click on over to the Craftsy Sweet Summer Sale 7/17-7/21 and see what they have to offer!

Other Free Sewing Videos on the Internet

I belong to quite a few Yahoo Groups, which I absolutely love. (If you don’t know about Yahoo Groups, look into it. There are groups for every topic imaginable, and most groups are informative and very helpful. There is a lot to learn in a Yahoo Group!) Although one of the big reasons for the existence of these groups, especially in the sewing world, is for people to help each other out and to learn from each other. Sometimes, though, people will come to the group with very broad “how to” questions that would generate a large amount of material in a simple Google search. Is it that we don’t think to look it up ourselves, or that we think it would be easier if we just ask others for the information?

Others complain that the only help they can find is help they have to pay for (taking classes at a dealership, buying a course online, buying a book or DVD, etc.) Our expectation to find everything for free on the internet is really unreasonable.

Still, to satisfy both of these groups of people, there IS a wealth of FREE information on the internet, and much of it is visual, with either still or video pictures to explain the specific concepts. As many of us know, much of this is on YouTube, which takes a little search savvy to navigate, but if you try lots of different search terms, you can find all kinds of information for just about anything, including things you never wanted to see in your life! Beyond YouTube, what is there?

There are private and commercial websites all over the place that have videos on them, it’s just a matter of searching for them. One of those sites with high quality FREE videos is Nancy’s Notions. Nancy Zieman has an online TV channel, but did you know that she also has great videos on her store site? Check out her sewing videos and you’ll find all kinds of different video clips, many of which answer those “basic” foundational questions. It’s quite a treasure trove. Take a look today!

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