Stitching Times serves up stories, examples and tutorials about needlework related crafts, especially quilting and crochet. Almost all of the projects shown have been designed by Kay Stephenson

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Celebrating the Online Craft Community

Have you heard about Craftsy? I discovered it a few months ago and it has quickly become my favorite destination on the internet for all things craft. Don't get me wrong. Ravelry is great if you are a knitter or a crocheter, and Sew What's New isn't bad if you like to sew. I love Etsy for selling craft patterns and finding other interesting designers and their products. There are all kinds of online magazines (Crochet! Magazine, and  Quilting Arts)  and their spin-offs like sew daily. Though some of these last are little more than online storefronts for selling their books, magazines, patterns and tools.
Craftsy is something different. It's an extraordinary online learning platform for all types of craft including needle arts like knitting, crochet and quilting as well as food crafts, gardening, paper crafts, jewelry making and more. They offer very reasonably priced online classes in all of these areas, and after taking a class myself (I tried Machine Quilting with Wendy Butler Berns) I have to say it's a great way to learn something new. You can complete the class at your own pace in your own home - no lugging a sewing machine to the craft store. And you can go back to the class for a refresher as often and for as long as you like. Once you purchase access, it's yours forever. 
Members can also post photos and descriptions of projects which is an endless source of inspiration. There are even some free classes, like the Craftsy Block of the Month project being led by Amy Gibson. But enough of the commercial.
Aurora Coffee - Virginia Highland
The best thing Craftsy did was to organize a worldwide Craftsy meetup party. Last Thursday crafters from all over the world met at local destinations and forged new friendships - not online but in person. Eight people signed up for the gathering I set up at a local coffee shop and despite torrential rain and a bad parking situation, all but one made it. What fun. We had knitters, crocheters, sewing enthusiasts and quilters, even a jewelry maker. Several of us were interested in more than one craft which made for a lively "show and tell". We each brought either a current project or something we have made that we are especially proud of. I fully intended to take lots of pictures, but I was so engrossed in our conversation that I completely forgot! You will just have to imagine a big group of women gathered around that farm table. We were having so much fun we even enticed a young women who was in the coffee shop studying for grad school to join us! Hopefully this is just the start of new friendships and craft sharing!

Felted Wool and Fabric Project Bag with Matching Accessories
What could be better? Funny you should ask. Very soon Craftsy will also open an online pattern store where member designers can sell their patterns. And in the spirit of true community, Crafty is not accepting a dime. All sales of patterns go straight to the designer. I can't wait! So check it out and let me know what you think. Have a favorite online craft community you want to share? Post a comment and I will check it out!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What a Busy Month It's Been

Finally a chance to catch my breath. Yesterday I even found time to have lunch with a girlfriend -- I had the Cubanito at Super Pan and those that live in Atlanta know why Top Chef, Hector Santiago's sandwich shop is worth writing about -- but I digress.
I've also been quite busy with a new undertaking. I've decided to offer private lessons in crochet. I thought initially to just offer a one-on-one "learn to crochet in two hours" class, and set about putting that together. It turned out to be a more challenging task than I expected. How to limit class to just those very fundamental skills the student must master to go away and make a simple dishcloth or scarf is not easy. But I persevered and came up with a lesson plan that I thought would work.
Now to find some students. While hopscotching around the internet one day I stumbled on a new web service called Betterfly. Though the service is still in beta (that means test mode for non-techies), it is already a fantastic tool for people with expertise to connect with students who want to learn. I listed my "learn to crochet" session, made an announcement on Facebook and my neighborhood electronic message board, and within days had two students. One was a true beginner and the second wanted to book a lesson to address specific problems she was having and learn some new stitches. I now have several private session options set up and after teaching my first two classes, I'm sure I am going to really enjoy this new way of sharing with other crafters.

In between prepping, promoting and teaching classes I have found time for a few quilting projects as well. I'm working away at the hand quilting for this zoo themed baby quilt or play mat. It's hard to tell from this photo, but I'm trying lots of tight echo quilting around the animals so that, when it is washed, they will really pop up. I also used some chocolate brown for borders - partly to make it a bit larger, but mostly to give the quilt a nice soft cuddly edge. The fabric is from the Wild Friends collection by Leslie Grainger for Robert Kaufman. Here's a link to a free pattern from Robert Kaufman which uses the same center panel.

And I've pieced this simple "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" throw (fabric also from Robert Kaufman). I'm not sure if I should admit that it is late for 2011, or just pretend I am way ahead for 2012. But since I'm still pondering how I want to quilt this one (machine or hand; all over design or customized for each vignette) I guess I should go with the latter. Would love to hear quilting suggestions from my quilty friends out there.
Now back to the studio. As much as I might try to convince you that spending time in the studio is hard work, I just can't. I love my job!