Craft space

Some friends of ours are going to be working on setting up a new craft room soon, and they were seeking input from their other crafty friends about what makes a good craft room.  I realized that I hadn’t shared much about my craft space on my blog, and that I should share before it gets transformed.  I’m planning to swap my craft space for my current nursery room, because I think my active toddler is soon going to need more space, and I need to resign myself to the fact that I am not doing enough crafting these days to justify having my own room in our little house.  The move is my idea, so don’t feel sorry for me, I’m pushing myself into it.

And I’m still planning to have craft space, it’s just going to get stuffed into the current ‘nursery’ room, which is about the size of a walk-in closet.  And I’m going to make sure part of it is dedicated office space so my husband has a quiet place to study (some how I had a “my” space in our home, but he never had a “his” space).  But if we do some finishing work to the adjoining walk-up attic, I might have even more storage space to fit all my craft supplies than I do now, even if they will be a bit less accessible.

Here are some of my beloved peg-boards.  I just love having so many tools and material accessible and inspiring.

pegboard and paintbrushes and other tools

Small pegboard near adjustable architect’s drawing table.

I am torn right now between moving the pegboards, or just re-purposing them for some kind of kid-friendly use and installing new pegboards in the new space.  I think I may have done some gluing when I installed them, never imagining a need to remove them unless we moved out.  See the magnetic (top) and metal (bottom) strips on each shelf?  I came up with that clever idea to display/store my steel rule and Movers & Shapers dies.

pegboard and stamping supplies

Large pegboard with upper and lower shelf sit above long narrow work table.

So, my friend prompted ‘what is important to me in a craft space?’  My answer:

I actually have to start thinking about clearing out and moving my own craft space, as I’m determined to give over that large room to our baby, his toys, and any possible future siblings.  I think we’ll turn the small room+attic into an office/craft space.  It will be good for my husband too, if he starts the PhD program, to have an office space where he can lock himself away when he needs to write.
1.  a) storage (both accessible and long-term), b) work surfaces, c) place for machines or tools that should always be handy for quick work (e.g. sewing machine or grab-and-go types of projects), floor space for spreading out the big projects like quilts or drying sweaters
2.  most of my projects in-progress I throw into clear plastic bags, zippered bags that bedding is sold in or ziplocs.  Non-textile projects get stored in shallow drawers or large paper portfolios
3.  I don’t have a good system for dealing with projects in process, and assimilating new acquisitions quickly.  With very little time to walk into my craft room at all, I find that new things or stray non-current projects or tools from projects I just finished get dumped on my work surfaces just inside the door, and then when I need to whip something up really fast I have no where to do it.  I don’t have a great solution for this, but one half-solution is that I have started having some “random stuff” containers on high shelves, so at least some things can go there out of the way.  But I wish I had a real “stuff to sort” bin right inside my craft-room door.
4.  I have cycled some materials into boxes and into the attic.  There are simply some crafts I don’t need on-hand constantly anymore – e.g. I don’t make wreaths very often, so I don’t need all the florals in my craft room.  I think in my new configuration I will have more easily-accessible space devoted to random catch-all, and shift more stuff like fabric into the attic since I don’t need to access it all the time.
5.  If space were no object I would have picked up some flat map-drawers that were at an architect office sale years ago to store my large paper art (drawings and prints).  We could have got them for a song, but at the time we were in a 1 bedroom apartment.  Right now I don’t have a good place to store fancy scrapbook papers either, so I would get something to solve that problem.  So if time and money were no object, I would get a bunch of cool very craft-specific storage items:  A sewing station, some cool IKEA-compatible scrapbooking storage for stamp pads and paper, more sturdy clear stacking bins for all the miscellaneous fabric and stuff (Staples has a “Really Useful” line that I find very sturdy).
But really, most of my problem these days is time, and keeping dangerous things out of toddler reach.
So my current priorities:
a) fixing the door so it can actually stay shut
b) moving dangerous things to upper shelves
c) add a “stuff to sort” bin or two
6.  I think the things that have worked phenomenally well for me are the following:
a)  pegboard – so much you can do with pegboard, I want more of it, so great for all the crafty little knicknacks and tools, add cups, hooks, clips, it’s wonderful!
b) Having work surfaces far enough apart to run a ball-winder and swift (for knitting).  Ask [friend’s spouse] to measure and make sure she can do it in the configuration.
c) Narrow shelves with cups and boxes for different kinds of tools and supplies
Not sure why the one review is so lousy, I found these to be incredibly hefty for sweater-organizers, I have two in my closet and they keep the dust and bugs away from my precious yarns, yet I still have a nice view of them.  And it makes good use of a closet in a craft room.
e) foam interlocking floor tiles (maybe you already have these?)  Great for blocking sweaters and all kinds of other uses, plus you can pin right into them.  Although your cats will probably scratch them up as they have done to mine, but it doesn’t really inhibit their function too much.
Two things you should consider with the wall space:
1) leave enough room somewhere so that when [friend] creates her spinning wheel, you can rig a clever wall-hanger to put the spinning wheel out of kitty reach.
2) somewhere for a design board or pin-board?  A lot of crafters like to have somewhere to pin inspiring things, or if quilting, a flannel design board to put fabrics and squares together and then step back.  I have a little pin board, but I wish it were in a different spot, and might convert to a flannel board when I move everything.
If you are thinking about craft-room design or organizing, I highly recommend finding issues of Studios by Cloth+Paper+Scissors at the library for inspiration.  It focuses on studios of mixed media artists, so it’s pretty inspiring for people like me who like a lot of different categories of craft.  Of course, some of the fine folks whose studios are featured have their own business space, or a large house, or an out-building in which to come up with the perfect studio.  But some of the storage solutions are inspiring even in small houses such as ours.
Finally, some quick updates on recent knitting projects.
wrist warmers in progress

Sunstreak Wristwarmers from Knitted Mitts and Mittens

fair isle mittens

Evergreen Lake Mittens from Stranded Knitting Craftsy Class

Shawl in progress

Downton Abbey Mystery Knit Along Shawl from Jimmy Beans Wool


Arts and crafts education

My own arts and crafts continue to be done, but in the last couple of months it seems like someone has been sick in my house every week, or big work events are going on, or big papers are due for my husband, or something.  So fun has been had, and a few things have been created, but I haven’t had time to talk about them or take pics.  So we’ll save some of that for a roundup later on.

What I want to ponder now is the state of arts and crafting education.  In my day job, I work at a University.  In the particular division I work in, the importance and value of in-person versus online education is being carefully considered (or hotly debated, depending on who’s in the room at the time).  The catalyst is this – a prominent brick & mortar institution has put forth some foundation courses from one of their signature degree programs in an online, affordable model.  Now the whole educational world is in a tizzy!  Who would pay our institution for online or in-person classes when they can get it from Harvard for such a low cost from anywhere in the world?  I think there are still some very valid reasons why localized and regionalized higher education aren’t going away any time soon regardless of prestigious online models.  But that’s beyond the scope of this blog.

While that’s a debate for the doctorates and bigwigs, it got me thinking about arts and crafts education.  We live in a DIY world, where craft tutorials of varying quality can be found on all kinds of platforms such as Pinterest, Cut-out-and-Keep, About.com, and dozens of other sites both craft-oriented and not.  There is no limit (except equipment cost/availability) to what you can learn to create.

This has profoundly changed the way we learn about crafts.  I still go to the library (or more often, to the library system’s webpage, where I have the book sent to my local branch) when I want to preview a craft book with the thought of buying it, or if I want to look at a book that I think might be generally inspiring, or if I want to get into a whole new craft area that I know nothing about.  But if I need to know how to do a single technique, I google it.  For example, I was looking for double-slide knots so that I could make an adjustable ribbon bracelet.  I found a tutorial, I did the technique, and accomplished a quick project. I didn’t have to try to figure out what book might contain this technique, nor order it from the library and wait for the book to come in to get the instruction I needed.20140410-181103.jpg

This increasing comfort-level and reliance on e-learning for our daily craft needs has led to a proliferation of other modes of teaching and learning online.  Technique-oriented blogs (as this one occasionally endeavors to be!), are everywhere for every craft, and I think some even make money through mini-stores, affiliations or ad space (I need to figure out how that works sometime! Any ads on this site currently don’t pay me but pay WordPress).  Dedicated craft-lesson websites like Craftsy, Online Card Classes, The Big Picture Scrapbooking, and others offer an online class environment for a fee.  Other sites, like KnittingHelp.com offer an amazing amount of online video instruction for free, but also offer a few longer videos for a fee.  I can’t speak to either model for profitability or sustainability, but certainly they are popular.

So with all this learning available free online, or for a fee, do people still go to in-person craft classes?  Big craft industry shows such as CHA (Craft & Hobby Association) and the Knit & Crochet Show have boasted increasing attendance over the last few years.  And there’s plenty of fervent internet buzz generated about the privilege of going to those big shows and experiencing workshops taught by “famous” elite crafters.  Local class or workshop-based shows can also be quite successful if they are supported by a strong local group or culture of crafting, and if they capitalize on internet tools to market themselves.  Classes at local shops, though, might suffer depending on their ability to market their workshops and educators.

And what about peer-to-peer learning?  While the fiber arts still boast a strong network of local guilds, other crafts seem not to attract such structured, open-membership groups for crafting.  Crop-nights or other scrapbooking events seem to be organized ad-hoc either by groups of friends or by home-party direct-sales entrepreneurs.  But peer-to-peer learning is massive and vibrant on the internet, where hugely popular sites like Ravelry (knitting/crochet) and Split-Coast Stampers (paper arts) seem to be thriving based on their ability to connect enthusiastic crafters in supportive and fun sub-interest forums.  Are there other community sites for other crafts?  If so, drop me a line and let me know.  I’m very interested to check these out, because I like to see how the different niche-social sites value different types of tools and visual representations.  Maybe sometime I’ll do a cross-genre comparison, just for fun.

So, in the world of crafting (where informal and non-formal learning are the primary modes of knowledge acquisition), online learning is huge, growing and maybe in some areas eclipsing in-person learning.

I would love to dig into the subject of arts and crafts in formal learning situations like higher-ed, but there is nothing really to compare.  There are very few institutions of higher education that offer art classes online.  For clarity, I’m not talking about digital-arts but arts where the result is a physical object, because obviously digital arts should be more easily adapted to online learning.

While even big dogs like Harvard are dipping their toes into the waters of online, for-credit courses in some subject areas (e.g., business), there don’t seem to be reputable studio art degree programs online.  If I’m missing your alma mater, I apologize, and please drop me a line so that I can expand my understanding.  Will the world of studio art higher-education be expanded beyond the physical walls of brick & mortar?  Or is part of getting an art degree the experience of getting hands smudgy/painty/clay-covered with fellow art students?  Can the classic art-school critique be done in an online forum?  Or is the experience of seeing a fellow student’s 5’x5′ thesis painting necessarily in-person because the sense of scale is part of the work?  And there are even less fine-craft programs in higher education, but I assume that they are also esteemed as necessarily in-person.

It will likely never be up to me, but I would love to see some intrepid teacher try to adapt some of the lower-level undergraduate studio art classes into an online format.  I think it could be done.  Like with other subjects, there are certainly trade-offs when learning in-person or online.  It would be cool to see how higher ed online delivery platforms could be adapted for such a tactile subject.

How do you learn arts and crafts? Let me know by poll or drop a comment.