Instructor Gretchen Hirsch, Sew Retro; The Starlet Suit Jacket.
Instructor Gretchen Hirsch, Sew Retro; The Starlet Suit Jacket.

Craftsy is slick, but the Denver-based crafting site is still pretty cool

I had my doubts about Craftsy. I'm protective of crafting; my grandmothers taught me how to bead, knit, and sew, and I've always felt crafts were a sacred space, an internal domestic community of passed-down knowledge. So I was wary of a website infringing into that personal sphere. I'm also a person who buries her money in the backyard and wears tinfoil on my head so the government can't "get me." So take my wariness of technology with that grain of salt.

Craftsy is a Denver-based online crafting classroom and community. Registration is free, the classes are taught by experts, and once you pay for a class (all of the money goes to the instructors), you have access to it forever. Also, you can talk to other people in the class discussion forums and upload photos or ask questions about your project, so the instructor can help you online. If you don't want to commit to a class, you can buy patterns for about $5, provided by community members.

The concept is actually pretty cool. I only had one problem. From the first click onto the home page, Craftsy reeks of corporate business. It's sleek and put-together and lacks the raggedy edges I want from a craft store. Also, when I went to the "About Us" page I was immediately disappointed to see that the four founders are males (Okay, nothing wrong with that. Men can knit, too) who aren't crafty crafters (gasp!).

Gretchen Hirsch, Sew Retro; The Starlet Suit Jacket.
Gretchen Hirsch, Sew Retro; The Starlet Suit Jacket.

But, CEO and co-founder John Levisay won me over when I went to visit the Craftsy office in Highland yesterday. First of all, he gets it. He's not pretending to be a crafter (although he did rattle off five different quilting methods in our interview, which is very impressive and would make my grandma proud).

"Over the years I worked at eBay, I gained appreciation for learning about genres of interest and passion," he explains. "They're fascinating. I know I'm not an expert in quilting, but I have an interest in being a curator for picking good instructors. There's a notion that everyone can teach a class, but some people are profoundly better at teaching a class than others. We're democratizing access to instructors."

Also, for all the "keep it local" supporters out there, Craftsy hires people locally (still hiring, by the way), keeps the business based here, even though Levisay was told to start it in California and the videos are filmed by the Craftsy production crew.

"It's been a nice story, just from a local perspective," says Levisay. "We really thought Denver was a great place to do business not only because of cost of living, and that it's a great city, but also because there are a lot of talented people here."

All in all, it's worth at least a look. Oh, and, Levisay is giving Westword readers a half-off discount to their first class, which means for about $25, you could have a wonderful night to yourself (or two, since most of the classes are at least six hours long) -- glass of wine, pajamas, knitting needles, and your very own instructor to teach you how to make the crocheted mustard-colored scarf you always wanted (okay, so that's what I've always wanted; you can pick your own).

For more information, to pitch your own class idea, or to register for free, visit Craftsy's web page. To get your discount, click this link:

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