Episode 27 – Digital Craft Resources

The Craft Room Podcast, episode 27 Digital Craft Resources

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Today I thought we’d talk about digital craft resources … essentially the way that digital resources have changed and affected and influenced us in the crafting community. In the last 20 years, I have seen a significant shift away from traditional resources like books, paper patterns, and in-person classes to a very big influence and presence of digital patterns and resources and classes. And I see that it’s affected us in the crafting community in three main areas. 

Accessibility
Affordability
Achievability

If you have a computer, a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, a printer, or access to one through a friend or family member or even your local library, you have access to digital craft resources now. 

So let’s talk about what a digital craft resource is, before we delve into all the ways it’s changed things. What I’m talking about is a PDF pattern that you purchase, download and print at home. I’m talking about digital stamps, digital scrapbooking kits, digital files that you can install on your embroidery machine to create these amazing patterns for you. So we’re talking about computer files, among other things. 

I remember the first time that the digital world really encroached on my personal crafting world. It was probably 15 or 16 years ago at the stitches and craft show and Rose Hill in Sydney, which I used to go to twice a year without fail. There was a booth selling products that would help you to use your computer in your crafting, I mean, the internet wasn’t as huge back then. And if we had it, we were on dial up. I did have a home computer, though I don’t think I was online. I used to use the internet in my parents house, though I did have a printer. One of the products that I picked up was called Bubble Jet Set. You could soak fabric in this liquid, and then dry it, apply it to a carrier sheet and print on it with your home inkjet printer. It would be fixed so that you could use it for different crafting projects. I thought that was really cool. I also picked up a digital craft magazine … I think it was called Computer Crafts (I even had a subscription). I used to get it regularly and I was enthralled. I was thrilled. I was delighted that digital mucking around on the computer could finally come into the crafting world. In one issue, they had a competition. They provided a clip art image … a line drawing of an urn. The brief was that you could use any crafting technique, but it had to have this urn represented in it. So I thought I would have a go. Back then I didn’t have a business, my kids were young (I’m pretty sure at least one of them would have been at school) and I was doing a lot of folk art painting. So I grabbed a frame out of my stash with a board in it, I took this image and my dad helped me to blow it up (scan it and resize it). Then I redesigned it … I cracked it and I broke a piece off and had it lying on the ground and I put some green tree frogs in and around this broken urn in kind of like a semi rural urban setting. I don’t know but it was, it was fun to do. And all you had to do was take a photo (I can’t remember if you had to mail the photo or email the photo) but I sent my picture in. I received a letter saying that I was a finalist and that the winner would be announced in the next magazine which was very exciting. So the next magazine arrived and I looked and … oh my goodness, there were these amazing projects. There was a quilt … it was an underwater scene, and the urn was part of an applique section in a lost city of Atlantis kind of situation. It was stunning! It had to at least be a double bed size. It was enormous. There was a huge mosaic table, there were embroideries, there was digital art. There were all sorts of things and I thought, “Oh my goodness, these things are incredible. But where’s mine?”. I turned the page and you could have knocked me over with a feather. I won with my painting of my broken urn with my tree frogs! I won my first digital camera. It was one megapixel (this is how long ago this was) and a bunch of digital and kind of modernized crafting things like dyes that you could use to dye lace and set the colour in the microwave. It was an amazing time. It was thrilling. I’ve always been a fan of computers, really, my dad was a big fan. And so to have my two favorite worlds collide, it was a beautiful thing. So that’s what I’m talking about. Digital doesn’t always necessarily have to be digital planning or digital scrapbooking where it all takes place on a computer. It’s just resources that you can source digitally online via a computer or a smartphone that helps you with your craft.

The Craft Room Podcast, original artwork by Dawn Lewis

Accessibility

Really, if you’ve got a computer, laptop, smart phone, a printer or tablet of your own or one that you can use at someone else’s home, or even at your local library, you have access to a smorgasbord of crafting resources. I mean, they’re at your fingertips, and a quick search is going to make it happen. You can find what you need. Now of course, yes … there are rabbit holes that we can go down and spend a lot of time getting lost in (Pinterest is one such amazing place). However, if you’ve been crafting as long as I have, you know what you’re looking for, you can find what you’re looking for relatively quickly and access it and have it in your hands quite fast. 

It used to be that we had to wait … for the shop to open, a craft show to come to town, the library to get our book in or the snail mail catalogue to arrive. That is no longer exclusively the case. You can download a file, print it off and start using it. For example … I was looking for a scarf pattern, and I finally found the one I was looking for. I was skulking around Creative Fabrica and I found this beautiful crochet scarf pattern. Yes, I could have just done a rectangle but I wanted something with a bit more interest. Yes, I could have designed my own but right now I don’t have time for designing (I find designing to be quite a laborious, very long drawn out project. It’s not an easy thing for me, but it’s easy for someone else). So I wanted to support another designer. Now here’s what I did. I opened the website, I searched for crochet scarf pattern. I found it on the first page of my search. I saw it had all of the interest in it that I was looking for and I went “Yeah, that’s what I want.”. I put it in my cart, I purchased it, I downloaded it, I printed the three page pattern, and I started working on it inside of 15 minutes. That is what I mean when I say that these things are more accessible than they used to be 20 years ago. I still love to stroll around a craft show, flip through library books, wander the aisles of book stores and look at the beautiful patterns and products … but there are more immediately rewarding options. Now we can quickly scroll, we can even find recommendations from people who we know have a similar taste to us. 

The accessibility side is absolutely perfect for us as crafting consumers and makers and doers. But let’s talk about the flip side, because it is now a whole lot easier for designers to create and sell their patterns than it used to be. 

I have created a lot of patterns for a variety of craft magazines over many years. Sure, it’s hard work, and I prefer teaching over designing, but when I can’t find an existing pattern, I can create one. Consequently, I have a stack of original designs just sitting waiting for me to convert them into PDF files and be added to my shop. These days it is so easy to throw that pattern into a Word document, edit those photos in Photoshop, and put it all together using Canva. There is a huge selection of software and websites (many of them free to use), that can help a designer turn those handwritten notes into a gorgeous PDF pattern. You don’t have to write a book. You don’t have to sell hard copies. You’re not having to have things printed and constantly be running out of ink halfway through a printing session. You don’t have to be going to the post office, sending invoices, waiting for cheques, going to the bank and all those old-school ways of selling your original patterns or designs. Selling hard copies by post … it’s hard work. I run a retail business. All of my orders are mail order, so it’s a lot of work packing and hitting the post office every day. Today a designer can create it, make a PDF, upload it to a website … perhaps their own website, Etsy, Made It, Creative Fabrica, even eBay or Gumtree … and it’s out there. It’s done. It’s sitting there in their little shop for anyone to find and buy, then download and print themselves. They don’t have to worry about printing, bagging, going to shows and paying for booth fees, insurance and hoping someone will wander by and like their product. Instead the website can show it to prospective customers while they sleep, and they can spend more time creating cool new patterns and designs and less time at the printer & post office. Sure … it can take time to learn how to use new software to make your patterns look amazing, but that’s a great one-off investment for the time and money you can save doing it yourself.

Affordability

As I just mentioned, as a designer and seller, we used to have to pay for a show booth, public liability insurance, printing, binding, bags and invest in shop fittings to exhibit at a craft show. Of course some of the bigger designers are still going to do that. Craft shows are a great way to meet people with similar interests and be seen by folks who may not normally see your work. However, when you are just starting out, a craft show is a huge investment. With the incredible digital resources at our fingertips, you can pretty much create a PDF pattern for free! The overheads are somewhere between free and low. There’s no binding and traveling, trips to the post office and shipping to worry about. When none of that exists, the sellers have much lower overheads so they don’t need to charge such high prices to cover their costs. That translates to more affordable resources for us as crafters! I distinctly remember paying $12 for a pattern that was printed in black & white on A4 paper, in a pretty plain clear plastic bag at a craft show easily 20 years ago. These days I could source a similar pattern for $4, and print it at home. Printer ink is pretty affordable these days, and even if you don’t have a printer at home (or you’ve run out of ink) you can throw that file onto a thumb drive, take it down to Office works and they’ll print it for you at 10 cents a page (obviously more for colour, but do you really need colour?). Regardless, it’s quick, it’s easy, it’s inexpensive … affordability doesn’t just translate into money, it also translates into time. 

When you take a booth at a craft show, you’re investing a lot of time and money, and you can only do one show at a time. We’re talking 3 or 4 figure amounts for a booth, and many hours of prep, set up and pack down, all in the hope that someone walks past, sees your wares and wants to buy them. Right now, because of COVID, there are no in-person craft shows … so our clever craft designers need a new outlet, and if you’re isolating at home like me, you’re probably doing your fair share of online shopping (also like me).

When you’re selling online, you can be in many places with that original design at once. Some places you can list things for free to sell. Other places, there’s a fee to list like Etsy (it’s 20 cents to list). Look around, look at the fees involved and do some math. If you’re selling on a third party website, of course there are going to be fees. They’re running the website and doing a lot of advertising, marketing and bringing people to their big website (and making it pretty so we stay and shop). Your job as the designer and seller of digital craft resources is to make your shop look pretty, make sure your patterns are well tested and easy to follow. Of course you need to do your own marketing (that’s only smart), because places like Etsy, Creative Fabrica and Made It are great big places. We as consumers can shop around and jump from shop to shop, it shows us suggestions based on their clever algorithms as the website watches what we’re clicking on. And yeah, we’re spending time, but we’re saving money (and having a blast looking at all the pretty things). Nowadays you can pick up a digital pattern, stamp or font for just a few dollars, sometimes less, and sometimes free. Example … I picked up a gorgeous digital stamp pattern on Creative Fabrica. It’s a set that features hands, in various poses. They’re just stunning and I have a bunch of ideas in my head and am excited to use them. Well, I logged in to download it (because it went into the cart, then it took me a little while to actually go and download it) … and you wouldn’t believe it … it was on special for 40 cents. Now. You bet I shared that bargain on Instagram, on tik tok, on Facebook … everywhere I am on social media. I’m like “You have to check this out! This is cool. I bought it, I was going to use it anyway. But look, it’s 40 cents, oh my goodness.” We, as crafters, love a bargain and if we see a bargain for a digital resource, we’re going to share it with our fellow crafters.

Achievability

With the digital resources we have right now … oh man … craft has never been more achievable. You can find tutorials, hacks, online classes, step by step photos on blogs and more. There are so many places you can search and find that vital piece of information that you need to do the thing that you want to do. 

Want to learn how to crochet? You have options! Try YouTube (that’s how I learned how to crochet). Is YouTube a good substitute for learning in person? Well it just depends on how you learn. It worked for me. Look for a book suitable for crochet beginners (read the reviews). Search your local library’s catalogue to see if they have any books (you can even reserve library books!). Search for reviews on local crochet classes / teachers. I teach classes locally (well, I did before COVID). I love to sit with people and teach them in person. I can see what they’re doing and I can make corrections as they’re working. There are also online classes, blogs and TikTok videos with great crochet tips.

This year I launched a Copic Subscription Box. As part of the class & kit box you get a video tutorial, with real time coloring (none of this sped up business) and proper explanations. I’m a certified Copic Instructor, but I can’t teach in-person classes right now, so I thought I’d design a class you can do at home. Each month the class builds your skill & technique knowledge, the colour selection builds a great basic Copic collection, and it’s the next best thing to taking a class with me in person. Can you find all that information for free on the internet? Yes. The question is, how much time do you want to spend looking for all that free information? How can you tell if it is accurate? And how quickly do you want to learn? If you want the free stuff. It might take you longer If you want to learn it now, go for the paid class with a reputable teacher.

One of the greatest online resources we can use to achieve a great outcome is reviews. Reviews about books, products, stores, teachers, classes, patterns and so much more. Is this pattern easy to follow? What level do I need to be at to be able to achieve this project? Is this class good to take? I signed up for an online cartooning class a few months ago, and the first thing that I did was look for reviews. If I’m looking to buy a product, shop at a new store or try a new designer … I’m hitting up Google for reviews.

We also have access to design teams. I work dominantly in the stamping world and pretty much every stamp company has their own design team. I’ve been on a few design teams for digital stamp companies and one physical stamp company. The Design Team works with new release products, and they show you clever ways to use it. What an amazing resource! If you are looking at a stamp set, yet are in two minds about purchasing it, you can go to Pinterest or do a Google search for the name of that stamp set, and you will see a whole bunch of images. By seeing how others are using a stamp set, a stencil, a yarn, a pattern … it can give you some ideas about its versatility. I like to stick to the 3 ideas rule … if I can’t think of 3 different ways to use it, then I’m probably not going to get much use from it, and I either need to think harder, do a Google search or not make the purchase. It’s in seeing examples that we can decide if we will be able to achieve the results we want with these supplies, and if it’s not versatile enough, or the reviews say it doesn’t do the job it says it will, then save yourself the money and buy something else that you know will do the job. When you’ve been crafting for a long time, you can tell when the Design Team is bursting with ideas, or if they’re kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel. 

Another great resource is to look to pattern testers. Follow their blogs or Instagram feeds, and see what they’re saying about the patterns and tools that they’re testing. They can give you a feel for whether this project is suitable for your skill level, and whether the pattern is easy to read, or requires some interpretation.

Some of my favourite digital craft resources include …

* Digital stamps
* Digital scrapbooking kits
* Fonts
* Crochet patterns
* Embroidery patterns
* Machine embroidery files
* Building plans
* Print on demand designs
* Card & layout sketches

I’m going to link you to a quite a few of my favourite resources below, including one of my favourite digital stamp designers … Mo Manning. If you’re into yarn, then Ravelry is a must-visit website and community. Etsy is not just for handmade, but also supplies for makers … and that includes patterns and digital resources! If you want to skip the physical product and only look for digital craft resources, then Creative Fabrica is the one for you.

There are a few things you need to know when working with digital craft resources.

Terms of Use

Each individual designer is going to have a different wording and different allowances in their terms of use. Please read them, and please follow them. Designers put a lot of effort into creating a pattern or an image, and as it is their creation, they set the rules. For example … most digital stamp companies are happy for you to resize images, however, some are not. Regardless of their decision, they hold the right to determine how their creation is used, and when you make that purchase, you’re agreeing to their terms of use. Personally, I love resizing digital stamps. I can make them tiny for a tag or big for a canvas, I can combine it with a digital background, or place a character inside the letters of a word. But some digital stamps TOU do not allow you to make these manipulations. So be sure to read the terms of use and follow them. If you don’t agree … then don’t make the purchase.

Copyright

I saw someone ask recently in a Facebook group if it was okay for them to stamp one image, colour it with their Copic markers, then scan it and print multiples. No, that is not okay. It’s a breach of copyright and against the company’s Angel policy. Copyright remains with the original creator or company that has produced the pattern or design. When we purchase a digital file, we don’t own the copyright … we are buying the right to use that image or pattern, usually for personal use. Some patterns and designs do grant commercial license (like Creative Fabrica), so do your research and read the fine print. 

Also with digital resources, no sharing. Be cool. When you buy this you buy for personal use, it does not grant you permission to share it with 100 different people. Imagine spending years learning how to design your own original patterns or draw amazing artwork, pouring all your time and effort into creating something amazing, only to find that one person bought it for $4.99 then shared it with 100 different people (or more), or stole that design and is claiming it as their own. We need to support the genuine artists and designers, because they can’t pay their bills or feed their kids without sales. They can’t pour more of their time and effort into creating new patterns and designs from shared files that are just going to be given away for free. The more this happens, the faster they give up, and if our designers and artists stop creating original works, there will be no more wonderful resources for us to use.If you see something that you know your friend would love it, send them a link, and then they can make the purchase themselves. And while I’m on this little rant … just because a line drawing is or a photo or a pattern is on Pinterest or Google, that doesn’t mean it’s up for grabs for free. Let’s support our designers, creators and artists by purchasing their original work. Even if you’re on a budget, it’s possible, as evidenced by my recent exciting 40c digital stamp discovery. I want to tell you more about that.

Previously I mentioned Creative Fabrica. If you’ve never heard of them before, they are a digital craft resource website, based in Amsterdam, and this is my find of the year so far! It’s a third party selling/shopping site, which operates kind of like Etsy, in that anyone can set up shop there. Every design that is submitted to the store to be sold is run through a database to make sure that it’s not breaching any copyright, which I think is phenomenal. Every font, pattern, print on demand or embroidery file you purchase comes with a commercial license. So if you want to make something to sell using a pattern or file you buy there, you can totally do that. They also have impressive sales (hence my 40c digital stamp collection discovery) and loads of free stuff. And if your cart is just bursting with digital craft goodies, they have a membership program with unlimited access to all those delectable resources.

Now, I get a lot of emails from companies asking me to work with them, or represent them. Some are great companies, but don’t quite fit with what I do, or what I think you would enjoy hearing me talk about or see me make videos or posts about. It might be tempting to work with them, but it needs to be something I’m 100% excited about using and sharing. So, most of the time, I answer back to those emails with a “Thank you that’s very flattering, but no thanks.”. I’ve only taken up three offers in the last few years. One was from just Jasart pencils, asking me to be a brand ambassador (which I quickly said yes to because I was already a fan of their products). The second was just a one off promotion from a company that sell these really cool bins … oh my goodness, these cute little sleek bins, perfect for craft desks, and they said, “Hey, we’d like to send you a free bin and give you a code so if any of your people like it, they can use the code and get a discount”. I’d been eyeing off this bin for a while and I said, “Yes, please. That’d be great”. (I’ll link to that code and the videos I made in the show notes and blog post for you as well.) That’s not an ongoing relationship, it was one off. If I didn’t think it was a good piece of kit, I would have said no. 

The third email was from Creative Fabrica. They really did their homework before they approached me, and when they said they thought we’d be a great fit to work together, they weren’t wrong! A quick tour around their website and I was in (ok, it wasn’t exactly quick … I went down many a rabbit hole and placed many an item in my cart). They were right … I love what they have to offer, and more importantly, I think that it’s an amazing place for you to find some great resources for your crafting too.

I’m really excited to be working with them, and I have what’s called an affiliate partnership with Creative Fabrica. If you’re thinking that this is the part where I try to give you the hard sell, I thought, instead, that this could be the part where I am completely transparent about how this works. Hand on my heart … I would be recommending Creative Fabrica whether I was an affiliate or not. They have heaps of cool stuff, it’s affordable, and there’s loads of freebies. I’m not just a partner, I’m a customer.

Do I receive a little payment when you make a purchase using one of my links? Yes.
Does that cost you anything? No.

Having an affiliate partner like me is part of their marketing budget, which is a nice change of pace from placing ads all over the internet which pop up and annoy people. Instead, I get to pick cool patterns and designs and projects, and share them with you. If I don’t like it, I don’t share it … but so far I’m loving the patterns I’ve been using. If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen a gorgeous yellow, black, grey and white scarf that I crocheted a few weeks ago, and the black, red & grey one I finished on the weekend. I got that pattern from Creative Fabrica. That’s the pattern that I talked about earlier. I bought it, downloaded it, printed it and started working on it inside of 15 minutes. When you click on one of my affiliate links and make a purchase, it helps support me as I create the free resources that I have on offer, like this podcast, tutorial videos, blog posts and free downloads. Every little purchase is appreciated, not only because you’re supporting me, but also because you’re supporting an awesome independent designer who worked hard to create something amazing. 

Scroll Lace Scarf, Creative Fabrica

And isn’t that the core of crafting, to give ourselves a little ‘me time’, to keep our hands busy, to distract us from the bad stuff that’s going on out there, to create something that makes someone else’s life better. That’s why I love to craft … the sense of community, the opportunity to give back or pay it forward … it’s a beautiful thing. So I love that I can support a designer, and I can show you some cool designers that you can support as well. And if I didn’t think that these designers were hot stuff, I would have said no, but I do think that these designers are hot stuff. I appreciate the transparency of the company and I also wanted to share that transparency with you. 

So one of the things that I have coming up is a series of live Zoom tours of Creative Fabrica. If you haven’t had a look around the website yet, I thought we could do that together. The Zoom tour is a free event, just for fun … kind of like a website unboxing. I’m going to run four tours … 2 weekday tours (one daytime, one evening) and 2 weekend tours (one daytime, one evening) next week. I’m going to share my screen and we’ll walk around (oh, I guess we’ll click around) and look at the cool stuff that they’ve got on there. I’m excited to be your digital tour guide and if you’re just mad about pandas, or owls or foxes, let’s go looking for some cool digital resources with pandas or owls or foxes! For those who can’t make a tour, I’ll be recording one, and will post that on YouTube. I have linked to the 4 Zoom tours below, and I hope I see you there.

And how could I forget … Zoom! What an awesome resource that has turned out to be during COVID lockdown and isolation. Crafting with friends and chatting via video … it’s very Jetsons, and honestly I never thought I’d see the day where video phone calls were real (which makes me sound super old, I know).

So many great resources … which makes me wonder. What is your favorite digital craft resource? Is there something in particular that has impacted you in your crafting life? I know it’s made a big difference to me. I’ve made friends in crafting communities, I found amazing patterns to create. If you’ve been a regular listener, you’ll know I’ve been working on a Mario quilt for six years now. It’s getting close to being finished (one day I’ll take some time to actually complete those final blocks). I found that on the internet, it was a free pattern. I’ll link to it in the blog post and in the show notes for you. What have you found that has blown your mind and changed the way you craft? I would love to know, and  you can leave a comment on the blog post. Drop me a DM a pm and email let me know.

Zoom Tour Dates & Free Tickets
Weekday day time
Tues 8 September 11am
CLICK HERE for your free ticket

Weekday night time
Wednesday 9 September 8:30pm
CLICK HERE for your free ticket

Weekend day time
Saturday 12 Sept 1:30pm
CLICK HERE for your free ticket

Weekend night time
Saturday 12 Sept 8:30pm
CLICK HERE for your free ticket

LINKS
Blog post
Copic Subscription Box
Episode 4, trimmers & diecutting machines
Mo Manning Digital stamps
Ravelry
Etsy
Jasart Pencils
Bin video & code
Creative Fabrica
Scarf Pattern
Hand Holding digital stamps
Mario Quilt pattern

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