Untangling: Knit Stars

knitstars

Something very exciting is happening in the knitting world in October — and, believe it or not, I don’t mean Rhinebeck.

About a month ago, someone in my knitting group told me about Knit Stars, an online summit with classes from Stephen West, Hannah Fettig, Rosemary “Romi” Hill, Meghan Fernandes of Pom Pom Quarterly and many other members of the “knitterati.” The idea behind the summit, which runs from October 10 to 21, is to provide access to top-tier instruction without the expense of travel. You’re also able to watch the classes whenever you have time, even after the summit ends.

Along with the videos, Knit Stars includes the ability to snag yarn in exclusive colorways from several indie dyers, including The Uncommon Thread and Julie Asselin, who is also filming a class. It’s a great way to gather with the knitting community if you’re not headed to New York in a couple of weeks, or a nice instructional supplement to the yarn-buying and cider donut-eating you’ll be doing at Rhinebeck. Enrollment in Knit Stars reopens on Friday, so head here to sign up by Oct. 6.

I thought Knit Stars was such a cool idea and immediately reached out to the creator, Shelley Brander to learn a little more. Shelley also owns Loops, a bricks-and-mortar and online yarn shop in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as a branding company with her husband.

Tell me how the idea for Knit Stars came about.

My Knit Stars partner, Ashley, approached me at an online marketing conference. She had created the Modern Calligraphy Summit which was a tremendous success in the calligraphy space, and she asked if I’d like to collaborate. I loved the idea of bringing such a new, fresh platform to the yarn world – and enabling people around the world to come together and access the knowledge of the top Knit Stars.

How did you decide which instructors to include?

We considered many factors, including areas of expertise, teaching style, personality, and social media presence. We wanted a blend of the widely known (like Stephen West) and up-and-comers (like Julie and Jeff Asselin). Stephen travels and teaches a lot, but there are so many people who never have access to him. Hannah travels very little by choice, so it’s a really unique opportunity to have her teach in the Summit. Ultimately, I thought of the people I most love to hang out with and learn from at market and other industry events. The people I would invite to the ultimate yarn and cocktail party.

Hannah Fettig shooting a Knit Stars video.

How does the video production work? Do you send crews to film the instructors, do they come to you, or do they create their own videos?

For the free pre-launch videos, we interviewed the instructors via Skype. But for the actual Summit content, we went to them, utilizing a professional video and editing crew. I have a 30-year background in branding and broadcast production, and I wanted this to be the highest possible quality. Our team delivered, big time! The result is beautiful, engaging instructional content, mixed with mini-movies that give you a peek into each Star’s world, lifestyle and inspiration.

What have been the biggest challenges in putting Knit Stars together?

It’s been so much fun, I’ve barely noticed the challenges! It has been a LOT of work but so gratifying to hear everyone’s positive comments. I’d say the biggest challenge has probably been educating people about this platform, because it’s completely new to our industry. It’s hard for people to believe that they could get nine Stars’ full workshops at this price, and we have to explain that they will own the classes forever, and be able to refer to them again and again – which is so critical when it comes to knitting instruction. You can attend an amazing in-person workshop but it’s hard to absorb everything in the moment. You need to be able to go back, pause, rewind… and practice.

Are you planning for this to be an annual event?

Based on the huge response thus far, I would say yes. I also believe that once Knit Stars enrollees see the quality and depth of the content and bonuses, the word is going to spread, and there will be lots of demand for more.

Shelley Brander

Shelley Brander

How do you juggle running Loops while also organizing Knit Stars?

One word: Coffee. No, seriously, I have a tremendous staff (we call them the Loops Troops) and Ashley has been spectacular to work with. She is the one putting the nuts and bolts of the actual Summit together.

Tell me about how you learned to knit.

I was 16 and my family took a car trip from Tulsa to the east coast. We stopped in to see a friend of my mom’s who owned a yarn shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. She put the needles in my hands, and taught me to cast on. From there, I spent the rest of the car trip making a cable sweater (with orangutan arms!). The rest is history.

Do you have a favorite FO?

Whatever I’m designing for LoopsClub is my favorite FO of the moment. I get the most compliments on the coral Andromeda poncho that I made years ago from Knit Collage Stargazer, a 100% silk with cool brass paillettes, so I wore it in the Knit Stars video. We’ve had so many requests for the pattern, we’re bringing the yarn back from the discontinued pile with Amy from Knit Collage, and offering kits on LoopsLove.com to Summit enrollees!

Untangling: Creativebug

The Creativebug team. Left to right: Chelsea Sena, Devlin Mannle, Fernando Santacruz, Jeanne Lewis, Kelly Wilkinson, Matt Novak, Erik Wilson, Ken Bousquet, Ursula Morgan, Stephanie Blake, Courtney Cerruti, Brian Emerick, Julie Roehm, Su Li, Liana Allday.

The Creativebug team. Left to right: Chelsea Sena, Devlin Mannle, Fernando Santacruz, Jeanne Lewis, Kelly Wilkinson, Matt Novak, Erik Wilson, Ken Bousquet, Ursula Morgan, Stephanie Blake, Courtney Cerruti, Brian Emerick, Julie Roehm, Su Li, Liana Allday.

This is the third in a series of blog posts with the generous sponsors of the 2016 Rhinebeck Trunk Show.

These days, there is certainly no shortage of resources for receiving knitting instruction online, whether you do a Google search for a certain technique or need to re-learn the basics. But, sometimes you just want to really sink your teeth into a new technique or project, but don’t have the time, or the budget, to take a class with a well-known teacher.

There are a few sites that offer a way to take classes online, but I particularly like Creativebug. Run by CEO Ursula Morgan, Creativebug offers knitting classes from the likes of Marly Bird, Gundrun Johnston, Norah Gaughan and Jill Draper, as well as video instruction on sewing, quilting, jewelry making and paper crafts. The model is particularly unique, as it gives you the opportunity to pay a small monthly fee for access to as many classes as you’d like — which is especially nice if you want to explore crafts that go beyond knitting and crochet.

As I am a Creativebug affiliate (clicking the link above will allow me to receive credit if you decide to become a member), they were one of the first companies I considered as a new sponsor of this year’s Rhinebeck Trunk Show. I recently chatted with Ursula about the business:

Tell me about how Creativebug got started.

In short, Creativebug was started with an idea and two cousins. Jeanne Lewis was chatting with an artist friend in New Orleans about an online art class that she had spent $160 to take and it was only available for three weeks. This triggered some thoughts for Jeanne. She thought about how she wouldn’t have three weeks straight to work on a class, so what if she could access a class that was affordable and available to fit within her schedule (even at 3 a.m.) as well as be available for as long as she needed. There were a lot of twists and turns with the initial idea. She eventually brought in her cousin Julie Roehm to help develop the business model, and after many, many long nights and days, www.creativebug.com was born.

How do you feel Creativebug sets itself apart from similar websites?

Creativebug is different for many reasons: we are subscription based versus a pay by class platform. For $4.95 a month you have unlimited access to over 700 classes, and each month you get to add a class of your choice to your Library to keep forever. Our videos are crafted in a documentary style, which we believe creates a more personable way of teaching/learning. We have also created an environment where we are able to offer classes on a plethora of crafts taught by instructors that support each other, and who like promoting and supporting each other’s craft. We are really proud of how unique our site is.

How do you choose your instructors?

We select our instructors very carefully. We think that it’s important to have instructors that are able to articulate the different ways one might approach the craft. While not exclusive, we usually have instructors who have established a name for themselves as an expert in their craft or have had a book published, which is also helpful in determining their teaching style.

Left: Jeanne and the dev team discuss changes to the site. Right: During the meeting, Urusula and Julie check in through a window that opens into Jeanne and Ursula’s office.

Left: Jeanne and the dev team discuss changes to the site. Right: During the meeting, Urusula and Julie check in through a window that opens into Jeanne and Ursula’s office.

What’s the average day like at the Creativebug HQ?

As you can imagine, there isn’t really an “average” day here in Creativebug HQ! Some days you’ll find us shooting in the studio, meeting with our great partners or having a crafternoon. We have Live Shoots every Tuesday and Thursday and we have our Numbers meeting every Monday with our entire team where we all contribute ideas on how to keep our business sustainable. One thing that we have every day is excitement, all while shop dogs Pup Charlie and Ollie run around playing with each other!

What are some of the biggest challenges for a site such as yours?

One of the biggest challenges for our site is consumer recognition. When people come across Creativebug, we want them to know who we are and feel confident subscribing to us. We are a new frontier, being “Netflix” for crafters and DIYers. There’s not really another service out there on a subscription basis that lets you swim in all lanes. So it’s important to us to explain to customers that they have access to hundreds of classes, getting that value proposition across. The other challenges are turning this digital business into a sustainable business, keeping people loyal and growing our subscription numbers.

creativebug-knitting

Have there been employees who have learned a new craft from a Creativebug class?

Tons!! I think that every single one of us has learned a new craft from Creativebug! I have learned how to make a beaded leather tassel necklace with Elke Bergeron that I am obsessed with,
Julie is painting now thanks to Yao Cheng’s watercolor class, Zenaida has picked up drawing, starting with Lisa Congdon’s Basic Line Drawing class, Li learned how to bake a pie with a delicious crust, Devlin learned how to knit twisted rib socks with Edie Eckman.

Is there a particularly unusual craft project that someone at Creativebug has done?

There are a few, but perhaps the most peculiar would be Faith’s Facebook “Bubble Print” live shoot. Who would have imagined that food coloring and dish soap could create such beautiful images to create cards and gift tags!