Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Online Craft Clubs

By Christina VanGinkel

If you have dreamt about joining a local craft club, but there is none in your area, and all of your attempts to create one have failed, do not despair. Joining an online club that could be even better than anything in person you would ever find, may well be the answer to your quest.

My first introduction to an online craft club was some years ago. I was not even looking to join an online club, but was actually in search of an outlet to buy supplies for my bead hobby. Local stores did not carry what I was in search of, and shopping online was only given me mediocre results. In my online search for some other outlets though, I stumbled across a few online stores and individual people's websites that offered access to groups related specifically to the hobby of bead working.

These groups, on the surface, appeared to be just places to chat about the hobby, about beads in general, but reading some of the saved messages, I discovered that they were much more than that. They were information clearinghouses, and places for friends to share resources, get in on bulk buys, make trades, sell unwanted supplies, and of course, to chat about all sorts of things, both hobby related and otherwise.

Even if there are craft clubs in your local vicinity, they may not be accessible to you for a variety of reasons. They might meet at times that are awkward for you, you might have tried them, but the group was just not, what you expected, nor did you seem to be getting anything from them, not even the enjoyment of meeting others with the same interests.

So now, you find yourself considering joining an online club. What can you hope to find in the way of an online craft club? Ideally, exactly what you are searching for. There are clubs that are about a specific craft, and those that are for crafters in general. Most share resources and access to supplies, with some even offering club kits that arrive monthly or following some other specific timeframe. Most clubs that offer a service such as this are hosted by an online store, though most do not require you to participate in order to be a member. Such a service is usually only offered as one service of the club among many other services, mainly a meeting place to hook up with other individuals who enjoy the same hobbies as you.

Most online clubs meet via a message board. A message board ahs many advantages over a group, such as the all familiar Yahoo group. They often have rooms, specific to different needs of the group. A club that meets to discuss crochet for example might have one room for the sharing of patterns, another room to upload pictures of finished projects, several rooms dedicated to various types of crochet, such as Filet Crochet or Tunisian Crochet, or rooms dedicated to fixing pieces of old crochet, or how to block your work.

One of my favorite aspects of being a member of an online craft club is that there is never a bad time to visit. Messages are stored, so even if everyone else is online in the morning, if you cannot pop in until later in the day, it is never a problem. You can read what was going on earlier, and then post your own messages whenever it is convenient to you. Rarely is everyone online at the same time anyways. Most clubs have people popping in and out at all different times of the day.

Membership in some online groups is by invitation only, and requires that you submit an application on why you would like to join. Once the club owner has read your application, and approved your membership, you are then sent information on how to enroll. Others just require you to set up a password and fill out a bio.

If you are having a difficult time locating a group locally, or just would rather check out the online group options, jump right in. You are sure to find a group, or even two or more, that is just what you were looking for.

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