Remember back in January I mentioned I'd been for tea at The Life Craft? Well, I've been umming and ahhing over whether to properly review it, now that I've been for a full day course, and have been putting it off because to be honest, I don't have too many nice things to say about it. I don't want to write horrible things about a new craft business, I feel like I should be supporting my local craft shops but equally, I guess you learn by your mistakes. Now, I'm not under any illusion that my little corner of the blogosphere will in any way affect The Life Craft, it's not like I'm writing a review in the Guardian or anything like that, but I still feel a bit guilty.
So, my friends and I signed up for a day course back in November because they were running this amazing deal where we got a £70 day course for £25. They ended up being rather overbooked so we came in February instead, the same weekend of the amazing Ben Folds gig. It started at about 11am and we all had to gather just before 11 to choose our wool for our first class, crochet.
Each class was run for complete beginners, with the idea that by the end you would have the skills to go home and practice yourself and develop your new found craft. The crochet class was pretty good actually, the instructor went at a good pace and had a comedy size crochet hook to explain all the different stitches. In the last half hour she explained how to read a pattern and we set about crocheting a basic granny square.
The only criticism I would have of the crochet class was that the instructor wasn't that great at helping people who were struggling. Fine if she could sort out your problem in a few minuts, not fine if you needed more time and one-on-one tuition. I guess in her defence, she had about 14 of us to teach, but by the end most of us were OK by ourselves so she could have easily gone back to the people who were still obviously struggling.
Next up was sewing and at this point the day started to fall apart a bit. 15 minutes into our hour and a half class, the police showed up to help evict a pervy guy who had taken up residence in the coffee shop out the front. Fair enough, it was a distraction, but our instuctor disappeared at this point for a good 45 minutes, leaving us sitting with our threaded sewing machines and little scraps of muslin and nothing else to do. Even the police issue aside, she clearly didn't have anything extra to show us. Perhaps this is a bit harsh, maybe she had some amazing project to teach us hidden away somewhere and we just never got to see it because of the distractions, but it seemed a lot like she planned to take an hour and a half to show us how to thread our machines and sew practice stitches on muslin. By the time she came back, there was only 15 minutes left before our next class, so she helped one girl who had brought a project to work on, and left the rest of us to chat amongst ourselves. Not very professional.
Last for the day was knitting. In our group there were only a couple of people who couldn't knit at all so our instructor showed us how to cast on and knit and then set about telling us her life history and all the problems she'd been having with the shop, money and family. It was surreal, we were sat around knitting randomly with the wool provided to us, listening to a complete stranger who was supposed to be teaching us, pour out her heart. I felt bad for her, it seems like she's had a rubbish time of it recently, but we were there to learn and there wasn't a whole lot of learning going on. Once again, the people in the group who didn't know how to knit were neglected and eventually the class was over without them getting any help.
For £25 we got 2 balls of wool, a crochet hook, a pair of knitting needles and a yummy lunch of soup, a sandwich and a glass of wine. When you add up all that and minus that from the £25, the cost of the rather rubbish tuition wasn't too bad. On the other hand though, we got a brilliant money off deal, if I'd paid £70 for that day I would have been very unhappy.
In their defence, The Life Craft hasn't been around very long and so hopefully a lot of these problems will be sorted in the future. If it were my place I'd be trying to improve the professionalism of my staff, the quality of the teaching and would provide some basic projects for each class, so you finish with something in your hand to take home. The granny square was a great example, but there wasn't anything similar for the sewing and knitting classes.
We were offered £10 off our next course to apologise for the disruptions with the police but I have yet to receive anything through my email, as promised.
I would definitely go back for a cup of tea if I were in Glasgow, but I would hesitate before doing another course for a good long while.