Interweave offered me review copies of two of its new iPad apps, and since I’m always hearing crafters on Twitter asking where the good apps are, I was excited to check them out.
Interweave has quite a range of apps now. (Unfortunately, it’s surprisingly difficult to find a single web page that shows you all of them.) You can get a preview of each title for free, and then within the app, you can purchase individual “eMag” issues. I wanted to try two titles with differing aims: Live Wire, which is an instructional app for making wire jewelry, and Colorways, which is an informational title about natural dyes and textiles.
The downloads each took a couple minutes on my iPad. (You can go in and view your app while it’s in mid-download, but that means you’ll have lots of pauses in the reading experience while individual pages finish downloading. So it’s better to make yourself some tea while the download completes.)
The issue price of $4.99 is great as compared to the prices of many print magazines these days. Both apps, however, contain some sponsorship presence – Live Wire has a one-page ad from an outside sponsor, plus another one-page ad for Interweave wire titles. Colorways contains a few ad pages as well, and all for various Interweave publications for the spinning and dyeing crowd. I didn’t find any of this very problematic – given the quality of the production here, I’d think some sponsor dollars/house advertising would be helpful for keeping the cover price down.
So, let’s take these one at a time…
Live Wire is an excellent entry point for what I’d call advanced beginners with wire. Much of the instructional content is aimed at the basics (opening a jump ring, making wrapped loops), but the project set also involves some hammering and patina.
The projects themselves are pretty and interesting, and each one provides a nice entry point into a specific wire technique. Each project is covered in complete step-by-step fashion.
There are also show-and-tell sections covering the tools and materials you’d need and the basics of handling wire.
I love embedded video in ebooks – it’s so great to see a key technique in motion, with helpful tips from an expert. Denise Peck’s videos on making link loops were worth the five bucks to me all by themselves. And I loved that even the hammering and patina projects had their own basics videos.
Live Wire also takes advantage of the on-screen format to really maximize the size of the step-by-step photos for each project. The photography throughout is wonderful – Clear, sharp-focused, and perfectly framed to communicate the kinds of tiny details wirework is all about.
The Resources page, of course, links you directly to company websites – another thing apps can do better than print.
Speaking of print, each project has an accompanying PDF, which you can open in iBooks and, assuming you have a wireless printer connection for your iPad, print them. Personally, I felt this was a slightly weak point in the app. The PDF’s, constrained as they are by an 8 ½” x 11″ page format, contain much smaller photos. I’d use the easier-to-read layouts from within the app, but I can see where having a means of printing individual projects without consuming too much fo your toner could be useful for some users.
Colorways was, for me, an interesting glimpse into a craft I know next to nothing about. This app seems to be aimed at people who already have a good working knowledge of dyeing textiles; there’s a fair amount of jargon that doesn’t have explanation.
This app is much more about storytelling than how-to’s, however. As a newbie, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about cochineal (a red dye made from dried Peruvian bugs), the various natural colors of cotton fiber, a Japanese sun-dyeing technique called Kakishibu, and the Hèrè jè Center in Mali, which is a micro-enterprise teaching women and girls to dye beautiful cloth as a means of income and independence.
There is a also little how-to in here: Chris Conrad has a fascinating demonstration of Kakishibu, and India Flint demonstrates a technique called “cold-bundled eco-printing,” in which fabric is rolled with natural ingredients and then left to imprint slowly over time.
As in LiveWire, the still photography is excellent. I did feel that the videos in Colorways left a bit to be desired. I loved, for example, watching the Kokishibu demonstration and seeing a woman in Guatemala spinning cotton yarn. But there are quite a few “talking head” videos, in which the author or subject of an article stand and talk about the subject matter, and for me, these quickly grow stale, as they’re missing interesting visuals.
All in all, though, I think these apps are beautifully-presented and each one does what it does well. I like that Interweave is reaching artists and crafters at a variety of levels, and hope to see even more issues aimed at beginners and more advanced makers. The nice thing about these apps is their relative permanence as learning resources, which is a weird thing to say about a digital product, but bear with me. Print magazines, as we all know, tend to become clutter over time. We shelve them, or box them up, or trip over them in the hallway, but no matter how we archive them, locating a specific article at a specific time may require some time and effort.
Digital apps like these take up no space, other than disk space on my iPad. So I can easily refer to them again and again and easily get at specific pieces of information when I need them. Well done, Interweave!