New social media sites for knitters are popping up left, right, and center. The latest one to step into the limelight is The Making App from the company behind Making Magazine, founded by knitwear designers Ashley Yousling and Carrie Hoge.
Disclaimer: I'm in no way affiliated with The Making App. They didn't ask my to review the app; I'm doing it of my own volition and of a general interest in the knitting industry (unlike Those Two Dudes). Any opinions expressed in this post are purely my own.
What is The Making App?
'Make' is a very popular – albeit general – term that tries to capture the multitude of different media and disciplines available for handcrafters and artists. Not to be confused with Makerist (a Germany-based marketplace for digital patterns), Making Stories (an indie knitting pattern magazine focusing on sustainability), nor Making Things (a short-lived subscription-model knitting app from the serial entrepre-failure behind Wool Days and Bellish, both also defunct), The Making App defines itself as "a multicraftual app to track projects, get inspired, be supported by an amazing community, take classes and more".
Let's explore those claims.
As the name suggests, The Making App is a mobile app that's available for both iOS and Android platforms. You can also use a very limited sub-set of the features within a browser on a desktop PC.
Unlike knit & note, which can only be downloaded directly from their own servers (a massive security risk!), The Making App is available in the Apple and Play Stores – if you can find it, that is. And here's where the very generic name comes into play: it is very difficult to land on the right app because "making" is such a vague and common word. You have to type the name exactly, including the 'the', to locate the app before you can even download it. It's easiest to first point your browser their website and go from there.
Once you're logged in you can choose your interests but as far as I can tell, what crafts you pick here have no impact on what types of projects are shown in your home feed. You're also able to choose from three different account types – maker, designer, or brand – but I have no idea how they differ from one another.
The project notebook-y features (not available in the browser version) of The Making App are located under Studio. Here you can create projects and enter such details as the type of craft, the materials you're using, the name of the pattern, give a description of your project, and upload photos. Curiously, though, what you can't note down is when you started or finished the project.
Yarn and pattern names are linked to a central database of what everyone else has entered into the app or, if not found already, a new entry can be created.
Patterns already entered can be found under Search although this feature is quite clunky. You can't browse patterns, only search, so you need to know the exact name of a pattern or a very specific search term to use. And even then the results are a wild hit-and-miss. For example, my search for "cardigan" yields results for a laser-cutting project containing the word "cardinal" or a spinning project with the term "drum carding" that have nothing to do with cardigans.
Limiting the search to just patterns is a little more accurate but only turns up patterns with the exact word "cardigan" in the title. The data is only as good as the person who entered it. There seems to be no requirements on what or how much detail you need to enter so most patterns I checked are very barebones, like this tin can knits' Antler Cardigan – with the designer not even mentioned! The good news is, anyone can edit these pattern entries. The bad news is, anyone can edit these pattern entries.
On the far right of a pattern entry is the Projects tab where all projects linked to this pattern can be viewed. Most often, though, this is where the app crashed and only showed me a blank white screen. With enough attempts I managed to capture this screenshot of the whopping total of two Antler Cardigan projects (compared to 3218 on Ravelry).
Yarns can't be searched. Although they presumably exist *gestures vaguely* somewhere, you can't browse them. There is no stash feature like on knit & note or Ravelry, neither can you note down needles nor other tools and materials you own. There's also no queue-like feature for your future crafting plans.
The "For You" feed is the first thing you see when you open The Making App (again, not available in the browser version). This is a very Instagram-like infinite scroll of posts made by all users of the app.
It's possible that there's some hidden algorithm behind the feed but to me it doesn't feel like it. For You seems to be a constantly updating feed of posts that come in as they're made. The algorithm-free flow of posts gives an authentic, raw feel of what people are making right now. This is what Instagram used to feel like in the olden days of the chronological feed instead of the overtly-commercial, over-curated barrage of polished perfection it's now become.
On the For You feed you can comment on, like, or save posts you see. Tap a post to read more about it. Tap the round avatar and you're taken to that maker's profile where you can follow or message them. (Lentil the cat is The Making App mascot.) Not sure what following does, though, if anything.
As I wrote in the beginning of post, the crafts you pick when signing up have no bearing on what content you see in the For You feed. And that's a good thing! It's a refreshing change of pace to see not only the content I'm interested in (lots of knitting and sleeping cats and cats sleeping on knits) but also stuff I'd never think to seek out, like quilling (I don't even know what that is!), or banana knickers, or amazing bobbin shots that make me want to dust off my spinning wheel.
What I could do without is the huge neon-green plus sign hovering over everything right in my field of vision. As you can see, the UI still needs little tweaks here and there. The color palette could also use more cohesion. Now it's all over the place with muted earth tones on the splash screen and bright primaries everywhere else. I get that they're trying to color code every little aspect of the app but it just reads messy and confused.
But there are also privacy concerns in the way The Making App operates now. All posts made by all users are visible to all users. There are no private projects nor private posts – although you could make the same argument about Ravelry.
If I were to hazard a guess about how The Making App intends to turn a profit, I'd say it's the (paid) classes. This feature is still in beta but already there's much more push for it than any other aspect of the app. The Making Co has set up a support site on Zendesk which for the app itself – the very core product! – is extremely sparse. The sections on classes and teaching, on the other hand, both have twice as much content. It's also telling that while most of the features are only available in the mobile app, classes also work in the browser version.
Classes offered range from technique tutorials – such as Swiss darning or learning to use a rigid heddle loom – to virtual meetups and free webinars. There is currently no way to filter classes based on your interests or arrange them by price.
Whereas other features of the app are done within the app itself, classes are hosted on Zoom. Registering for a free class is simply done with the push of a button; instructions on how and when to join the class are sent to your email. For paid classes you need to (obviously) complete payment and register on Zoom. To attend the class, use the Zoom app (on mobile) or access the classroom in the browser (on the desktop). If you miss the live class (or just want to see it again), you can view the recording afterwards. This can be done both in the app as well as in the browser version but in either case you're taken off-site for the video.
The Making App also hosts a pattern library. This is separate from the pattern database that you get a glimpse of when starting a new project. It's also unlike the Ravelry library feature which contains all patterns you own.
Located under Studio, the library has two sections: patterns and magazines. Under patterns there is – for the time being at least – a small collection of Lentil-themed pattern PDFs from various crafting disciplines. These are freely accessible to all users. Magazines hosts digital issues of the Making Magazine which only paying subscribers can access.
Whether The Making App intends to turn the library feature into a full-fledged pattern selling platform – not just for Making patterns but for other publishers and indie designers as well – remains to be seen. Currently it's not possible to buy patterns on the app.
There are also a couple of other smaller features like chats (private messages) and circles (group chats for class attendees) that can be accessed by tapping the speech bubble on the left of the opening screen. Notifications are located under the heart-shaped icon on the right.
To sum it up
In summary, The Making App is an Instagram-like social media app for crafters from multiple disciplines with the focus on sharing project photos and attending crafting classes. For project tracking, though, it's not very handy.
Can The Making App upstage Ravelry? In its current incarnation, not by a long shot. But things might be a little different if they teamed up with the Norwegians and combined the class platform and social sharing aspects of The Making App with knit & note's project journal, and turned the library into a pattern sales platform for both designers and other publishers besides Making itself. (What would they call it, Making Notes?)
If you're interested in hearing more about building The Making App and the team's vision for the future, there's a free webinar coming up on March 5 hosted by The Making Co. CEO Ashley Yousling. Not only that, you'll be able to ask questions and give feedback about the app directly to the developers. I'll certainly be in attendance!
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