by Amanda Look
A dear friend of mine, far craftier than I, gave me a pair of hand-knitted slippers for Christmas. They are the coziest, cutest little things and her generous gift spurred me to finally get my act together and learn to knit. I’ve always thought of it as a great hobby–keeps your hands busy on your daily commute, and it’s practical–you can actually enjoy the products of your labor! But where do you go in the city to learn to knit? It’s sort of the forgotten art, and other than a few Michaels and JoAnn Fabrics sprinkled around the city, I wasn’t sure there was even a place to buy yarn near my apartment (there isn’t). A friend of mine suggested Dabble – a Chicago-based website that offers classes of all kinds for only $20 a class. Sure enough they had a “Knitting Basics” class – a sort of intro-to, exactly what I was looking for. I signed up online and a week later I was sitting in an adorable coffee shop in Lincoln Park, CityGrounds Coffee, with four other women learning to knit.
Our instructor, Erica Hawkinson, a knitting expert with fourteen years of experience to boast about, welcomed us with great humor and warmth. Over the next hour and a half, Erica taught us all of the knitting basics – how to cast-on, purl and bind off (these words meant nothing to me before this class, either) the various yarns you can use, how to read a needle gauge chart, different kinds of stitches, etc. Before I knew it I had half of a pink potholder finished. Granted it wasn’t the prettiest thing I’d ever seen, but I was still tremendously impressed with myself. A few of us didn’t pick it up too quickly, but Erica was patient with all of us and walked around pointing out places where we’d made mistakes and tips for improvement.
At the end of the evening Erica introduced Jessica Lybeck, the Co-Founder of Dabble, who was sitting just a table away auditing the class, looking for ways to improve the Dabble experience. Now very satisfied with my own Dabble experience, I was delighted to have the opportunity to sit down with Jessica and ask her questions about the website.
CBSChicago: Tell us a little bit about how Dabble was created and why.
Jessica Lybeck: Dabble was conceived after we struggled with trying, learning and doing as an adult. We knew that like us, lots of people have a “bucket list” of interests they’re interested in pursuing (everything from brewing beer to learning guitar). However, the typical classes offered require a significant commitment of time or money (i.e., a 3-month long class for $800 that meets every Tuesday) and thus aren’t always attractive to folks with busy lives, families and careers.
Dabble makes it easier to try something new. We believe that one-time, $20 classes taught by passionate experts are a revolutionary new take on the age-old concept of classes. After hatching the initial idea, we built a website prototype and launched it in just 2 months in the end of May 2011.
CBSChicago: How would you describe Dabble’s mission?
JL: To make it easy for people to try something new and explore the city around them!
CBSChicago: How has Dabble expanded over the last few months?
JL: We’ve increased the number of classes we do per week from 4-5 to 7-8. We’ve launched a new web platform that will enable us to expand to other cities very soon!
CBSChicago: What’s the most unique Dabble event that you’ve seen in Chicago?
JL: One of my favorite “unique” classes listed was the High Heel 101 class.
CBSChicago: Favorite Dabble moment?
JL: The first class – Spanish 101. I remember showing up along with other students and thinking, “wow, we made this happen” … and no one knew it was the first class!
CBSChicago: Where do you see Dabble going from here? More cities? More events? Different events?
JL: We plan to expand Dabble to other cities in the US as well as internationally. We want our class offerings to stay accessible for our students (i.e. $20 a class) but will be exploring options to allow students to dive deeper into subjects.
CBSChicago: Tell us something we don’t know about Dabble.
JL: You might not know this – we launched a non-for-profit initiative called “Learn From” where we approach public figures to teach a class to benefit charity. We’d like to see Mayor Rahm Emanuel teach a class … although he seems like a busy guy!
CBSChicago: Do you Dabble? What Dabble class have you most enjoyed?
JL: Oh, I love dabbling! I took a yoga class this weekend that was fantastic and learning how to knit next week. A few of my favorites thus far have been Cupcake Decorating and Welding.
Well, Chicagoans, we no longer have any excuses. Dabble has made it far too easy for us! I’ve already signed myself up for two more classes: “Wine Tasting Like a Pro” and “Stress-free party planning.” Happy Dabbling, Chicago.