This week, Ravelry posted a message that they had the ONE MILLIONTH person join the website. Wowsers! Hooray! Congrats Ravelry! Just in case you have been under a rock or something for a couple of years, and you haven’t heard of it — Ravelry is a unique free website for fiber lovers that was started in May 2007. The founders say:
Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration.
Some people call it “Facebook for knitters”, and while there is a large and thriving community on the Ravelry forums — and there are forums for just about every knitting topic imaginable —
I tend to think of Ravelry instead as an awesome knitting database. It is a gold mine of information, and can answer some very important knitting questions — if you know where and how to look.
So, what can you do with input from a million knitters (and crocheters)? Here are some useful things you can do with Ravelry that you may not have thought of!
1. Get the scoop on yarns before you buy. I have no idea how many yarns are catalogued on Ravelry by now — OK, I can’t help myself, I’m going to do the math. It looks like there is 500 pages worth, and at 20 yarns per page, that is 10,000 different yarns. Holy crap!
So, chances are that whatever you are considering is on there. And there is a 5-star rating system, so you can see how other knitters have rated that particular yarn. (Of course, just like any other online rating system, you need to take the ratings with a grain of salt — but since this isn’t entirely a public forum, and since I like to think that knitters are in general honest people, I believe the ratings are perhaps a bit more reliable here than elsewhere on the interwebs.)
2. Find a yarn with the exact characteristics you are looking for. And I do mean “exact”. Try out the advanced search for yarn, and you’ll get to filter your search results by whether it has a photo; how may fiber types are in it; what the fiber types are; weight, needle size, or hook size; whether it is discontinued; suggested gauge; and even if it is machine washable, plus much more. You can also save your search results!
3. Find a local yarn store near you. On the yarn page, Ravelry has a teensy little link that says there are 24 stores near me, and I can click it to get a list of them, sorted by distance and with web page links to boot! (Yes, with 24 stores, we are spoiled for choice here.)
4. Browse for ideas. OK, this sounds like nothing new, but indeed — if the idea of knitting another plain ol’ hat seems a bit boring, you can browse through pictures of hat patterns to your heart’s content. Here again, the biggest strength of Ravelry is its exhaustive filtering capabilities. You can search those hat patterns by so many different factors, I’m not even going to try to type them out. The obvious ones such as gauge or needle size are there of course, but also things like fit, ease, and yardage.
YARDAGE! that is so amazingly important, let me say that again. Search by YARDAGE! perfect for that whole problem of “lessee, I have 400 yards of this DK weight yarn — hmmm, wonder what I could make out of THAT?”
Even if you don’t find an idea that you love, you at least get a pretty darned good idea of how far that yarn is likely to go — and you won’t end up with half-finished sleeves and no yarn left. COMPLETELY AWESOME. That right there makes it worth signing up, for anyone with a stash — i.e. everyone. 🙂
5. Let other people browse for ideas. Suppose you are going to knit someone a scarf. OK, what kind of scarf do they want?
But when you ask this question — particularly to a non-knitter, and let’s face it, that’s who we knit for — it seems you always end up playing 20 Questions, asking things like, “Well, do you want a winter-y scarf or a dressy scarf? Animal fiber or plant fiber? Beads? Lace? Hey, there’s this one I saw in a book somewhere that has this kind of funky stitch pattern…”
Then you get a blank look and more often than not, they say something like, “Um, you know, just a scarf.”
So, this is where a picture on Ravelry is worth a thousand words! And bonus for teachers like me: it works for students, too. When a new-ish knitter doesn’t know what to knit, I always suggest they do a little looking around, whether in books or online, and Ravelry can be a good place for that — although a really brand-new knitter can get completely overwhelmed by it all.
6. See how a yarn looks when it’s knitted up. OK, so that lovely yarn looks really yummy in a skein, but what will it look like when it is knitted? It’s the $64,000 question in yarn stores around the globe, isn’t it?
Well, on Ravelry, you can search for other people’s projects in that yarn!The obvious way to do this is to search in “Projects” and then filter by yarn name — I find it is a whole lot simpler to search “Yarns” for the correct one, and then click on “projects” for that yarn.
7. Rescue a TOAD — or better yet, prevent one. My personal story of when I realized the awesome power of Ravelry…
…Once upon a time, I had some Sari Silk yarn. If you know what that is like, you know it has some pretty specific characteristics, and you can’t knit just any old thing with it. I searched for a pattern online and found one for “Unbiased”, a bag pattern from Knitty, Fall 2004. When it was finished, though, it didn’t hang right, and I figured I was going to have to redo the whole thing.
For whatever reason, I had the brainwave to look at other people’s projects on Ravelry. They have another very interesting rating system for projects: how happy are you with it? I think this one is pretty key. I mean, 3 stars out of 5 might mean someone didn’t like knitting with the yarn, but maybe you intend to use a different yarn or something. However, if a majority of people rate the finished thing as “so-so” or “very unhappy”, it just might behoove you to spend a few minutes reading why, and it might save you a whole lot of knitting time you can use for something better.
In my case, it turned out that not a lot of people were thrilled with the functionality of the bag. More than one person said things fell out of it too easily. Well, to me, that’s not a very useful bag! So I used the yarn to make a different bag and I use it all the time and get lots of compliments on it. How great is THAT?
Ravelry is so extensive, though, I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface. So now it’s your turn. What do YOU use Ravelry for?