How Ravelry Works


Ravelry brings together yarn artists and resources on a single social networking Web site. See more pictures of popular web sites.
Screenshot by Stephanie Crawford

Some may say that they believe the yarn arts, like knitting and crochet, are only for grandmothers. However, the Internet is helping to debunk this stereotype. Knit and crochet enthusiasts around the world can use the Internet to search for patterns, share ideas, exchange tips and show off their projects. These yarn artists come together online at social networks like Ravelry.com where they can find patterns, yarns and even new friends.

Ravelry is a free social networking Web site for those who knit, crochet and spin yarn. Ravelry includes tools to help you plan and track your projects, and to organize your yarn and tools. For interaction with other members, the site includes forums, groups, pattern sharing and yarn contributions. With more than 400,000 registered users, Ravelry also lets you create an advertiser account and purchase ad space to help promote your own business targeted to yarn artists.

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Ravelry was created by husband-and-wife team Casey and Jessica Forbes in April 2007. Jessica, who had been blogging (and kitting) for years, stated that she was frustrated searching the Internet for just the right patterns and yarns. Casey, a computer programmer, joined Jessica in planning and creating their own Web site to bring together yarn artists and their resources. As Ravelry grew in its first two years, the Forbeses recruited employees from among its membership to handle responsibilities at the site. As of May 2009, the staff of four included Jessica, Casey, Mary-Heather and Sarah [source: Unraveled].

Since Ravelry launched, Casey and Jessica have featured their dog Bob as the site mascot. Bob is featured in ads and whimsical graphics throughout the site, and in some promotional goodies. Ravelry members recognize April 11 as "Bobmas," celebrating each anniversary of the Ravelry Web site [source: Unraveled].

Using Ravelry

Use your notebook to organize projects and to track favorites and friends.
Use your notebook to organize projects and to track favorites and friends.
Screenshot by Stephanie Crawford

Even before you create an account at Ravelry, you can read the Unraveled blog and follow the site's Twitter feed. The blog includes news about the site and current online sales there. Featured bloggers include Jessica and Casey Forbes who own and run the site, and their fellow staff member Mary-Heather. Site mascot and Forbes family member Bob, a Boston terrier, also has his own page at the blog.

To sign up for a Ravelry account, you'll need to submit your e-mail address. Early in the site's history, this could be followed by months of waiting for an invitation [source: Y]. Now, your invitation code e-mail arrives immediately, and you can just click the link in your e-mail to finish setting up your account.

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While you're logged in at Ravelry, you can update your profile with a few details you want to share about yourself, including your favorite curse word. From the Ravelry home page, you can read the Ravelry newsletter, search the site for resources and even get help using the site. You can also link to Ravelry's store with promotional items like T-shirts and buttons that promote the Web site.

You can access your own personal corner of the site from the "My Notebook" tab at the top of each page. In your notebook, you can manage your friends and groups and access your messages. You can even see your blog posts from another Web site if you linked to that blog in your profile settings. To help with your yarn artistry, you can also use the following tools:

  • Projects -- Add your projects, track your progress, link to the yarns and patterns you used, and share photos
  • Stash -- List the current yarns you have, and use the site to search and identify the brand, color and store where you bought it
  • Queue -- List your future projects and bookmark a link that lets you add projects to your queue when browsing the site
  • Favorites -- Add and manage your favorite projects, yarns, patterns, designers, forum posts and ads
  • Needles & hooks -- Check off which knitting needles and crochet hooks you have, and print a small guide to use offline
  • Library -- List the books, magazines, PDF files and other sources you have in your library of patterns
  • Purchases -- Track your purchases and contributions made through Ravelry

When you want to share a pattern you created or a yarn that you've spun, you can use the Contributions feature in your Ravelry notebook. Other Ravelry members can search and use anything you contribute here. You can elect to give your patterns away for free, or you can charge for the pattern or yarn you contribute.

A member of Ravelry may simply be a hobbyist, or possibly a professional or dealer hoping to promote his or her business. Each time you search for patterns, yarns or people from their respective tabs, your results include a mixture of these types of members. You can also use the Forums and Groups tabs to find other members who share common interests or just want to discuss a particular topic, and join in to contribute. While socializing, if you enjoy the contributions or postings from a particular member, use the button on his or her profile page to add that person to your friends.

Benefits and Challenges of Ravelry

Perhaps the most prominent benefit of Ravelry is the notebook, which helps you organize your projects, yarns, patterns and other resources. Though not every yarn artist will want to organize his or her stash of yarn, or track every project online, these features are available and can help you plan future projects. You can also track patterns you find throughout the site, marking them as favorites or placing them in your future projects queue.

Besides the tools and site features, Ravelry benefits from having a clear target audience. With the central topics of knit, crochet and spinning, members have an idea of what to expect out of their social networking experience at Ravelry. Pattern authors and yarn dealers can benefit from this target audience, too, sharing their business to a captive market.

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Ravelry's sponsors are regular site members who pay monthly rates to place their ads throughout the Web site. Advertisers are encouraged to submit useful and attractive ads, which go through an approval process before they're posted. Ads range from $5 per month for yarn purchase links to $40 per half-month for a 225-by-175-pixel ad displaying a featured pattern. Advertisers can also sponsor groups and provide charge-per-click links to their online stores.

One of Ravelry's challenges is competing against sites that offer free patterns. Joyce Y., an organizer for a Meetup.com crochet group in Raleigh, N.C., said that her primary reason for joining the site was to find more free patterns online. She was disappointed that she could rarely find a pattern she wanted that she did not have to pay for. She and others in her group prefer other sites like the company Web site for Lion Brand Yarn, which only requires you to sign in to view and download patterns, or Crochet Pattern Central, which requires no sign in and brings together links to many free patterns across the Internet.

Another challenge for Ravelry has been limited resources. Ravelry programmer Casey Forbes used the site as an opportunity to learn a new programming language (Ruby). Then, he and wife Jessica carefully controlled the growth of the site by limiting how many invitations they would accept each month until they had the staff and technology to support the demand. This means that Ravelry has developed relatively slow compared to other commercial sites with more money and employees. Site members can also see this as a benefit, knowing the site is created and maintained by yarn artists such as themselves. Whenever Casey and Jessica have added to their site staff, they have always hired from among their members, strengthening this benefit.

For more on social networking Web sites and other related topics, see the next page.

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Sources

  • Rasmussen, Bryan. "Ravelry - the future of social networking?" O'Reilly. June 15, 2008. (Aug. 13, 2009) http://news.oreilly.com/2008/06/ravelry-the-future-of-social-n.html
  • Ravelry. "About Us." (Aug. 13, 2009) http://www.ravelry.com/about
  • Ravelry. "Advertising on Ravelry." (Aug. 13, 2009) http://www.ravelry.com/advertisers
  • Ravelry. "Introduction to Ravelry Advertising and Pricing." April 2008. (Aug. 13, 2009) http://groups.ravelry.com/advertisers-caboodle/Introduction%20to%20Ravelry%20Advertising%20and%20Pricing,%20April%202008.pdf
  • Unraveled blog. "A new arrival." Ravelry. May 19, 2009. (Aug.14, 2009) http://blog.ravelry.com/2009/05/19/a-new-arrival/
  • Unraveled blog. "A video message on a special day." Ravelry. April 10, 2009. (Aug. 14, 2009) http://blog.ravelry.com/2009/04/10/a-video-message-on-a-special-day/
  • Unraveled blog. "Want to work for Ravelry? Community Support position available!" Ravelry. March 20, 2009. (Aug. 14, 2009) http://blog.ravelry.com/2009/03/20/want-to-work-for-ravelry-community-support-position-available/
  • Unraveled blog. "Welcome, Mary-Heather" Ravelry. March 5, 2008. (Aug. 14, 2009) http://blog.ravelry.com/2008/03/05/welcome-mary-heather/
  • Y., Joyce. Ravelry member and Meetup.com crochet group organizer. Personal interview. Conducted on Aug. 11, 2009.