Using Ravelry part 2

There are so many different ways to use a website like Ravelry. Many people visit only to purchase patterns, while others use it to keep track of their projects, yarn and books, and still more use the forums to chat online to like-minded crafters. However you choose to use Ravelry, I hope that some of the hints and tips in this article might come in handy.

In the first part of this Masterclass series, we looked at the information you can store in your Notebook section of Ravelry, as well as how to use the Pattern and Yarn databases. In this instalment, we will focus on the social side of the website.

Socialising on Ravelry

At the time of writing this article there were 2312 Ravelry users online (this was in the morning, when the USA and Canada are mostly asleep!), and 3,914,900 users registered with accounts for the site. That is a LOT of people interested in knitting, crochet and other fibre crafts! So how can you find friends who are interested in similar things to you?

The Main Forums

When you first join Ravelry, you automatically join the main 7 forums (you will find them if you click the Forums tab). These are places where you can ask questions, or answer them, about the main areas of knitting and crochet crafts, as well as a place to talk about Ravelry itself. They are mostly self-explanatory: For the Love of Ravelry (for questions or problems relating to the website itself, as well as announcements of new features – often abbreviated to FtLoR), Patterns, Yarn & Fiber (note US spelling), Techniques, Needlework News & Events, Tools & Equipment and Loose Ends (a place for anything else directly relating to knitting, crochet, spinning or weaving, but not covered by any of the other boards). There are a number of fascinating and useful threads to be found in these main boards, but due to the number of members using them, they can move very quickly and be a bit overwhelming when you are new to Ravelry.

Joining Groups

To find some smaller places to socialise, simply click on the Groups tab. Here you will find a number of easy ways to join a group that interests you. If you have filled in your location in your profile, you can look for a group that is local to you. You can also enter a city or state and find a group local to your holiday – I was given some great tips on yarn shopping by the Boston Yarn Party group before I went on holiday to Boston some years ago.

If you like the designs of a particular yarn company, magazine, or designer, then it’s very likely that there will be a fan group dedicated to their work. You will find a friendly group for The Knitter on Ravelry. Once you have clicked the Join Group button on the top right of the main page for a group, you will then be able to see it in your Forums tab.

There is also a link on the main Groups page to help you to find groups dedicated to swaps. Swap groups cover an enormous range of interests, so you can narrow down your search if you are particularly interested in another topic, such as Doctor Who or vintage knitting.

It can be brilliant fun to put together a parcel of goodies for someone on the other side of the world, and then wait impatiently for a parcel to arrive with you! There are a number of general swap groups who run regular themed swaps – the biggest of these is the Odd Duck Swaps of Ravelry. Be sure to read the group’s information on their main page, as well as any threads relating to group rules. Ravelry allows groups to set their own rules, within the over-arching terms and conditions of the site, so make sure to check that your new group is a good match for you.

The other common type of group on Ravelry is a knitalong (KAL) or crochetalong (CAL). These are places where you can work on a project at the same time as others, which can be really helpful and motivating. If you are trying to meet a deadline, or just fancy having some company as you work on a larger project, there’s bound to be a KAL group to suit you. If you choose the knitalong button on the Groups page, then you may find it helpful to organise your results by Most Members, rather than the default which is Recently Created groups. Once again, you can narrow down your search to find a knitalong for your favourite designer, or for a particular publisher such as Twist Collective or Knitty.

Join the Conversation

So, you’ve joined some groups – what happens now? Join in the conversation! Have a read of the threads in the group, and reply to someone. On Ravelry, you have the option of replying to a specific post by clicking on the Reply button in that post, or alternatively you can reply to the thread in general by clicking the Reply to Thread button at the bottom.

Along the bottom of each post in a discussion you will see a set of buttons that you can use to add your agreement (disagreement, love etc…) to what someone has said. This saves the discussions from being full of posts saying, I agree! If you hang around on Ravelry long enough, you will also realise that the Disagree button can be a source of upset. If you find it so, then you can hide it, so that you never have to see it (or any of the other post buttons). On the main Forums page, choose the settings tab, and you can hide these buttons as well as organise your groups into categories, and add some other helpful features.

Groups are also a great place to look at what a selection of people are making and getting excited about. Once you have clicked on your group, you will see a number of tab options across the top of the page, including Discussion, Project and Activity. Groups generally ask you to only share projects relating to that group (so only patterns published in The Knitter for The Knitter’s group), and you can see this selection by clicking on Projects. If you want to see more generally what a group are making or favouriting, then click on Activity. This can be completely fascinating, and a great way to find new patterns and designers. For example, if you like Kate Davies’ designs, then you might find that people in her group (Kate Davies (Love)) knit other projects that you might like – click on the Activity tab to see what they have been making.

Please do come and join the Arnall-Culliford Knitwear group on Ravelry! We run regular knitalongs and chat about knitting, pets, travel, and sometimes we even meet up at shows in real life! We would be a great place to start, if you're new to groups on Ravelry, our members are friendly and welcoming, so do join in!

Avoiding upset online

At the bottom of each discussion thread, you will also find the Tools: watch, ignore… button. This is extremely useful if you are finding a thread irritating, you can click on Ignore Thread, and you never have to see it again. The internet is a big place, and unfortunately you are bound to come across users, or discussions that are not to your taste. Happily, Ravelry has made it extremely easy to ignore discussions and even specific users thus saving you from ever having to see them (Rhian is lovely! I wouldn't really hide her! :D).

You may find that some people choose a picture for their avatar (their profile picture, sometimes called a ravatar on Ravelry) that you would rather not see – again, by clicking on the arrow next to their name in any forum you can choose to Hide Avatar, thus showing you a nice ball of yarn instead of their original image. And finally, if you do see a post that is in breach of Ravelry’s rules (or the group rules), then rather than wading into an argument, you can simply report the post to the group’s moderators using the red flag at the top of the thread, or on this same menu accessed from the arrow by the user’s name. Only the moderators will see your report, and it can help a situation be resolved without making it worse.

Making Friends

While you are wandering around Ravelry, you may come across people whose work you admire, or whose blogs you enjoy reading, or who you just now consider an online friend. If you click through to their profile, you will find a button to add them to your friends.

Having people in your friends in Ravelry doesn’t mean that you know them, or have even met them, it’s just a way of seeing what they are making. You may find that people from the other side of the world add you to their friends – this simply means that they have spotted one of your projects, and would like to see more of what you are making.

Your friends can all be found in Your Notebook area under Friends. This is simply a list of everyone you have friended. More interesting are the other tabs in this section… The first section is Friend Activity – this is similar to the Group Activity tab. You can see the projects your friends have been making, or the patterns they have been adding to their favourites, or the yarn they have been stashing.

The second section is Friends’ Blogs, which works as a blog reader for all your friends on Ravelry. You can quickly see whether anyone has written a new blog post, without having to click through to each blog itself.

And finally the Neighbors section allows you to see a selection of other users who have knitted similar projects to you, or queued similar patterns – a great way to find new friends!

Friends for Life

When I first signed up to join Ravelry, I had no idea how much it would change my life. Since then I’ve made friends, knitted far too much, and made a new career out of my hobby. Without Ravelry none of this would have been possible. It can seem overwhelming at first, but the benefits available if you jump in and get involved are incredible. To get started making friends on Ravelry, why not add me to your friends? Or have a look at some of the 129 groups I’m in and maybe join one of them! I’m JenACKnitwear on Ravelry and I’m always happy to join a new knitting conversation.

A Few Suggested Dos & Don’ts

Always respect copyright (bearing in mind that Ravelry is an international community and copyright laws do vary from country to country). Don’t ask for a copy of a pattern, even if it is out of print.

Many, many questions get asked lots of times every day, so do use the search facility to find your answers.

Written communication is open to interpretation, and with many non-native speakers using Ravelry, it is easy to jump to the wrong conclusion. Always read the best possible intent into other people’s posts. If something is offensive, then use the red flag “report a post” link, rather than responding directly. All of the groups on Ravelry have moderators who volunteer their time to keep Ravelry a friendly place.