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Over the last few years I have written a number of Masterclass articles for The Knitter (the UK knitting magazine where I worked as Technical Editor for 2 years). Once we are six months post-publication, I'm able to share the content wherever I like, so I thought it might be good to publish the articles over here on my blog. I really enjoyed my time on The Knitter, and its focus on more experienced and adventurous knitters has always made it the magazine I would buy. If you've not browsed a copy, then I would definitely recommend having a look!
As a confirmed Ravelry evangelist, it was a delight to write a pair of articles, back in early 2014, on getting the most out of my favourite website! Many readers will already be more than aware of the joys of Ravelry - but I hope there might be a few tricks even for you among the coming Masterclass articles...
Keeping Track of Your Knitting
As with many things in life, the more you put in with Ravelry, the more you can get out. Loading up some basic information about your projects, yarn and patterns enables you to start to access some of Ravelry’s plethora of amazing features. Ravelry is so much more than a place to find patterns.
One of the first ways that people use Ravelry is to track their projects. Use the My Notebook tab at the top of most pages to navigate to your Projects section (mine can be found at http://www.ravelry.com/projects/JenACKnitwear – to find your page, swap your username for mine in this link). Each project is a record of something you have knitted or crocheted, with space to record useful information like the size you are making, needle sizes, yarn used, the gauge you obtained and then a notes section where you can keep track of any changes you make to the pattern, or how you’re getting on. You would be amazed at how handy it is to be able to look back at what size you’re making, or what needle size you used for the first sock or mitten!
As overwhelming as the task may be for some of us, it is fantastically helpful to have your stash catalogued on Ravelry (http://www.ravelry.com/people/JenACKnitwear/stash). You can link yarn in your stash to patterns that you hope to make in the future (organised in your queue), keep track of where a particular skein is stored (if you have more than a box or two of yarn), and even mark your yarn for sale or trade – giving you an audience of 6 million* fellow Ravellers. Your stash can be organised into yarn, fibre, all used up, for sale or trade, handspun and traded/sold/gifted sections.
The other section that is well worth populating is your Library, which is also found in the My Notebook section (http://www.ravelry.com/people/JenACKnitwear/new_library). Working through to add each item may seem taxing, but the time you can save afterwards is incredible. Once you’ve added your books, magazines and even kept track of single paper patterns and pdf downloads, you can then search just the patterns you have in your library. If you want to make a 4ply cardigan, a few mouse clicks can take you to a list of all of the 4ply cardigan patterns that you already own. No more flicking through hundreds of pages to find the colourwork mittens that you vaguely remember from a couple of seasons ago! There is an excellent guided tour of how to use your Library that you can find by clicking on the main Ravelry logo at the top left of most pages. Guided tips are then listed on the right hand side, underneath the Quick Search and Help, Help boxes (4 http://www.ravelry.com).
Searching for Patterns
Ravelry not only lets you catalogue your patterns, but it also helps you to buy patterns directly from designers. If you go to the main Patterns page, using the green Patterns tab at the top of most Ravelry pages, you will see a number of helpful ways to sift through the many, many patterns listed on Ravelry. Not every pattern in the database is available from Ravelry, but many are. If you are only interested in patterns that you can download from Ravelry immediately, then use the “all patterns” link under Designers on Ravelry (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/knitting).
There is also an option to search only the free patterns available to download via Ravelry. Alternatively you can search using the main pattern browser link at the top left of this main Patterns page. Once you are into the search pages, the world is really your oyster. You can narrow down your options using yarn weight, yardage, techniques used, type of item, language of the pattern and the list is huge. All of the filtering options are listed in categories down the left hand side of the page, and you can then organise your results using the Sort drop-down menu at the top of your results. I usually set this to “Most popular” or “Most projects”, unless it is a search that I perform regularly, where I might want to look at the newest designs only. Searching for a pattern available on Ravelry, for a DK weight, knitted garment, where I have at least some of the yarn in my stash, gives me 51 possible patterns!
If you then want to tweak your search a bit, you can click on the yellow pencil icon to edit that part of the search. If I change my search to patterns I have in my library (rather than to download from Ravelry), and using any weight of yarn in my stash, I now have 185 options. Possibly I don’t need to buy any new patterns…
You don’t need a Ravelry account to purchase a pattern from a designer on Ravelry, but it is really worth setting one up. It doesn’t cost anything to open a Ravelry account, you just need an email address. If you buy a pattern once you are logged in to your account, then the pattern will automatically be stored in your Ravelry Library, which means that you can download a copy of your pattern from anywhere with internet access. You simply have to log in to your account and then look up the pattern in your Library – there it is ready to download and print out or to read directly from a tablet or smartphone. This is ideal if you have a mishap with your pattern while you are away from home. One of the many other benefits of purchasing a pattern via Ravelry download (whether as a guest or user) is that designers can issue pattern updates in the unfortunate situation of an error being found in a pattern, thus ensuring that you have the most up to date set of directions.
Patterns are listed for sale in many currencies, but an estimate is also given for the price in your own local currency. Payment is taken through PayPal which makes it easy to pay even small amounts in any currency, so don’t be put off by prices in dollars, euros or anything else. You don’t need a PayPal account either, you can simply pay with a credit or debit card without logging in to PayPal. Ravelry will also remind you if you try to buy a pattern that you already own in your Library – the buy now link won’t be visible, but instead a link to your Library appears (another good reason for logging in prior to your purchase).
Searching for Yarn
Ravelry’s yarn database contains a similar wealth of information to the pattern database. Yarn weights, yardage, fibre content and colourways are all listed for you to search by. This is invaluable when you are looking for a substitute yarn for something discontinued or not available nearby. You can easily find a long list of yarns with similar qualities. Although Ravelry doesn’t enable yarnies to sell to users in the same way as designers can sell patterns, there are local and online yarn buying options listed, where they are available (http://www.ravelry.com/yarns/library/rowan-kidsilk-haze-stripe).
Yarn shops pay to be listed in these spots, so your closest yarn shop may not appear. Ravelry will also pick up if you already have that yarn in your stash, and list the colourways that you currently own (http://www.ravelry.com/yarns/library/fyberspates-scrumptious-4ply).
You can also search for yarns that Ravellers have listed as available for sale or trade. To do this, you click on the “search stashes” link under the search box on the main Yarns page (http://www.ravelry.com/yarns).
You can then filter your search to find what you are looking for. I ran a search for blue-green 4ply yarns (not handspun, and having a photo so that I could see what was on offer) available for sale or trade in the UK (be aware you will need to list England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as United Kingdom to see all possible options since users have the choice of how to identify their country). This gave me 125 matches, and it took all of my willpower not to start clicking through and looking at prices!
Users should list the price they are asking for in the notes section of their stashed yarn, but if nothing is obvious, there is a “send message” link on each for sale or trade stash page, enabling you to ask for more information. Ravellers usually ask you to use the “send money” option on PayPal, and will give you an email address to pay. It is up to you to agree payment and terms with the user offering the yarn, and Ravelry takes no responsibility for these transactions. If you are unsure about a user, then a quick look at their posts, projects and general Ravelry presence may give you some useful information. People that sell yarn regularly through the destash groups and the stash pages will likely have replies saying that yarn was safely received and so on.
The best way to learn more about using Ravelry is to get online and have a go. Ravellers are a helpful bunch and there is usually someone to lend a hand if you get stuck. The next article will take you through the social side of Ravelry.
You can join our Ravelry group over here: Arnall-Culliford Knitwear
Do you have a favourite Ravelry top tip? Do leave a comment and share it with other readers.
*When the article was originally written, there were nearly 4 million Ravellers, but this is now up to more than 6 million! A growing audience!
All screenshots were correct when taken (December 2013 or April 2016), but yarns available and patterns may change, so be sure to look carefully at what you are selecting if you decide to purchase yarn or patterns online.