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Midweek Masterclass: Get the most out of Ravelry! (part 1)

Discover the world of knitting and crochet community website Ravelry and learn more about its fantastic features with Jen Arnall-Culliford in part one of this Midweek Masterclass.

17th February 2016

Ravelry, the knitting community website, is a genuine phenomenon. Set up in 2007 by American knitter Jessica Forbes and her husband Casey, the free website now has more than three million users worldwide. It’s a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration.

Whether you’ve never used Ravelry before, or would like to learn more about its many functions, our expert guide will help you get the most out of this resource.

Keep track of your knitting

As with many things in life, the more effort you put in with Ravelry.com, the more you can get out. Loading up basic information about your projects, yarn and patterns enables you to start to access some of Ravelry’s plethora of 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 (1 www.ravelry.com/projects/JenACKnitwear - your username will be here each time). Each project is a record of something you’ve knitted or crocheted, with space to record details like the size you are making, needle sizes, yarn used, and a notes section where you can keep track of changes you make to the pattern, or how you’re getting on. You’ll 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 daunting as the task may seem, it’s fantastically helpful to catalogue your stash on Ravelry (2 www.ravelry.com/people/JenACKnitwear/stash). You can link yarn in your stash to patterns 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 more than three million fellow Ravellers. Your stash can be sorted into yarn, fibre, all used up, for sale or trade, handspun and traded/sold/gifted sections.

Get organised

The other section that’s well worth populating is your Library (also found in the My Notebook section (3 www.ravelry.com/people/JenACKnitwear/new_library). Working through to add each item may be taxing, but the time you’ll save afterwards is incredible. Once you’ve added your books, magazines and even 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 you own. No more flicking through hundreds of pages to find the colourwork mittens that you vaguely remember from two seasons ago! You can find an excellent guided tour to using your Library 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 www.ravelry.com).

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Search 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’ll see a number of helpful ways to sift through the millions of patterns listed on Ravelry. 

Not every pattern in the database is available from Ravelry, but many are. If you’re only interested in patterns you can download from Ravelry immediately, then use the ‘all patterns’ link under Designers on Ravelry (5 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 page. Once you’re into the main search pages, 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 dropdown menu at the top of your results. I usually set this to ‘Most popular’ or ‘Most projects’ unless it’s 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 (6)! 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 own library rather than to download from Ravelry, I now have 46 options (7). Possibly I don’t need to buy a new pattern after all...

Set up an account

You don’t need a Ravelry account to purchase a pattern from a designer on Ravelry, but it’s still worth setting one up. It doesn’t cost anything to open an account, you just need an email address. If you buy a pattern once you’re logged in to your account, the pattern will automatically be stored in your Ravelry Library, which means you can then download a copy of your pattern from anywhere with internet access. You simply have to log in to your account and 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 away from home. 

One of the many other benefits of purchasing patterns via Ravelry download (as a guest or user) is that designers can issue amendments if an error is found in a pattern, thus ensuring you have the most up to date directions. 

Patterns are listed for sale in many currencies, but an estimate is also given for the price in your local tender (8). Payment is taken through PayPal which makes it easy to pay 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 – instead a link to your Library appears (another good reason for logging in prior to your purchase) (9).

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Search 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’re 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, to show you where they’re available (10 www.ravelry.com/yarns/library/rowan-kidsilk-haze-stripe). Yarn shops pay to be listed in these spots, so it’s possible your closest yarn shop may not appear.

Helpfully, Ravelry will also pick up if you already have that yarn in your stash, and list the colourways that you currently own (11 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 just need to click on the ‘search stashes’ link under the search box on the main Yarns page (12 www.ravelry.com/yarns). You can then filter your search to find what you’re looking for. I ran a search for blue-green 4ply yarns (specifying ‘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 (13). This gave me 125 matches, and it took all of my willpower not to start clicking throug and looking at prices! Users should list the price they are asking for in the notes section of their stashed yarn, but if you can’t see it, make use of the ‘send message’ link that’s 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’s up to you to agree payment and terms with the user offering the yarn, and Ravelry takes no responsibility for these transactions. If you’re unsure about a user, a quick look at their posts, projects and general Ravelry presence may give you some useful insight. People who sell yarn regularly through the destash groups and the stash pages will have replies saying that yarn was safely received and so on.

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The best way to learn more about using Ravelry is to get online and have a go. Ravellers are a helpful bunch and there’s usually someone to lend a hand if you get stuck. 

Thinking of giving Ravelry a go? Check out our Ravelry Store by clicking here and find fabulous patterns such as Mary Henderson's Blackthorn shawl, or Kirstie McLeod's Elwood hat.

What did you think of this week's Midweek Masterclass? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter! Missed a Masterclass? Don't worry! Simply click here to find all our classes so far. And remember to check back here next Wednesday to learn all about the social side of Ravelry.

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