The last couple of years has seen a huge increase in the number of social networking sites available. As with any evolution, the trend has been toward specifics and newer sites cater more and more to niches. Lucky for crafters, soon we will have a whole new site to play with: Ravelry. Ravelry is a great site for organizing project, showing of your stash, networing with local yarn shops, finding wholesale outlets and as the founders Jess and Casey say, "fiber voyears." Recently I got to exchanging emails with Jess and Casey.
For those who don't get to play with Ravelry yet, just how much fun are we going to have?
I think that most people will have a lot of fun :) Ravelry is multi-faceted and we've found that everyone's favorite part of Ravelry is different. If you love organizing, you'll probably really enjoy your Ravelry notebook, where you can keep track of your projects, stash and tools. Do you like wandering around the web and checking out people's projects and patterns on their personal blogs and sites? Ravelry is perfect for fiber voyeurs. Really love forums and online communities? There are plenty of options out there but we think that our community is something special because there is that extra substance behind (and all around) the chatting. Fun is the whole point!
What has surprised you so far about the ways people are using their Ravelry abilities?
I guess the biggest surprise is how quickly people are finding one another. We just love hearing from independent designers who have been found by local yarn store owners because they want to stock their patterns, new independent dyers and spinners who are getting wholesale orders for their yarns for the first time, people starting up new Stitch'n Bitch groups in their area...all happening already, before we have even opened the site for real!
What role do you think community plays in the crafting world? Knitting in particular.
I often giggle to myself when Casey and I talk about Ravelry to people who are not knitters or crocheters. Often they just don't understand that there is a huge online community of crafters already and that we don't actually have to build all of those connections from the ground up. We are just providing a fun and concise way to find others who share your interests or live near you.
Obviously, communities centered around crafting is not anything new- sewing circles and groups at local stores have been happening for a long time. I think what is different now is that it is possible to connect with people from all over the world and even find local people that you might not have met otherwise.
I know that I learned to knit by myself, from a book, and I didn't know anyone who knit or crocheted until I started my blog. After a while, I was knitting pretty much every day and it was just so fun to do something creative after I got home from work, sitting in front of a computer all day. I really wanted to meet people who shared my love for knitting and, even in a city like Boston, it was a bit challenging to meet new people. I think online communities make that initial meeting a lot less stressful and more comfortable. After you have been chatting with someone on your blog or on Ravelry, you feel like you know them a bit and you can skip all the 'getting to know you' chitchat and actually hang out. I have met people through the blogging community that I consider my real friends.
One of the reasons that we created Ravelry in the first place was that the online crafting community was such a wealth of information and ingenuity but there was not a way to really search and find what you were looking for--besides googling for hours on end. Over the past year, we just noticed that there were so many new indie designers and yarn dyers and spinners--with etsy stores and their own websites--but there are only a handful
of ways to get the word out about your stuff (profiles with bigger bloggers, knitty, crochetme, etc). We are hoping that Ravelry helps people to find their audience as well has helps crafters find new and interesting ways to express themselves.
It's fair to say social networking sites have had a significant impact on both the music and crafting communities. How do you think it has worked out differently for both communities? How do you think they influence the way crafters market themselves, conduct business, show off? I mean are we more showey-offy?
Here is our music parallel :) Online communities allow everyone to share their art with the world. The Internet (and especially blogs and community sites) has given talented crafters and musicians a way to find fans and customers themselves. You don't need a big marketing budget and you don't have to wait to be discovered by an industry. You can be discovered by the people instead.
We're very excited about all of the independent designers, dyers, and spinners that are using Ravelry. We really want to help these amazing people (and they really are amazing!) showcase their work, find their audience, and promote their businesses. Community is an extremely important part of small and independent business (businesses of any size, but the bigger guys often miss the point). People aren't only shopping small because they like things that are handmade or locally produced; we consumers are beginning to want a more real connection with the creators that we support.
This really means a lot to us. We want to help people do what they love for a living.
Marie Rounsavell is a knitter extroidinaire. Her blog Marimello is a new space to highlight off beat crafting and discuss the how and why of crafting's resurgence. She heads up the Witch Fire Project to benefit fire victims in Southern California