Okay, so that sounds like the topic for a deep, philosophical post. Or an ad for some website design company promising to change my whole world-view if only I buy their services. It’s actually not about that, it’s about how a social network site invented by a young couple and manned by staff you could count on one hand has changed not only my craft, but also my social life.
If you’re a knitter, I’m sure you’ve already heard about Ravelry and if not, you should. In fact, hop on over there to http://www.ravelry.com and create yourself an account. We’ll wait.
(We’ll see if they come back…Ravelry is a fascinating place. I can and do spend hours there on a regular basis).
Back? Okay, good.
You see, a friend of mine posted an article from Slate this week about Ravelry and it got me thinking about my knitting life and how I got started in all of this. Like many people, I tried knitting years ago and kind of liked it but really didn’t stick to it. It was hard and I was busy and well…without anyone close by to teach me anything new or help me read patterns, I got stuck and frustrated, and eventually went off to do other things.
Then, when visiting my mother-in-law in Portland, Oregon, she taught me again how to knit. She also took me to her local yarn shop. She told me about the Stitch N Bitch (or in her case, pub knitting) and gave me books by the Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, to read. In so doing, she introduced me to a whole world that I didn’t know existed.
Quickly thereafter, I found Ravelry and did a search for knit-in-public groups in my area. And voila! Not only did I have a new craft, I had a whole new community. Would I have found these lovely people without Ravelry? Perhaps. But Ravelry certainly made it easy.
Since then, the discussion forums and knitters I met on Ravelry have taught me about spinning, supported me through trying projects, encouraged and consoled each other. They have mourned collective losses when famous knitters died, and held each other up during times of personal crisis. We all rejoiced when Jessie and Casey (the founders) had a baby girl. It’s a real community of people from all across the world, the only connection between us being a love of the craft and care for each other.
Resources like Ravelry are also why there’s been a resurgence in interest in things like spinning. Living a typical big-city suburb, I don’t know that I’d have ever considered trying to make my own yarn (nor had the foggiest idea how to actually do it) without the help and support of these people and the online community around them. It’s been an immense contribution to my life and in many ways defined my identity as a craftsperson. Personally, I try to give back by watching for new spinners who are stuck and giving them the same boost that others gave me. Sometimes a little encouragement is all you need, or a link to a helpful video, or the acknowledgement that what you are learning is hard and you’re doing okay for a beginner. Or even just a quick hint that gets you over the hump and back on the right track.
A friend of mine is fond of saying to her knitters, “You are my tribe.” She’s got it totally right. We are a tribe, a very large tribe at that, scattered across the world, TWO MILLION STRONG. Can you believe that?
I love it. Thanks Tim Berners-Lee for the internet and the inspiration and caring people it brings me. I’m sure you had no idea at the time, but what a wonderous thing you’ve created. Also, thanks to Jessica and Casey Forbes, who thought up Ravelry in the first place. You guys rock. And, closer to home, thanks to my mother-in-law Janet for making the introduction.
To read the original article on Slate.com, click here:
Note that the information in the article is a bit dated. Rav now has over two million members and they are now looking for that second developer!