Ravelry 101: Tomorrow!

Tomorrow afternoon at 1pm EST I’ll be teaching Ravelry 101 thru Interweave’s Craft U platform.  I’m very excited!  It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to teach this class, and I love being able to use Interweave’s electronic teaching to reach students I normally don’t get to teach.

You might wonder how this class fits into my normal lineup, as most of my classes are knitting and crochet related.  Ravelry is a knitting and crochet-focused website with more than 6 million users.  While it isn’t a technique that will make your knitting shine, or challenge your crochet skills, it will teach you how to make the most out of this valuable website.  I use Ravelry daily – to find patterns, connect with other crafters, answer questions about my patterns, and learn more about yarn.  When I have a question about nearly anything, I can go to Ravelry to get my answers.

You might also wonder how this class is different than the one I taught a few years ago thru Interweave.  Well, to be frank, technology is changing all the time, and the class that I taught before isn’t completely up-to-date.  I found that I had new tips, new perspectives, and new techniques to share.  Ravelry had rolled out new functionality, and I thought it was valuable enough to update!

Want to sign up for the course?  I’d love to have you!  Enroll now:

Introducing: Ravelry 101

One of the most frequent questions I get from former students is, “When are you going to be teaching nearby again?”  It’s an understandable question, considering that I’m often teaching at wildly different venues along the East Coast.

woman's hands typing at computer screen looking at the Ravelry website sign-in pageWhich is why I’m pleased to announce a new venue for teaching today!  I’ve partnered with Interweave’s Online Learning Department to bring you two classes on using Ravelry.  Ravelry 101, will run live on February 18th, 2015, and Ravelry 201 will run 2 weeks later, on March 4th.  Both classes run for an hour, starting at 1pm EST.  The best part about the class?  You don’t have to be there live to take the workshop!  After the class is recorded, you can access the video whenever you want to watch it.

I’d like to take some time to highlight Ravelry 101 today, and explain why you’d find the class valuable.

First, what is Ravelry?
Ravelry is a website that is both a database of patterns and a social place to interact with other knitters, crocheters, and yarn enthusiasts.  Just this month they tipped over into 5 million users! It’s an incredibly powerful tool for knitters and crocheters.  When I worked in my LYS, I consulted it often to help customers find patterns, learn more about a yarn used in a pattern to make knowledgeable yarn substitutions, and to discover if a pattern had mistakes or errata.

Why would I find Ravelry 101 helpful?
As I mentioned, I often use Ravelry for a variety of purposes.  Ravelry 101 focuses on the database side of Ravelry, and how it can be used to make your life easier.  During Ravelry 101 I’ll show you how you can easily search your paper library, to find that “one pattern” that you saw in a magazine 3 years ago.  I’ll show you one of my favorite tricks to picking out a pattern using Ravelry’s advanced search functions.  I’ll also break down how Ravelry is organized, making sure you can always find your way to what you need and want!

Where can I buy Ravelry 101?
Ravelry 101 is being run by Interweave’s Online Learning Platform.  This means that you can take the class live, at 1 pm EST on February 18th, or at any time after that!  Signup is easy, just go to to signup and add the class to your basket.  The best part?  It’s only $19.99 – an incredible deal for one of my classes!

I look forward to joining ya’ll on February 18th – I’m really looking forward to showing you what I love about this website!

Indie Designer Giftalong

I’ve been rather delinquent in posting about this, but I figure better late than never, eh?

This year I’m participating in the Indie Designer Giftalong.  What is a giftalong you ask?  Well, considering how the holidays are a stone’s throw away (I know, don’t remind me!), this means if you are planning on knitting or crocheting for the holidays, time is running out.

A bunch of designers (over 150!) have decided to help the holiday crafters out, creating a sale of 25% off that runs from November 1-15th.  This is partnered with a Knit-a-long (KAL) or Crochet-a-long (CAL) to help people stay motivated to finish holiday gifts.  All along the way, there are great prizes that participants can win.

So, information:

There’s a Ravelry Group for the Giftalong.
There’s a list of Prizes and Patterns that you can win along the way.
There’s a list of participating Designers.
There’s Rules.
In case you are visual (or not on Ravelry), here’s Pinterest boards with all the participating patterns:

Do I need to be on Ravelry to buy the patterns? NO! All you need is a credit card.  The cart will ring you up via paypal and you can have the pattern emailed to you.

What patterns are you offering? This includes: Swirl SocksSweet StrawberriesOutrageous OrangeTunisian Cat, and One Salt Sea.

Industry Metrics: What You Need To Know

One of the reasons I love working with Michael is the new perspective he brings to the business.  He might not be able to knit a hat, but he can tell me that this winter, I should be doing different things to improve my sales.  Today he touches on one of the tools you can use to make business decisions – data analysis.

We are all surrounded by data.  In our daily lives, from the morning commute to the afternoon water-cooler conversations, there exists a wealth of data in the world around us. Data is one part in a hierarchy of ways to think about and interpret the world around us.  Unto itself, individual data points have no meaning. It is only with analysis that information, which is data that is used to make decisions, can be derived.  This decision-making lends us knowledge, which is the goal of informed decision-making.  By being able to interpret and synthesize the data available in any industry, business owners can take advantage of opportunities.

pattern, knit, designing, math, data, analytic, spreadsheet, metrics, tinking turtle
Knitting Designing is all about turning Data like measurements and stitch counts into information: the finished pattern
My day job is as an IT manager for a healthcare technology company in DC; in this role I deal constantly with large data sets, turning various discreet data points into usable knowledge.  This type of analytic approach is vitally important for small businesses (and the craft industry) in order to understand the market and position yourself to take advantage of trends.  For fiberarts businesses (both LYS’s and designers/publishers), this is doubly important; with any commodity based industry, trends can come and go at a breakneck pace.  What was trendy last fall may have fallen by the wayside this year; it is only by being able to analyze the market that you can position yourself to act accordingly.
In the Fiberarts industry, there is a wealth of discreet data that is ripe for the picking.

Bristol, (BristolIvy on Ravelry) writes a regular series entitled The Stock(inette) Market where she takes an in-depth look at pattern sales trends based on Ravelry data for a period of time.  She aggregates this data, and then provides the analysis to be able to discern trends and areas of growth. This provides savvy designers a starting point for getting an idea of where the market is headed.  For example, in her most recent post covering the month of September, she finds that as we head towards the cooler months, neck accessories are the dominant sales driver, along with cold weather accessories such as hats, mittens, and gloves.  Gathering this information over a period of time, up to and including years, the savvy statistician can paint a picture of the market, and be able to position themselves to take advantage of publishing patterns at the opportune time.

For TNNA members, the organization offers a wonderful resource in the form of a series of surveys they conduct of all fiber artists on a regular basis.  This data consists of a wide range of information, from yarns frequented to number of projects on needles at one time.  In addition to being able to demonstrate current trends, the TNNA data is presented in comparison to previous surveys, to show trends over time, a powerful way to look at data to gain insight into the future.

Ravelry itself can be a source of data, such as in the graph below, mined from our Tinking Turtle sales.
chart, excel, pie, tinking turtle, patterns, designs, type, socks, softie, pullover, hat

One must be wary, however, in relying completely on technology to package and interpret data for us.  Technology can be useful to turn data into information, however it is that human interpretation that gives analysis it’s kick.  If computers could provide the right analysis every time, there’d be no need for weather forecasters, for instance.  How you turn data into knowledge is what differentiates man from machine.  This is an important distinction for business owners for all fiberarts related businesses.  Creating knowledge is one of the cornerstones for how one can grow a successful business in this or any industry.

In which I close my posts on Organization

By Librarian by Day

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been talking about organization and thinking a lot about it too.  I even went to Ravelry and asked some of the people in the Designers forum how they stay organized.  I’ve been mining Pinterest, and even came across this great graphic.

I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned:

  • Ruth, of, pointed out that “dormant projects” is much better than “rejected projects”.
  • I really love RescueTime to keep me accountable about how much time I’m spending on “fun” things, and how much I’m spending on “work.”
  • Stephannie of SunsetCat, pointed out how important it is to organize your stash, especially when you have yarns for designing and personal yarns.
  • Others have found Asana, StoryTracker, and Eternity  helpful in tracking workflow, design projects, and how much time you spend on different tasks.  I can’t vouch for all of them, as some of them are app-based (and I don’t have a smartphone) but they’re worth checking out.
  • I learned about IFTT, a website that automates tasks you do over and over again.  I’ve set my account up to automatically tweet and post on facebook when I make a blog post.  I’ve also got it set up to notify me anytime someone finishes one of my projects on Ravelry.  It’s got a bit of a learning curve, but if you can overcome it, the website is quite powerful and customize-able.
  • If you don’t like IFTT, HootSuite takes care of cross-posting to Linkin, Facebook, Twitter, and several other websites.

Over and over again I’ve heard that it doesn’t really matter what your system is, if it works for you. Just make sure you have some system.  If you are designing as a career, treat it like one.  Act professional.  Stay organized so you can meet deadlines on time.

Really? USOC has stepped in it.

I try for the most part to not get involved in much of the internet flare-ups that happen.  There are many things on the internet to get mad about, and most of them I don’t feel are worth my time.

But the USOC’s antics got me really angry yesterday.  For those of you who have been living under a log (or perhaps are just not paying attention to GawkerAbout.comNPR or dozzens of other news sites of various sizes – #Ravelympics was even trending on Twitter), the USOC sent a cease and desist letter to Ravelry, a knitting and crochet online community.  They were defending their copyright and intellectual rights, which while I don’t necessarily agree with how they approached it, I understand is important.  As a designer and writer myself, copyright issues are near and dear to my heart.  I have no problem with them doing that.  What I do have a problem with is the tone they have taken in the letter, which comes across as condecending and RUDE.

Then, today, when they realized that they may have gotten oh, about 2 million plus people very angry (seriously, go check out the USOC’s Facebook page) they issued an apology, which wasn’t really a good apology.  They say “The letter sent to the organizers of the Ravelympics was a standard-form cease and desist letter that explained why we need to protect our trademarks in legal terms. Rest assured, as an organization that has many passionate knitters, we never intended to make this a personal attack on the knitting community or to suggest that knitters are not supportive of Team USA.”


IF you didn’t mean to make a personal attack on us, why they heck did you say that “We believe using the name “Ravelympics” for a competition that involves an afghan marathon, scarf hockey and sweater triathlon, among others, tends to denigrate the true nature of the Olympic Games.  In a sense, it is disrespectful to our country’s finest athletes and fails to recognize or appreciate their hard work.”

FIRST OF ALL, anything I do doesn’t lessen the amount of work someone else does to accomplish anything.  SECOND, the tone of that statement implies that you value sports and athletics more than fiberworks and the arts, which is really asinine of you.  I think sports are pretty stupid sometimes, but I don’t go around publicly dissing someone else’s passion.  That is unkind.

FINALLY, you could have worded your apology better.  I get that the cease and desist letter was written as one business to another, and you probably didn’t expect it to be posted online, and for people to get angry.  But the apology was public and more directed to the upset knitters/crocheters.  Next time, try to talk to a few knitters/crocheters before you write the apology… asking someone to craft for you is normally thought of as an extremely personal thing in much of the crafting world, and a lot of people aren’t thinking your worthy right now.

The Yarn Harlot is calling for knitters to stay classy, and dare I say it?  Forgive the USOC. Or at least stay classy.  She brings up some good points about why people shouldn’t be as upset as they are… and they are very good points.  I understand the sentiment – as I said, I feel like there are few things that are worth getting angry over.

BUT.  I can’t help but returning to the tone of the original letter, and I think that Laurie at the Crochet Liberation Front articulates what is bothering me.  There’s an implied assumption that the fiberarts, which are traditionally a female craft (at least in the US in the last couple of decades) (even though there are a lot of very talented males out there) are not valued as much as people who are athletes (who can be male or female, but sports have also in the last couple of decades, been much more associated with men than women – look at the popularity of men’s vs. women’s college basketball – where is the women’s march maddness?).  And it just makes me tired and deeply frustrated because so many of my hobbies are devalued just because they are considered “crafty” or “womanly.” (I face the same problem with Romance Novels, and don’t get me started on that).

I don’t really know how to fix this, except to say that being “classy” doesn’t seem to work.  Being classy – or at least not engaging when someone says something stupid out of ignorance or arrogance or sheer stupidity doesn’t get things changed.  I’ve been talking to a lot of people over the last 24 hours, explaining why I’m angry and why I think these people acted in ignorance, and how to fix it.

I’m going to be writing a real paper letter to you – in fact, it’s half finished.  I’m going to be writing on your facebook page and talking on twitter.  I’m going to talk to people in person.  I’m not going to be disrespectful, but I am going to be assertive.

Maybe next time you might think a bit more before you write a letter.