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There is a pretty good chance you have already discovered the joys of Ravelry, but on the off chance that you haven't...or maybe you'd forgotten about it...I felt like I needed to include a review of this wonderful website. I use it so often it only seemed fair and just to pay it the proper homage.
First, what is Ravelry? Well, it is a wonderful website that hosts a community of fiber artists. It is a place where you can find patterns, yarn suggestions, read forums, post comments, see finished products and keep your own knitting stash and patterns organized. That is not an exhaustive list, either. The website offers so much, it would take pages to describe it all, but I hope you get the general idea. It was originally designed by a knit blogger who felt there was so much valuable information out there, it would be great to consolidate it to one place. Boy oh boy, did they do that. (Please still read my blog, even if you become a Ravelry junky.)
There are so many features on Ravelry that could be very useful...but I only actually use a few of them. One really neat thing that Ravelry does is the Thursday Tip where, on the homepage, they walk you through one really cool thing that Ravelry has to offer. Tips have included things such as how to find Knit-a-longs and using the "remember and compare" feature when browsing patterns. I like to see the "Community Eye Candy," too, which is posted to their homepage and features themed patterns. These are just things that pop up as soon as you visit Ravelry, the really cool stuff is once you start using the website.
Like I said, I only use a few of the features. Mostly, I use their website to find patterns. Their search feature is great. You can type in something very generic, like "baby blanket," and then the have a ton of qualifiers to help narrow your search. You can filter the patterns by yardage of yarn, yarn weight, project popularity, star ratings, etc. Using their filters, you can whittle your search down to something actually searchable. You can also do what I like to call a reverse search. Let's say you want to do some stash busting but you do not have a project in mind for a skein of yarn. Well, you can actually search for a project with the same amount of yarn you have or even see projects made with the exact skein you have. It's great for inspiration.
Speaking of inspiration, I love looking at pictures of finished projects. I do this for patterns I have purchased from Ravelry as well as patterns I have purchased elsewhere. It is so much fun to see how other people's projects have turned out as well as seeing what a project might look like in a different yarn or color. I try my best to post my finished projects, as well. It is a great reference for checking you project progress, comparing finished work, or seeking inspiration for what yarn to use. I love it. They also keep a library of all the patterns you own as well as patterns you have "liked." You can organize yourself with a knitting queue, as well, which is great if you have a ton of holiday gifts to finish and you need to keep yourself on track.
Lastly, I will mention Ravelry is a great place to sell original patterns you have designed. They make it very easy to set up a shop and the have a clear and fair scheme for what it costs to host your patterns. Best part is, it is completely free if you make less than $30 a month on your patterns. They host patterns from professionals and casual home-knitters alike. That's part of what makes browsing Ravelry so much fun. However, if you decide to post a pattern, it must be a complete project...no tutorials, stitch swatches or lone charts. It also has to be original work.
Bottom Line: I love Ravelry. Have I mentioned I love Ravelry? I can wile away hours browsing their patterns and looking at pictures of projects. There are so many truly talented people out there, and Ravelry is a place for showcasing and inspiring. It is also international, so you can connect with knitters all around the world...it is truly remarkable. Ravelry is worth checking out. See what features are helpful to you. Make sure you have some time, though, because I can almost guarantee it will suck you in and you will lose track of space and time. Enjoy!