Ravelry is an online community/database for people who knit, crochet and/or weave as well as those who spin and dye their own fibres. It was launched in 2007; users initially needed to apply for an invite code, but registration is now open to all. The site hit the three-million user mark in 2013.
Ravelry contains organizational, commerce and social aspects; a user can participate in any or all of them, or pick and choose while completely ignoring others.
- Organizational: An account on the site comes with the ability to add one's craft projects, yarn or needles to a personal database. Projects can be sorted by date or by the user's satisfaction with it. A project can be linked to a specific yarn, thus appearing in the list of projects that appear when a person views that yarn's file. A user can mark his or her yarns as being for personal use or available to sell or trade, inviting other users to contact them if they happen to need it. Users can also maintain a database of which knitting publications they own.
One of the site's main draws is its huge database of patterns, some of which are available for free. Each pattern has a page in the database that lists the pattern's original source, a link to it (if available) and the recommended yarn type. Designers can post their own patterns on Ravelry, even making them available for sale (more on that later). Everything on the site is cross-referenced with everything else; if you have some yarn you want to use up but don't know what to do with it, you can search for it by name and see what others have used it for. Similarly, if you already have a pattern you like but you don't want to use the recommended yarn for whatever reason — maybe it costs too much or you don't like the available colours — you can see which yarns other users have used.
Users can also bookmark projects, patterns and yarns by making them as "favourites." This makes them more easily accessible to them by putting them on a handy page for the user's convenience. When searching through a user's projects, you can sort the results by date, the creator's satisfaction with them (rated using a sad-to-happy face spectrum) or how many times the project has been "favourited."
- Commerce: You can buy patterns through Ravelry, either straight from a designer's Ravelry store or through links on pattern pages to external online stores. Many craft magazines make it possible for people to buy a single pattern through the site, which is really handy if you've leafed through an issue and only like one thing. When patterns are only available in books, Ravelry makes it possible for users to check their local libraries (U.S. only).
Many craft-related companies advertise on Ravelry via banner ads. Because the subject matter of the ads is targeted to the community and may actually be of interest to users, the site contains a script that enables people to scroll through ads so they can jump back and forth between the ads. This is particularly handy if an ad catches your eye as you're already navigating to another page.
The site also has its own store, which sells craft-related products such as project bags and measuring tapes as well as Ravelry-themed clothing and other items. (The "ripped" and "frogged" pint glasses, playing on the community's terms for undone projects, are particularly cute.)
- Social: Users can create or join groups devoted to any possible subject, craft-related or not. Groups exist to unite crafters based on geographical location, favourite brands or hobbies completely unrelated to knitting or crochet. (I belong to a couple of groups that almost never converse about crafting.)
You can also add other users to your "friends" list and see their finished projects in a feed (not unlike Facebook). There is a messaging system that enables users to communicate. "Favouriting" another user's project is a way to store their work in your list of bookmarks and to let them know that you enjoy their work. Ravelry staff also participate in craft fairs and conventions, giving site users a chance to meet each other.
Many local yarn stores have groups on the site that they use to inform their clientele about sales and promotions, and also encourage members to share their finished projects created with products purchased from them. When posting a project to the site, users have the option to share it with a group, leading it to appear in a small box on the group's index page.
Membership on the site is free, though it also accepts donations. Users can purchase "extras" (currently only the ability to add images directly to forum posts) with a small donation. Ravelry gets a small cut of the proceeds from patterns sold directly through the site, though the majority of the money goes directly to the designer.
Ravelry was built using Ruby on Rails.