Using Ravelry: Pattern Database

Ravelry is a very powerful tool if you know how to use it well. Heck, even if you don’t know all the ins and outs of the site, it’s still a powerful tool. I (Lisa) use a fair portion of it, even so, I’m quite certain that I only use a fraction of the available resources housed on the site. It's not unusual for another Ravelry user to show me a feature of the site that I was unaware of or have never used. Yet, I know there are quite a few of you out there who use it even less than I do. So, from time to time, I'd like to share information with you about this useful site. Today I’m going to review its pattern database and how to use its search functions.

Ravelry’s pattern database is one of the reasons Darn Yarn doesn’t carry quite as many individual patterns as you may remember being available in yarn shops in the past, It's also why our book selection is very theme and how-to oriented. Why does a website effect our physical pattern selection? Because the database is massive! I mean huge! It has, as of today, over 833,000 patterns! Can you imagine walking into a library or store where that many patterns were physically available! Seriously, imagine that! It’s a bibliophile or pattern hoarder’s dream! Yes, I’m using a lot of exclamation points - I know, that’s taboo, but 833,000?!

And that is also why so many of you are intimidated by using this database. How do you whittle down the 2,000+ digital pages to something manageable so that you can actually find that perfect baby blanket, sweater, shawl, or sock pattern? If all you need is a basic hat, how are you going to find it in all those pages? Hopefully, I can help you better utilize the pattern search feature on Raverly and make the database more usable for you.

Before we jump in, let me remind you that as a social site, you do need to sign up to use Ravelry to its full potential. But it is a free site, and most stitchers I know find it worth the (minimal) effort of signing up. Also, this blog is long - I wanted to use screen shots that were large enough to be readable for the blog reader; and I wanted to contain enough of the actual screen to help you navigate the page on your own device. So please bear with me as I walk you through the steps.

Now, let’s start on the first page of Ravelry. This page, the home page, is what will open when you first log in. It changes regularly, so don’t be alarmed if this isn’t what you see on your homepage. The changing home page is one of the fun features of Ravelry. It's here that they are able to showcase hot new items and patterns, share blogs about stitching or using Ravelry, or share some fun holiday, seasonal, or goofy themes with Ravelry users.

Your home page should look something like the screen shot below; note this is only the left side of the screen because we’re going to focus on that upper left menu bar. Each of those menu options leads you to another page on Ravelry that houses information pertaining to its title, and we may cover more of them in later blogs.

Today, we're interested in the one that is titled "patterns”. When you click that menu option it’ll take you to the pattern database home page. But beware Alice, this rabbit hole is large. After you click on “patterns” you should be taken to a page that looks something like the right screen shot, just below:

There is a lot of information on this page, before you even search for anything! Also, note how the word "patterns" is highlighted on the menu bar? That's how you can tell where you are on the website.

Let's start searching for a pattern. Notice that I selected "knit + crochet" before doing anything else. Since I am able to do both crafts, I usually leave my search open to either and pick the pattern I like best. But you can pick one or the other. That will narrow your search from the start, and I often do that when I know I am looking for a specific pattern - when someone says "I'd like to knit a hat." for example.

After you choose your craft, click on "pattern browser & advanced search" just above it. That will take you to the next page and open up the database for your search. The screen should now look something like this:

There are over 2000 pages (the number in the boxes just above all the photos)! And that's just the tip of the iceberg, as the site only shows you the top 100,000!

This is where many of you give up! Don't quit yet. Let's walk through narrowing down your search.

See that list on the left? Those are called filters. The filter list is longer than the screen shot and the photo listing! You'll need to scroll down your screen to see them all. They may not be in the same order, but your filter options include:

  • Local Yarn Shop

  • My Notebook

  • Category

  • Craft

  • Availability

  • Has Photo

  • Attributes

  • Weight

  • Gender/Age/Size/Fit

  • Yardage

  • Meterage

  • Fiber

  • Colors Used (typical)

  • Hook Size

  • Pattern Source

  • Needle Size

  • Rating

  • Difficulty

  • Ravelry Designer

  • Crochet Terminology

  • Language

  • More Search Options

That's a lot of ways to search. Having this many filters can be overwhelming too. So lets find a pattern and walk you through narrowing your search. Let's search for a pair of house slippers for the kids in our life.

1. Scrolling through the filters, find the "Category" option. When you select "Category", more boxes often open up to the right, allowing you to get pretty specific. Here we followed the boxes to chose slippers. Notice in the second photo, we've now narrowed our search to 128 pages. That's a big difference. But still to many for most of us to search reasonably.

2. To easily narrow my search, a bit more, I will often check the "has photo" option. This usually only eliminates a few patterns, but it helps. Especially since I'm not likely to use a pattern when I don't know what the finished item looks like - unless it comes recommended by a trusted source. I'll often narrow my search by selecting my language as well. Again, this may only eliminate a few options, but every bit helps. In this example, choosing to see a photo eliminated 300 patterns! Sure, 5,000 patterns is still a lot to manage, but we're not done filtering our options yet.

3. We're searching for a pattern for slippers to fit a child. So from the "Gender / Age/ Size / Fit" filter, choose your age group. Like the "Category" selection, when you click on "Age or Size" more boxes and choices open up to the right. I selected all the children sizes and have narrowed our search down to 292 patterns. Even thought that sounds like a lot, it's just 7 pages. I think you'd agree, that's much more manageable and helpful than when we started this pattern search.

And remember this contains both crochet and knitting. Looking at the screen shot below, If I were to choose the craft, either crochet or knitting, it would halve our pattern options. If you started there, by choosing your craft at the beginning, instead of choosing "knit + crochet" like I did, your search would already have narrowed to 130-150 patterns!

But what about when you don't know what you want to make? I know there are many of you out there trying to figure out what to do with THAT yarn. You know the yarn I'm taking about - you just had to have it. But now you're stuck, don't know what to do with it and are feeling guilty. Can you use the search function for this too? YES! Let's find patterns for which we could use Darn Yarn's February Yarn of the Month, Patagonia from Juniper Moon.

1. The first step is the same as the slipper example. I selected "knit + crochet" from the pattern home page before clicking on "pattern browser and advance search". The next best option is to select the yarn weight from the filters. It's a DK weight yarn, so lets start with that. That narrowed our search considerably, but not enough, there are still over 130,000 patterns.

2. Let's say you want to use 2 colors. So that will be 2 skeins, which at, 382 yards each = 764 yards. Using the yardage filter, choose multiple yardage choices; this leaves more variation in the options available, at least for now. Yes, 764 yards is a lot, but you've got two skeins to work with, by choosing multiple yardage filters you can find patterns that use yardage up to your maximum available amount.

3. The yardage filter got us down to around 13,000 patterns so we're getting there... I mentioned that we wanted to use two colors, so lets pick that as our next filter. That brings our pages down to 48! We're getting there. And some of us, 48 is a manageable number and we stop here. But you don't have to.

4. The "Availability" filter is a handy one to become familiar with. "Free" means just that - there isn't a fee for the pattern. "Purchase online" means you may purchase it from a website as a digital download. Sometimes these patterns will redirect you to another website, sometimes the patterns are available on Ravelry. "Purchase in print" means it's only available in a printed format and you can't buy it online as a download. Which depending on your immediate needs, can be an issue because you need to find the book or magazine in which it's printed. "Ravelry download" means that it's available on Ravelry as a downloadable item - either free or for a fee. "In my library" means that you already bought it from Ravelry or downloaded it to your Ravelry library (we'll cover this at a later date). I chose "Ravelry download" because I want to be able to look at it or purchase it today and I don't want to be redirected to another site. As you an see, our page count is still shrinking.

5. Then for good measure, I'll narrow it down more by selecting "Has Photo" and "English" like I did in the previous slipper example. This time I'll go for "Adult" in the "Gender / Age / Size / Fit" filter. This brings us down to twelve pages! That's much more manageable.

Have you noticed, while playing with the search function and filters, that at the very top of the page, just near the search criteria, there's a drop down menu? This is a good way to sort your patterns once you've narrowed them down to a manageable number of pages. If you click on the drop down menu you get some fun sorting options.

Switching up how they are sorted will change the order the patterns are presented to you. This is an easy way to see what's popular ("Most popular"), on trend ("Hot right now"), or a reliable standby ("Most favorites") - not to mention you can sort them by difficulty, star rating, or yardage! As you can see by comparing the thumbnail photos in these three screen shots (right and side by side below) the order of the patterns has changed between "Best match", "Most popular" and "Hot right now" - I didn't change the criteria of the search, just the order they are presented. This is an easy way to "shuffle" the patterns with out altering your criteria, thereby allowing you to see some that you might otherwise miss if you don't want to check every page.

Now for some fun and silly information. Lets go back to the very beginning, the Pattern Homepage. From there, pick your craft, as you did in both examples above. I'll continue to keep it "knit + crochet". Then in the search box, type in something silly. St. Patrick's day is just around the corner, so I'll use "Pot of Gold". Then click the "Search" button on the right. Look at that! "Pot of Gold" returns two pages! Play with the search box, you'll be surprised at the things you can find. This also allows you to search for specific things, characters, themes, shows, books, etc. Then utilize the filter options to find the perfect pattern.

If you need to back track, or undo your search, that's easy too! Each of the search filters when listed at the top of the page, have a "clear" button. You can also select the option to clear the entire search. Both are good ways to backtrack or begin again when your just not sure you're finding what you need or you need to rethink your selections.

Phew! That was a lot of information. Play around with the pattern search box and filters. They are really quite powerful and handy. Don't be afraid of messing up. You really can't. What's the worst that could happen? You're queue might grow. Maybe you'll find your best Halloween costume yet. Or, maybe you'll find a way to use that yarn that you've had in your stash way to long.

Hopefully as you become more familiar with Ravelry's database you'll be able to use it with more confidence. Next time you need to find that perfect pattern, give the search a try. Sure it's a rabbit hole, but with a bit of trial and error, you just might be able to manage the size of it and not get quite as lost as Alice.

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