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Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday are behind us, finally. Can we get back to normal for a while?

FaceBook and Twitter are the big online social websites, but I have a favorite that I find a lot more interesting, and for the most part, much friendlier. My online hangout is Ravelry, and it is home to a whole big bunch of knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers — let’s just say people involved with fiber arts in many forms and from all around the world. The site was started in mid-2007 and the growth has been steady. At any given time you’ll find 4,500 to 5,000 members online.

SIGs? Over 26,000 are available. Some are based on designers, some on local shops, some on sports teams. You name it and there’s probably a group for it. If not, you can start one. There are groups for iPhone lovers, iPad lovers, actor and TV show fans. Don’t ask me how many groups I follow and participate in. It’s embarrassing. I do participate in a few groups devoted to Apple products, and there are a few of us who do exactly the same thing that we do on the MacGroup iBBS. If someone has a problem, we try to help.

In addition to the camaraderie, Ravelry gives members the ability to create online databases of works-in-progress, fiber stash (the knitters and spinners out there know what I’m talking about), books, magazines and individual patterns that we own, projects on our to-do lists. If I buy a skein of yarn without having a specific project in mind, I can do a search through all of the online databases and see what others have made with that yarn. If I see a pattern that I like, another search will show me not only what yarns others have used with that pattern, but their notes listing any problems they may have had with either the yarn or the pattern.

There are no annual dues to belong to Ravelry. How do they make their money? Designers and shop owners advertise on the site, small, tasteful ads. They also earn money from Amazon when anyone buys a book that is hyperlinked on any one of the forums. The site is beautifully run, and moderators for each group/SIG work hard to keep things civil. Get nasty and you can be banned. SIGs have occasionally been shut down because people didn’t want to follow the rules. Yep, nothing like some of the nastiness you see on FaceBook.

If you are involved in the fiber arts or know someone who is, check out Ravelry. Prepare to be hooked. It’s a fun community.

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