Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Haven't heard of Ravelry?

Several times I have mentioned that my blogging time started to get eaten up by Ravelry. What I have been reminded of recently is that everyone in the world has probably heard of blogs, but not everyone in the world has heard of Ravelry. So, to clarify ... Ravelry is an online community devoted to knitting and crochet enthusiasts. For me, this includes handdyers of my natural wool yarns, and especially sock knitting affectionados.

On Ravelry, there are groups created by either individuals or companies. One of my customers told me about Ravelry, and so I checked it out only to discover that it was in beta version, and that there was a couple month wait to get accepted into the fold. Someone must have contacted the folks at Ravelry, because we received an invitation to join as a potential group moderator for Wool2Dye4. So, we jumped to the front of the line, became a member of the online knitting community and started a group called Friends of Wool2Dye4.

Amazing. Just amazing amount of contacts immediately began to fly back and forth. I had a quick look around the site, and quickly found out that it is like any large group of many people with varied interests and that discussions could quickly turn to things other than wool. For me, the value in maintaining a group was not to discuss cooking, children, navel gazing, or --worse! -- politics and religion. No. Immediately I decided to guide the discussions, as much as possible, to be on-topic .. the topic being my yarn, right?

People's personalities come out in informal little posts. Their humor, their approach to business, to the scope of their businesses, to what they consider a lot or a little business, method, etc. '

It's fun. I like logging on and seeing the discussion of my yarns, the expected new yarns on the delivery schedule, suggestions for yarns and fibers to add to the lineup. Last summer when my British Wool supplier came to work with me for a week, we held a quasi Cyber Open House on Ravelry on a July Sunday afternoon. I was so surprised that within just the one hour of our Open House, we had more than 100 posts back and forth. It was exhilarating to be tapping away, the two of us sitting side by side, and calling out, 'Hey, I'll get this one!' and 'Oh, look who it is!' We truly did have almost instantaneous interaction with some people halfway round the world.

But, of course, it is not all fun and games. Like last month, for instance, I had the brilliant idea that I did not want to carry spinning fibers any more on the Wool2Dye4 website. There were very good reasons, which do not need to be repeated because I was called down good and proper. My customers practically told me that they were disappointed in me.... a sure way to get my attention. They had their say both on Ravelry and in personal eMails, which, I may say, were even more pointedly worded than the publicly posted Ravelry discussion. And, yes, I backtracked and am still carrying spinning fibers. What else could I do? In a way, I was irritated that I couldn't do what I wanted to do, and in another very big way, I was proud that so many people felt so strongly about the site and the products that they had to resort to strong language to make their point.

Ravelry is good for my business, and I buy adversing, of course, and also support the owners' efforts by sending a small gift of cash every once in a while. A sort of general 'thank you' for the opportunity to interact with my customers, to get to know them better, to see pictures of their dogs and cats and kids and hubbies. And of their knitting, their dye jobs on my wool, their designs. Many times a customer will write a private eMail to find out more about a wool or when new stock is expected, or just how a particular fiber reacts to a method or expected wear. And, many of these eMails end with, 'Whatever did we do before Ravelry?' Must say that Ravelry has given me a chance to get to know my customers in a way that mere eMails do not afford, and I like it.

There is a down side to almost everything! Maintaining an active group with viable questions and discussions takes an awful lot of time to keep up with! As a result, other forms of communication have suffered, including ... yes, the blog. I was thinking that this will be a good spot to introduce the fiber artists who are supplying the lovely yarns for the new website, Uptown Stitches, in the next weeks. I've started a new Ravelry group, Friends of Uptown Stitches, and am introducing the artists there, but sometimes I worry that I may be preaching to the crowd there.


Knit Witch said...

What is this Ravelry of which you speak??? :)

Sheila Wool2Dye4 said...

Ah, one of the Ravelry posters speaks!