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Ravelry Made Me Do It

October 9, 2007

Podcasts are now a regular part of my routine. I listen to them on my commute when I’m between audiobooks. I listen to them when I’m working on quilts. I sometimes listen to them when I knit, though more often I knit when I watch tv, because I can knit without looking at what I’m doing most of the time. A lot of these podcasts are about knitting (I’m still looking for a quilting podcast that fits my style, so if you have any recommendations, please e-mail me) and starting late this past spring almost every one of them dropped in at least a mention of a website called Ravelry. It was so cool, they said. It was in beta and there was a waiting list, they said. Get on the list now, they said. I got the idea it was a sort of Facebook for knitters, and since I’m not a serious knitter (I think of myself as a quilter who knits when she can’t get to her fabric) and don’t have time to keep up with all the stuff I’m already into online, I didn’t rush right over to Ravelry and sign up.

I held out for a few months but the constant drip drip drip of mentions wore me down. I put my name on the list at the end of July and got my invitation last week. Oh my. I’m a glutton for data and Ravelry feeds that in a big way. I can enter my yarn stash and my projects (completed and planned and even abandoned) and import my Flickr photos to illustrate them and link to patterns and shops in the wider database. I can look at other people’s stash and projects and see what they’ve done with the same yarn or the same pattern. There are groups and forums and private messaging, and I’ve already signed up as a volunteer editor to manage a two tiny slices of the pattern database.

One thing that quickly became clear to me is that I needed better pictures of my yarn. Piling up a bunch of stuff on a table and snapping away is fine for general illustration purposes but for the stash pages at Ravelry individual portraits of each colorway of each fiber are ideal. I remembered that the Knitters Uncensored podcast had talked about how to get good photos of yarn and so I looked up Elemm’s entry with his lightbox. I thought I’d go to IKEA and see about getting supplies there, but I happened to go to JoAnn Fabrics to get thread to match the back of my latest quilt so I could start quilting it and found both plastic boxes and daylight desk lamps on sale for 40% off so I grabbed them there. I pulled a piece of white sateen fabric from my quilting stash to use as a backdrop and voila, my own super duper cheap lightbox.

I took my first pictures using the box this weekend. It makes quite a difference. Pre-lightbox, my yarn pictures generally had at least a few distracting background elements, like this stack of Swish with kitchen table, chair, and a wedge of the leaf-strewn patio. Post-lightbox, it’s all about the yarn. This exercise has finally inspired me to really explore the manual settings on my camera, venturing into the world of exposure compensation and white balance and such. I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m having fun doing it.

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