Support. Friendships. Visibility. Invitations to craft meet-ups.
These are just some of the opportunities that can come from clicking into your online craft niche. Today, I'm picking up where I left off yesterday on the subject of hooking into your online craft community. Even if you're comfortable with the idea of getting involved, you may be wondering, "Where do I start? Who do I talk to first? Do I have to wear a name tag?"
How can a newbie break into online craft groups?
Here are 10 tips anyone with a computer and Internet connection can use to bring a whole new realm to their craft:
- Find craft blogs: There are a ton of talented knitters and crocheters out there with blogs of their own. Some may appeal to you more for their writing style, while others will blow you away with their beautiful photos (like b r o o k l y n t w e e d ); still other blogs are chock full of useful information and tutorials. Nettie of the blog Knitology relates that "Being a part of the online crafty community has had a huge and lasting impact on my life. The encouragement and affection I receive from people, most of whom I have never even met, brightens my day. It reminds me that there are other people out there who are going through the same things that I am and that they are pretty great. That makes me believe that I'm great, too."
- Comment: Once you find a blog or two that you like, comment on the projects they're showing or ideas they're mulling. Do you have a common or helpful experience to share? You don't have to be an expert to comment – simply someone who has something thoughtful, funny or informative to share.
- Be vocal: Whether you take part in a knitting forum at a site like Knitters Review or you're part of the conversation among one of many groups at Ravelry, take part in the discussion. When you do, you'll get to know other crafters, even if only in a virtual way.
- Take part in KALs or CALs: This is a fun way to make projects with other crafters. KALs (knit-alongs) and CALs (crochet-alongs) allow a group to choose a pattern (or two) and everyone makes it within a specified time frame. It's amazing to see the individual choices, from yarn to colors to modifications. This is what makes each project so unique to the knitter or crocheter. There are KALs for books, such as Fitted Knits Along, and CALs for a particular pattern like the ripple blanket, at The No-End-in-Sight-Ripple-Along-Group Blog.
- Join virtual crafting groups: Besides Ravelry, which currently boasts over 480,000 members, there are other craft forums out there. Knitters Review and Knitting Help are just two other communities where you can virtually connect with like-minded people. Tips, advice and plenty of off-topic conversation abounds. Crafters are generally very helpful to newbies, so whether you've been knitting longer than you can remember or you've recently become addicted to the craft, you'll find plenty of help online.
- Use social networking: Don't be surprised to find crafty people at such social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. You never know where online relationships may take you, even ones that begin in crafting forums. Simply inputting email addresses of your established contacts at these sites will help you locate them, giving you a venue for keeping in touch that's outside the crafty medium.
- Showcase original patterns: One of the best ways to get your name out in the online craft community is to showcase your original designs. Publications like Knitty.com and Popknits are just two places you can send in patterns you've created. Include a link to your blog and people will find you.
- Start a blog: This is one of the easiest ways to involve yourself in the online crafting community and you don't have to pay a dime. Of course, some bloggers eventually find that they want web hosting services, specific design platforms and the like, but you can set up a free blog through Blogger or Wordpress in a matter of minutes. BrownBerry, of The Brown Berry Chronicles blog and the Etsy shop Dreads & Curls, has this to say about her online crafty endeavors: "Blogging has been an extension of the creative outlet I have found through my knitting obsession. This type of writing has been a fun way to chronicle my crafting journey; it has allowed me to reflect on my fascination with all things fiber, and to connect with others in the Yarn Love community. It is a great vehicle for sharing my experience and for immersing myself in the stories told by other crafters too."
- Make your blog your community: So you've started a blog, but that's the easy part. Making it into a nice little corner all your own, where other crafters stop by and say "hi," takes some work, such as blogging on a regular basis, displaying flattering photos of your work and responding to comments when necessary.
- Pictures are always welcome: Crafting is a very visual medium. People want to see what you make, your progress as you make it, the finished product – everything. Once you have your own set of online crafting friends, they usually take great pleasure in seeing how your projects develop, from start to finish, especially if you have interesting stories to weave in throughout the process. While photos make blog posts interesting, you can also cross-post at Flickr and join groups there. I'm a member of the Flickr Interweave Knits FOs (Finished Objects), which allows knitters to showcase completed projects from the magazine. This gives you additional exposure outside of your blog or Ravelry.
Pictures can also help commenters provide feedback. When I posted a picture at my crafting blog, Cozy's place, of some granny squares I'd recently crocheted, I also mentioned that I wasn't quite sure about the color. Sometimes, it's difficult for me to get a good sense of color in person, vs. seeing it in photo form. One of my commenters let me know that the colors were "amazing" which made me feel better and like maybe I was on the right track after all with my selection.
Have you found your craft niche online? How has it helped you? Or vice versa?
Del Sandeen blogs about her beautiful knit and crochet projects over at Cozy's Place.