I love being a fiber artist in the internet age. I have been a crafter all my life, a habit picked up, no doubt, from my Mom, who was always making something. But for the first twenty-odd-years, my crafting was limited to what was available locally, so mostly big-box discount store type supplies and take what you can get endeavors- cross stitch, bead weaving, etc. I have always loved to try things and would get caught up in any new thing I could find at least long enough to say I did it, but it wasn’t until post-college when I discovered there are actual brick and mortar shops dedicated to single crafts. At the time it was quilting, and then when I ran out of storage space for fabric and switched to knitting (something I learned as a kid but never really took a shine to at the time) and discovered the big girl yarn stores, well, it was all over…
And then I discovered Ravelry. For those in the fiber community, Rav is nearly ubiquitous. Its such a common resource it’s almost unheard of NOT to be a part of it. For those of you NOT in the fiber arts community, I generally describe Rav as “Facebook for knitters”. Except it’s so much more. It’s a place to find, buy and self-publish patterns. Its a fantastic resource for all things yarn, be it specifics on a manufacturer, fiber content, yardage, whatever. It’s a place to ask questions, play fiber-related games for meaningless internet points, to chat with like-hobbied individuals. It’s a place to buy and sell things you are seeking, either to acquire (equipment, that elusive skein of discontinued yarn in exactly the correct dye lot to finish your Christmas knitting, that sort of thing) or to destash (because dear Bob what was I thinking with this skein of yarn or I really have more Lazy Kates than any one spinner could possibly need so I shall sell three to buy one).
And this is where my tale begins- a few years back I posted an “ISO” (In Search Of) request on a vendor-fan group looking to purchase a set of knitting needles that are particularly popular, delightful to use, and have a months-to-years long wait list to purchase new from the maker. I didn’t really expect to strike gold with my request, but it wasn’t too long before another Raveler contacted me with an offer to purchase one of her sets. And so we worked out the arrangements, I was willing to pay her asking price and she was willing to part with her Dyakcraft Darn Pretty set in their Tortoise colorway so that I could have these much coveted needles.
In that one post, a friendship started. It took a couple of years to really develop, of course. It turns out that we play the same game (The Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup) for the same house at the time (Slytherin) and we’d “bump into” one another from time to time. And eventually we started “hanging out” together in the same group. And in the end, the person answering my ISO post got on an airplane (something that she hates to do with nearly all she’s worth) to fly to Wisconsin from her home in Idaho, to spend the weekend hanging out with me, both at my home and at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival. Because the beauty that is being a part of the fiber arts community in the age of the internet is, sometimes distance just doesn’t matter. Friendships develop through the strangest connections and the people on the other end of the fiber optic cables that bring us together online become the people that work their way into our lives as if we’ve been friends for 30 years. Age and distance become insignificant because our common interests overcome all barriers. I have friends in many states and several countries whom I meet up with daily in the magical place called Ravelry, many of whom I’ve also spent time with in real life, many more I hope to share hugs, laughs and crafting time with in person in the future. Because they are my tribe, because through our shared interests and the magic of the internet, I am not just one woman in Wisconsin pursuing a strange and unusual hobby that has fallen out of popular fashion, I am part of a community where we can learn, grow and thrive together separately. And it is a wonderful thing.
Incidentally, that set of tortoise Darn Pretties got traded back to her for a set of Vermont Apple needles instead, because she lamented the loss of her tortoises and I am rather partial to the straight woods of lighter color. But this time instead of negotiating terms and shipping through the mail, we made the trade one tip-set at a time, sitting on my sofa, laughing the whole time.