On the Subject of Sweaters (Addendum): Browsing for Patterns

As an addendum to yesterday’s post on choosing what sweater pattern(s) you’d like to knit for yourself, I wanted to take a moment to point out some very nice ways that the knitting internet has already made this easier for us. It’s possible that you already know the things I’m about to point out, but if you don’t, I can promise you that this is going to help you out a LOT in your browsing.

First, if you are searching generally on the internet through a search engine, it is worth remembering that Google or any search engine will return best results to you if you are a little bit specific about you want. It might be that you are very happy to sift through many pages of pattern websites (heck, I love a good procrastination spell myself), but at some point you have to put some limits on it and give the search engine a search string that will return a more refined result. Here are three examples, courtesy of Let me Google that For you:
Knitting pattern sweater
Knitting pattern sweater cardigan cables worsted buttons
knitting blog finished sweater cardigan

I include that last one because often bloggers will go into detail about their finished knitted items and talk about why they liked the pattern and what kind of modifications they did to it. Each of the above three search strings return very different sets of results – and a different number of potential web pages to sift through.

Ravelry: Advanced Pattern Search
By now, if you are a knitter who uses the internet, you probably know about Ravelry. It’s a website that’s free to use and functions in many different ways to help knitters think about their knitting. The notebook function allows you to store project pages for each of your in-progress or completed knitting projects, noting yarn and pattern selection, needle choice, and your own project notes and photos. However, once you store your information in your notebook pages, these are connected to the entire Ravelry archive of information, so, if I come across an entry on your Ravelry page, I can click on the entries for the pattern (sometimes it may be available for sale on Ravelry, but usually you will be able to find out where it is from) and yarn and find out more information about these, along with all the different kinds of projects that pattern and yarn have been involved in. It is a library of knitterly knowledge and much of the information stored there is the result of many knitters geekily entering in project information and talking about their stuff. In short, there’s a lot you can do on Ravelry, and one of those things is finding patterns.

To browse for patterns on Ravelry, you start with the “Patterns” tab up there at the top:

Ravelry A

Many people then start by browsing according to general category (a bit cut off there at the right of the image), or by perusing the “hot right now” items (this screen shot was taken last week, when Cookie A’s new book was just out and those patterns were getting a lot of attention). However, I want to also draw your attention to the “Advanced Pattern Search” feature up at the top. It’s a relatively recent addition to Ravelry (in the sense that it’s only been around for about two years or so, if my memory serves – as opposed to being there from the beginning of the site), and one that can save you a whack of time to help you browse for just what you’re looking for.

Ravelry 1

When you first click on this link, you will be taken to a page with the potential for a lot of filtering – but when you first look at it, there is no filtering whatsoever, and it is basically the first of many pages showing you all of the patterns that are listed in the Ravelry archives. So, a lot of patterns. The way to use this feature is to immediately start narrowing down the search filters. One is a drop-down menu at the top of the page towards the right: You can filter by most popular, most recent, etc. Another is the expansive set of menus and sub-menus that are listed in a column at the left: when you use these menus you immediately start narrowing down your search parameters based on specific criteria. Knitting vs Crochet, photographed vs. not photographed, garment type, yarn weight, male or female garment, and so on. This is your time to get picky and tell the Advanced Pattern Search exactly what you want to see, and it is going to save you so much time I can hardly stand it.

Ravelry 2

If you’re a Ravelry member (it’s free to join if you’re not), go onto the advanced pattern search and start clicking in some selection criteria and watch how the results are immediately refined for you, it’s awesome. (All of these Ravelry screen shots above and below are refining the same search from an open pattern search down to a women’s cardigan sweater in worsted weight yarn, knitted, with a photograph, worked in pieces from the bottom up; from hundreds of thousands of patterns down to about eight hundred. You’ve still got some browsing to do, but now it’s a matter of an evening instead of all week.)

Ravelry 3

Ravelry 4

Ravelry 5

Patternfish Pattern Search
If you are a knitter who uses Patternfish (also free to use, and hosts sale patterns only and no discussion forums or groups), a very similar search process is available to you. While the main page shows you the most recent patterns added (and their newsletter will also highlight specific patterns for you to peruse), you can refine your pattern search along specific criteria that you choose:

Patternfish 1

Patternfish 2

Patternfish 3

While it might seem fairly obvious to use these kinds of search techniques online, in fact these specific websites have only been around in Knitting Internet Land for the last few years, and are under constant improvement and adjustment every year, as more knitters come to use them. It’s entirely possible for a person to use a website (or the entire internet, for that matter), in the same manner for months or years at a time before discovering, “oh, wait, what does that button do, I’ve not noticed that one before,” and on the off chance that you are one of those people – I salute you and encourage you to get as picky as you like in your pattern browsing.

Next post: Style, Construction, and Fit

With that, I’m looking ahead to the weekend, and I hope you’ll have some knitting in it just as I will. Until next time!


  1. Totallly agree about Ravelry – but I”m JUST as capable of spending multiple evenings trying to choose between all the possible choices! Made worse if I forget that I’m wanting to use a particular weight yarn or something, and forget to include it in the search (and fall in love with something entirely different) – and have to start again!
    But maybe that’s just me….

  2. My idea of an evening browsing Ravelry is almost as good as a holiday!!! Love the filtering tho when looking for something specific. Great post. xxx

  3. Really helpful post! No matter how long one has been using Ravelry, Patternfish, or Google, there is ALWAYS something new to learn about how to search. There were some great tips here – thank you muchly!

  4. I love browsing rav patterns ….it’s like chocolate after a rough day.

  5. I wish I could figure out how to incorporate my personal tags with the advanced pattern search. I have 200+ patterns with the tag “cardigans” faved, but I can’t figure out how to use that (i.e., filter by gauge) with the advanced pattern search. Any idea how to do that?

  6. I just used that to find a cowl pattern. Thanks for the advice. It worked perfect!

  7. Thank you, The information you’ve given is just great. I’m fairly new to Ravelry and not very computer savy. Love your blog. Thanks.

  8. PurrlGurrl · ·

    If Ravelry would get the gauge filter to actually work, I’d be a much happier browser. I asked Ravelry for help with this useless filter and got what was basically a non-responsive e-mail in reply with a “there’s a problem with the filter?” type of response and a suggestion that rather I use the yarn weight filter.

    Un uh. That wasn’t a helpful response.

    By the way, don’t forget to filter by the language(s) you can read or you’ll get projects to die for written in languages and alphabets you have no hope of ever understanding and will feel totally frustrated. I learned that very early in the game.

  9. I love Ravelry for choosing patterns because a lot of times I can see that garment on a person roughly my size and know if it will flatter me.

  10. I love Ravelry. Haven’t tried Patternfish yet. I was in such a good knitting vibe yesterday…Until my circular needles broke! Two more days until the replacement arrives in the mail. How will I ever survive?

  11. PurrlGurrl · ·

    Patternfish seems to have more of the classic pattern styles and it’s a good place to search for traditional patterns. Just remember patterns there are not free.

    Also Garnstudio – DROPS Design has beaucoups patterns online that are filterable and it’s a good place to search as well. Lately, DROPS started posting some of its patterns in Ravelry, but not all of them are there. So check out the DROPS site, too.

    Many of the yarn manufacturer sites also offer free patterns (for example, Berroco, Classic Elite, and Cascade), but they’re not filterable. Still, don’t forget to check those resources. Not all manufacturer patterns end up in Ravelry either.

  12. I’m a librarian, so I do a lot of searching on a _lot_ of different interfaces. I have to say, Ravelry’s Advanced Search is to die for–it blows the search interfaces of many paid-subscription-only databases out of the water.

  13. […] ← Briefly on a Monday On the Subject of Sweaters (Addendum): Browsing for Patterns → August 23, 2012 · 4:27 pm ↓ Jump to […]

  14. […] Part 1 (Addendum): Browsing For Patterns […]

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