When thinking of knitting and crocheting, one doesn't often associate it with social networking Web sites. Despite being a solitary activity, knitting is also a social event and a chance for people to get together and share tips, projects, and chatter--also known as the "stitch and bitch." Ravelry is a new site for knitters and crocheters that's taking that online, and adding an interesting Web spin with project management, and the creation of a massive directory of user shared patterns. The end result is a social network that doubles as a place to find new projects and talk to others who have done them.
The service is set up to give everyone their own social profiles, including a blog that can be slurped from your existing site. There are also themed groups, with shared project and yarn pools, and private forums. Interestingly enough, instead of grouping "neighbors" by geographical region, Ravelry instead chooses to group people together by the projects they're working on.
The real draw, however, is the "stash," which is a place to document whatever yarns or fibers you own. Just take pictures of it, upload, and tag them. It then resides in your stash, until you've used it (which then goes into your "used" pile). The hope is that Ravelry users will keep their stashes up to date, letting other users ping them to purchase or swap the yarn, or ask questions.
According to CNET's resident knitting expert, and published author Jennifer Stafford, the stash actually helps to solve a real world problem in the crafts community--dyeing. Each lot of yarn has its own unique color, and if you somehow can't get more of a certain color later on, you're pretty much out of luck. Assuming people have tagged their stashes correctly, you might be able to pick up that oh-so-important missing piece of your project.
Ravelry is still in its private beta testing phase and is whittling down its waiting list of over 17k users by inviting about 500 new ones a day. You can sign up for it here.
Note: This post has been changed since its original publish to correct inaccuracies about the neighbors and patterns features, and to specify terminology about what's in the stash.