Ravelry Alternative: Crafting New Opportunities
For years Ravelry has been THE place for knitters and crocheters to connect and buy. It is a unique combination of an online notebook, pattern database, social media, and pattern marketplace. Many independent knit and crochet designers have built their businesses with Ravelry as their cornerstone.
However, change happens fast on the internet. Websites abruptly shut down, are bought by larger companies, and sometimes fall out of favor.
In 2020 Ravelry launched a new look, and members dubbed it NuRav. Soon after, some members reported NuRav triggered migraines, vertigo, eyestrain, and some seizures. Many long time members feel they can no longer access their pattern library or receive pattern support through the site.
NuRav is not the only unexpected disruption in the fiber community. In 2017 NBC/Universal purchased the popular website Craftsy rebranding it as Blueprint. Many independent designers sold their work on the Craftsy/Blueprint platform. This summer, out of the blue, NBC/Universal decided to shutter the website. TN Marketing bought the video library and relaunched Craftsy in September. But, it remains uncertain if it will still function as an online marketplace for designers.
Due to these unexpected changes, designers are asking is it smart to build their business around one website like Ravelry. If you are an independent designer looking at new ways to sell your work, three strategies to consider are:
- Sell patterns on Ravelry and a parallel e-commerce store
- Utilize Ravelry to stay in touch with community forums, and showcase your designs, but when a knitter is ready to purchase are lead to another website
- Create a new online store and leave Ravelry all together
Regardless of which path you choose, selling your patterns on an alternative Ravelry website is an opportunity to create a more flexible business built to survive unexpected changes.
Considerations For Independent Designers Choosing Ravelry Alternatives
Independent designers do more than write beautiful knit patterns and crochet patterns. You are a marketing department, customer service rep, and chief financial officer. You require efficient e-commerce websites that let you spend more time creating, and less time on everything else.
When looking at a Ravelry alternative, Important questions designers have to ask are:
- How will a knitter know your work exists?
- Free patterns and discounts draw in customers. How easy is it to set up coupons? Does it allow BOGO, free patterns?
- Businesses need repeat customers. Strong branding is critical. Does the knitter think of you when recommending your pattern, or do they think of the third Party Website?
- Does the e-commerce site make it easier to deliver updates to customers? Will you need to set up a website or email list to do this?
- Independent Knit and Crochet patterns is a global market. Does the e-commerce site handle VAT? US Sales Tax?
- What are the fees? How will you be paid?
There are two broad categories of e-commerce sites for independent knit designers and crochet designers to consider:
- Ravelry-like marketplace websites where thousands – sometimes millions – of designers compete for the attention of knitters and crocheters
- A Personal website and shopping cart to sell directly to knitters and crocheters.
Theoretically, marketplace websites bring customers to you. Knitters and crocheters go to these sites ready to buy. Because these marketplace websites are a large business, it often handles sales tax and VAT for you. These are significant advantages.
Marketplace websites may help you entice a first time customer. But, can you turn them into a long time follower? People often say, “I bought it on Etsy.” When your customer is ready to start their next project, will they come back to your store or do another Etsy search? Building your brand in the shadow of a large website is a challenge.
Still, if built-in foot traffic is your priority, there are two big websites to consider: Etsy and Lovecrafts.
Etsy is a well-known marketplace website and makes it easy for designers, artists, and artisans to sell their work to an eager public. In 2019 over 45 million people shopped on Etsy. But, not all 45 million buyers on Etsy are looking for knit patterns or crochet patterns – or are even fiber crafters.
Also, with 2.5 million Etsy sellers, making your storefront stand out can be a challenge. Sarah Dawn of Sarah Dawn’s Designs operates an Etsy and Payhip store. In a recent online discussion regarding independent designers selling on Etsy, she tweeted, “You have to drive all your own traffic. Etsy search is just too massive and not useful, even with good SEO. You might get the odd search hit, but, still expect to be driving almost all your traffic to your listings yourself.”
Still, access to 45 million customers, having sales tax handled for you, and ease of listing is valuable. That value comes with a price tag. Setting up an Etsy shop is free, listing your patterns is not.
- Listing fees are $0.20 (USD) per listing.
- You pay this fee if your work sells or not.
- Listings expire every four months. You will spend $0.60 a year to keep one listing active.
If you do sell a pattern, there are more fees:
- 5% Transaction Fee on all sales
- Processing Fee applies if you sign up to use Etsy payment. This fee varies by country.
- Ad Fee: Sellers will be enrolled automatically in Etsy offsite ads. You will incur additional fees if Etsy attributes a sale to an offsite Ad. Sellers earning less than $10,000 in a year can opt-out.
I’m small enough that I can’t save money hosting my own platform. I also get traffic [on Etsy] I wouldn’t on my own site. But if I had more name recognition/sales volume, I’d do my [own website]. Their fees are always getting higher AND it’s really no longer handmade only.
– Laura, Spinner and Designer
The Corner of Knit & Tea
Lovecrafts is a one-stop-shop for knitters and crocheters to buy yarn and patterns. There are a few features that separate it from Etsy.
Community Pages: Members can post photos of their finished objects. These photos are invaluable in inspiring other knitters to buy a pattern.
Imports Listings Directly from Ravelry: You will have to provide additional information, but this may be a time saver. However, Lovecrafts does approve each listing before it posts to the site. It can take 3-5 business days for your listing to be approved.
Pattern Library: Like Ravelry, members have a pattern library and receive automatic updates
Customer Service: Lovecrafts handles all customer service for you, including pattern support.
As an independent designer, your heart may have skipped a beat. Pattern support eats into your time. But, Lovecrafts acting as a constant intermediary can prevent deepening brand loyalty. Knitters and crocheters can follow your community page on Lovecrafts, but there is little opportunity to build your email list or steer customers to your website.
Fees for Lovecraft are similar to Ravelry, and more straight forward than Etsy.
- Creating your shop and listing is free.
- You can offer free patterns to entice new followers.
- Transaction Fee of 2% + $0.20 for all sales
- Selling Fee of 3.5% applies if you have monthly sale between $40 – $1300 (USD)
Simple. Still, there are disadvantages. The community pages are helpful, but there are no online forums. There is little opportunity to interact with other knitters and crocheters, and it is hard to build your email list or promote a membership program.
New Kids on the Block
After the uproar around NuRav, people see an opportunity to create Ravelry alternatives. One currently in development is Fiber.Club. But, there are several unknowns:
- How will these websites function?
- What will be the fee structure?
- How will it handle sales tax?
When Fiber.Club or another website launches, time will tell if it will gain traction and grow into a viable Ravelry alternative.
Payhip: A Website Of Your Own
Owning a website is an opportunity to fully control pricing, branding, marketing, and pattern support. Also, it is possible with your website to create membership programs and generate additional revenue streams.
Most of you currently have a website. Many designers use their website to drive makers to their Ravelry store for sales. Why not turn those links into your website store listings instead? Selling your patterns directly to customers makes your business more flexible and able to ride out the disruption when a marketplace website closes, is bought out, or falls out of favor.
Payhip is an e-commerce website designed for digital downloads that allows you to turn your website into a store. There are two ways you can utilize Payhip:
- Embed payhip listings into your current website
- Set up a Payhip hosted e-commerce website in a minute
I’ve found their set up really easy to learn. The open page to fill in details is such a treat. I don’t have to think too much about my pattern “romance” fitting and still making sense…I really like how easy it is to set up payhip with my blog [with embedding]. I want my blog to become my hub and having my patterns right there helps create that feel. Now that I know how to set up things it’ll be easy to do when a new pattern comes out.
– Síle Thiels, Independent Knit Designer
Knit Dance Repeat
If a knitter sees a pattern on Síle Thiels website they only have to click “Buy Now” to add the pattern to their shopping cart.
Getting Started On Payhip
Kristen Jancuk of Mediaperuana Designs recently set up her Payhip website in addition to her Ravelry store. She described the process as “Fast and simple, basically painless. It’s an easy process to upload the pattern, but I have over 100, so I’m still working on adding them all…”.
Getting started with Payhip is as simple as providing your email and creating a password.
After setting up your account, you build your first listing. You can choose customers to pay you through Paypal or Stripe. Once your first listing is up, you can personalize your store to bring it in line with your branding. Choose button colors, fonts, and even a CSS.
Like Etsy and Lovecrafts, Payhip handles VAT for you. For US Sales Tax Payhip will report the sales tax and include it with the purchase price. You are still responsible for remitting the taxes to the appropriate state agencies. (Sales Tax varies by state. Please consult with a tax professional.)
More Ways to Sell Yourself and Your Work
Any e-commerce site offers the ability to give your followers coupon codes and sales. But, Payhip has an added shopping cart feature that can encourage customers to buy more than one pattern: cross-selling or upselling.
- When a crocheter adds a pattern to their cart, you can automatically offer a discount for a second pattern.
- Do you have a hat pattern with a similar glove pattern? Set up the cart to automatically suggest the second pattern.
We Are Fiber Family
Shared Passion for knitting and crochet creates more than a business or customer relationship between makers and designers. We feel like a community. A tool many designers use to build an enduring relationship with crafters is an email list and newsletter.
With Payhip, you can opt to have a customer’s email immediately added to your email list after buying your pattern. And if you are using Payhip to host your store, a follow Button is present at the top of your page.
I asked Kristin Jancuk how easily she was able to build her email list:
“I was happy to see that I can link my newsletter to checkout, which is something I always wanted at Ravelry…I think getting new patterns directly in front of eyes already interested in my patterns is the most valuable aspect, but I also offer the best discounts to subscribers, so they have a reason to stick around as well.
– Kristen Jancuk, Knitwear Designer
But, there is more you can do through Payhip than build your email list. Knitters and crocheters love showing off our finished objects with others. We are the best marketing team. Encourage your followers to recommend your patterns to friends with a referral program.
Kristen Januck of Mediaperuana Designs has a referral program set up on her Payhip store.
Etsy, Lovecrafts, even Ravelry give you one way to earn revenue: pattern sales. Many designers are turning to Patreon to create new revenue streams. It is a lot to manage a Patreon, an Etsy Store, a Ravelry page, etc. Imagine eliminating one of them by setting up your Membership program through Payhip. Yes, you can have a membership program and e-commerce site all in one with Payhip.
Payhip offers three membership tiers, and each one includes all Payhip features. The only difference is the transaction fee you pay.
- Forever Free: 5% transaction fee
- Plus: $29.00/ month 2% transaction fee
- Pro: $99.00/month 0% transaction fee
If I Build it, Will They Come?
Selling your work from your website has a drawback: there is no built-in customer traffic like Etsy, Ravelry, or Lovecrafts. You will have to drive knitters and crocheters to your website. I asked Síle Thiels if it is challenging to market her patterns to knitters, and she told me:
A bit, but I don’t think any worse than I did before when I was only selling on Ravelry. I’ve always relied on boosting myself on my twitter, Instagram, and FB page. And my patterns still come up in Ravelry searches, they just direct off Ravelry for the sales.
– Síle Thiels, Independent Knit Designer
Knit Dance Repeat
If you think it is time to build your store either on your website or Payhip you will have to promote yourself. But, as Síle Thiels does, it is possible to use Ravelry to market your work. However, you may choose to use Ravelry in the future, with a mix of e-commerce websites, you can build a following inside and outside of Ravelry. Best of all, your success will not depend on another website’s success or failure.
Below is a brief comparison chart. Fees do not include additional processing fees from Paypal or Stripe. Fees are in US Dollars
|Sales Fee||5% Sale Price||2% + $0.20||NONE|
|Transaction Fee||Varies by Country Set Price + Percentage||3.5% for sales between $30 – $1300||
0% – 5%
(excluding PayPal / Stripe fees)
|Handles Sales Tax*||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Shopping Cart Cross-Selling||No||No||Yes|
|Build Your Own Email List||Possibly||No||Yes|
|How You are Paid||Direct Deposit Immediately, twice monthly or once a month||Once a month via Paypal||Immediately via Paypal or Stripe|
*Always consult with a Tax Professional
Recent disruptions with Ravelry is leading designers to consider new alternatives for e-commerce solutions. Crafting a website either in place of or in addition to sites like Ravelry, Etsy, and Lovecrafts, allows you to create a flexible business that can survive unexpected changes.