My friend Karen has a really stellar collection of tutorial videos on how to use Ravelry, so if you're new to the site or if you'd simply like to learn how to use it more efficiently, I highly recommend checking out the entire playlist.
Today, though, I want to focus on the feature that I use the most: the Advanced Search option.
It's at the very top of the page in the navigation bar on the left side. When you click on it (the little magnifying glass) it's going to take you to a massive results page that shows you the literally over one million designs you can choose from.
On the left side, though, you're going to find filter options. LOTS of them.
You can filter by craft: crochet. Down to 462k
You can filter by whether or not it has a photo: yes (why are there even patterns with NO photos??) 433k
You can filter by category: accessory and then neck/torso and then cowl. 12k
You can filter by yarn weight: worsted. 2k
You can filter by yardage: 450-600 yds. 277 results
You can filter by (the number of) colors used: 2 colors. 13 results.
Isn't that amazing!? Apparently I need to design some 2 color cowls in worsted weight yarn...
Here's the video tutorial from Karen to walk you through the steps:
Ravelry has had an update or two since she filmed this so it looks a little different, but you should be able to get the idea.
Another great way to use the advanced search feature is to find project ideas for a specific yarn that you have in your stash.
You can get really specific and look for project ideas based on the specific yarn you have, or you can begin with the yarn weight and yardage and then narrow down by category.
So, for example, I have two skeins of sock yarn from Hedgehog Fibres that I've been hoarding for a couple years now. They're two different colors so, again, I'm going to look for something that uses two colors.
Back to the search page (just click the magnifying glass up top again) and we begin with crochet and photo, of course. 433k again.
Now we'll filter by yarn weight: fingering. 28k (If you're not sure about the yarn weight, try looking it up by name in another tab first; that should give you the details.)
Next, yardage. Okay, meterage, since this yarn is from Ireland (it's a separate filter option from yardage). I have two skeins so that's 800m total. Now they have a range that goes up to 750 and they have a range that's 750-900. If I don't want to have that much variance, I can go so far as to enter a custom range (this is at the bottom of the list of suggested ranges). 400-800m. 4900 matches.
Colors used: 2. 312 matches.
Now. Let's go with a cowl again. So that's category then accessory then neck then cowl. 40 results.
Cool! My Lunar Phases Cowl showed up in these search results! That was a fun surprise, ha ha!
Another way you could do this would be to start by looking up Hedgehog Fibres sock yarn. Along the top of the screen, there should be a second navigation bar that gives you options related to that yarn, including Pattern Ideas and Projects. You can click on either of these and begin an advanced search from there.
For example, if I go with Projects (more results) and then click over through the advanced search bar under the yarn navigation bar (NOT the main one at the top - that'll take you back to full results page again) then I start with 36k results.
Back to the filters.
Craft: crochet. 627 results (wow, that was a fast drop!)
Meterage: 400-800. 97 results.
Colors: 2. 34 results.
Pattern category: accessory -> neck -> cowl. 8 results.
Why were there only 8 results this time? Because we started with Hedgehog Fibres sock yarn and each of these eight patterns lists that exact yarn as one of the suggested yarns for the design. Specifically.
Which means you'll get to see far more options if you search by the type of yarn (fingering weight) than if you begin with the exact specific yarn you have (Hedgehog Fibres sock). And yes, you can filter by fiber type, too! Which is especially handy when you're making yarn substitutions, but that's a topic for another blog post...
So. Feeling overwhelmed? Don't! Just go grab a couple skeins of yarn from your stash and jump down the rabbit hole feet first. See what you discover! The more you practice, the easier it will be to use this feature.
Remember, it's a tool. Once you learn how to use it, it can make the job of finding that perfect pattern so much easier! Or, you know, you'll get the pleasure of adventuring through a land of beautiful patterns, being delighted by surprising color combinations and textures along the way. Enjoy!