Two weeks ago I wrote a post asking why there isn't a site like Ravelry for sewing. The post provoked quite a bit of interest in the broader online sewing community and the response was pretty tremendous. There was a lively discussion in the comments and I received quite a few emails from people who are working to create Ravelry equivalents. One email stood out to me, though. It was from Amanda Clow, one of the founders of of Threadbias.
The founders of Threadbias are Amanda Clow and Rebecca and Alex Peachey.
I've decided to publish Amanda's email here in full, with her permission.
Truthfully, Amanda's email wasn't an easy one for me to receive. There's some tension, and some hurt feelings here. But not everything in life is easy. I feel very strongly that it's important to write honestly about what I see happening (or not) in the sewing community, even at the risk of rubbing things a bit raw.
Here's Amanda's email in full:
Hi Abby –
My name is Amanda Clow, and I am one of the founders of Threadbias, an online sewing community. My partners and I have thought a lot about this email, and whether or not to send it at all. It was actually a blog post of yours that inspired me to sit down and write to you. Although the subject matter is different, I felt the idea of using this opportunity to create a relationship remained the same.
As always, we follow any mentions about our site very closely as we are always looking for ways to improve the Threadbias community. We were very interested by the conversation on Twitter the other day about sewing communities and why thus far there isn't one that has taken off like Ravelry has. We have our own thoughts and theories of course (timing, different types of crafts, the use of Flickr, etc) but it's always interesting to see what others have to say. As the conversation continued, and your blog post went up, we were dismayed by the dismissive tone about the communities that do exist, including our own. We thought (and perhaps too personally, felt) that we were unfairly portrayed as a failure – a sewing community that just wasn't right and never would be. To be perfectly honest, it was discouraging and we became defensive. Then as we saw the comments on your post we realized that most people don't really know us and our story.
After a lot of thought and conversation, and reading your blog post that we linked above, we decided it was best to just write and tell you a little about who we are. We are a small family company, and we may be just getting started, but we have huge vision for what Threadbias can become.
There are three of us – Alex, Rebecca, and myself, Amanda. Alex is my brother. Rebecca is his wife. Alex has been a software developer for 20 years. He is a talented, top level Ruby coder and has single-handedly created every feature on Threadbias. He has done this all while working an additional full-time job as the Ruby on Rails architect and a lead developer at Originate in order to support his family.
Rebecca and I love to sew. We both learned as children, from our mothers. We continued to sew, quilt, and stitch throughout our lives and are active members of both local and online communities. When Alex came up with the idea for Threadbias three years ago, we were so excited. We absolutely loved the idea. It seemed perfect: an online community where all sewists could gather! We wanted it for us – and for everyone else who has wished for a place to connect and share with others.
We knew Threadbias would take a lot of work – and it has. We spend weekends and evenings working on the site. We Skype until 2 in the morning because Alex and Rebecca live in Las Vegas and I live in Portland and these late night meetings are when we are all able to connect; discussing and making plans for the site. I also work full time as a teacher and my husband has jumped in as our designer to create new, more streamlined look. Alex and Rebecca have a son, I have three daughters. We have all given so much to this site, and continue to work on it every day. We are entirely self-funded and have not taken in any outside investment to support our idea. We have sponsored large events to get the word out about our community. We support small blogs because we think what they are doing is great. I tell you this not to complain, but rather to indicate how committed we are to the Threadbias community. It has become a huge part of our lives, and we love doing it.
We have done this because we believe that Threadbias can grow to be the kind of community you are asking for. We believe that our users can take this site and make it their own – we can create the space and adapt it as desired by the users, but the community will only be what the users are willing to put into it. That has been the vision from day one. We take pride in rapid response to our "Feedback and Suggestions" forum, implementing small changes at once and adding more complicated ones to the queue. In fact, one of our changes was to remove the fee structure from our pattern shop, in part based on some helpful feedback you gave us. All pattern listings and sales are now free (excluding PayPal fees). We put this into place on May 1, 2013.
We are working hard right now on a complete redesign to make the site easier and more fun to use. We know Threadbias can be so much better. Our site has evolved and changed so much since we launched in April 2012. We have a lot of feedback from our users and with the recent release of Rails 4.0 we know it's time for some major changes. It will take a bit of time to get it ready, but we are very proud of what we are working on. We expect to launch the redesign in the fall.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. I hope this has given you a chance to get to know us better. We welcome your ideas for what would help make a great online sewing community!
I'm curious to hear what you think after reading this.
Thanks for posting this, Abby. I think at the end of the day we all want the same thing, a great online sewing community! These conversations, despite the tensions, are important to have. We all want to support each other and have a fun vibrant place to gather. I will definitely give Threadbias another look and I can’t wit to see their updates in the fall.
I didn’t know Threadbias existed but I just signed up to explore it more fully. It takes time for community sites to grow. Ravelry was in beta for a long time and members added a lot of the information in the various databases as they joined and entered their projects, etc. Threadbias looks like it has potential, but needs time to grow. Though personally I don’t like the aesthetic of the site, I will participate for a while at least to see how it might meet my needs and interests to connect with other people excited about sewing. I think the only way to know if a community site is going to work for you is to join it and try it for a while. Thanks for posting the email.
Stacey (FreshStitches) says
Thanks for posting this, Abby!
I love the email from Threadbias, and it may be a complete fluke of timing that the site didn’t ‘go viral’ in the same way Ravelry did. With any community, there is a critical mass that needs to be reached, and it’s a very interesting thing to think about why some sites can do it, and others can’t.
I was originally skeptical about putting so much of my business behind Ravelry (when it was much younger), but I just went for it. Maybe professional sewers (like yourself) need to just decide to give Threadbias a go, and start using it! Maybe that’ll be the kick it needs!
I have used threadbias in the past but after a somewhat bad experience (other members involved in a swap, not the founders or site itself) I have distanced myself somewhat. Maybe it’s time to give it another shot…
I think it’s important to always support each other and other businesses/communities online. What works for some might not work for all, but might be amazing for others. Having an open mind and not putting other companies down is always a safe and encouraging way to have an online presence.
Wendi Gratz says
Ok – I went back and gave Threadbias another look. I’m also trying out Kollabora and the new Sew, Mama, Sew! community. All those sites have a lot of potential – but they need more people! To get more people they need more of us driving people there – but it’s hard to justify that investment of time until there are more people. I’d love to see a thriving sewing community like Ravelry, but since I’m not on Ravelry it’s hard for me to know exactly what’s so awesome about it. I know Stacey Trock uses it really effectively – I’d love to read an interview with her where she shares specifics about their best features – and what she, as a designer, does to engage her fans there. How much of her engagement is with the Fresh Stitches group and how much of it is with the site as a whole? Does she think there’s much overlap between her blog readers, her Facebook followers, and her Ravelry group? It’s great having thriving communities – but there’s also the risk of spreading ourselves too thin trying to engage meaningfully with all of them.
I think youve hit the nail on the head, Betz. My goal with my initial post, and now, is to rally for a great site for the sewing community to gather. Im excited and hopeful that it can happen.
i totally agree, Amy. Time and participation are key, and the site needs to really function well in order to serve its clientele. All of these factors have to come together to make it happen. Im hopeful that its possible.
Take a look and tell me what you think, Angie!
I didnt put Threadbias down in my original post. I was talking about the many sites that have worked to become like Ravelry for sewing and I listed Threadbias among those sites, but with no particular critique.
You are perfectly right that always being supportive is a safe way to have an online presence. If everything you say is positive, people are very unlikely to get upset with you.
I like that Kollabora has invited well-known designers to create participatory sew-a-longs there as a way to engage more people and introduce the site to new audiences. I think thats a great approach.
My mention of Threadbias in my first post was in exactly the context you explain here, Wendi. The more sites we have that are all working toward this goal of creating an online sewing community, the more divided things become. A great site needs to grow a large community of active users and that, perhaps, is the hardest part. If the site really functions for designers and for hobby sewers, though, people will stick with it.
I knew Threadbias existed because of the Fall for Solids group/ contest it had on Pink Castle Fabrics. The site felt a little commercial and i was a bit confused with the groups and layout so i never joined up. All this talk of sewing community spaces has made me more curious about them and I’m more willing to go check them out. It’s nice to hear the story behind threadbias as I like to support the efforts of individuals working towards a creative vision, especially when it betters the world. And just in case you all read this- I like the fonts and a lot of the graphics you’ve got going on (like the stitches and needles) but the brown background with green boxes for highlights such as the quilt design tool I find visually unappealing and hard to look at. I also checked out kollabora for the first time last week and liked all the white space as it made all the information look easily accessible. Of course this is just my own preferences and I’m one out of hundreds or thousands.
I think your feedback is really helpful, at least it would be for me if I was working to develop a sewing community like Ravelry. I agree with you that the clean look and modern non-commercial feel of Kollabora is appealing! I think when you’re dealing with a particularly visually oriented community you need to hire great designers to make the site look terrific and be optimized for ease of use. There isn’t currently a way to set up a “group” on Kollabora, which is a feature of Ravelry and of Threadbias that I find especially appealing.
The current style definitely has issues and you’ll be happy to know the new design we are working on ditches the brown. We should have some preview screenshots coming soon.
We’ve gone with a much cleaner, modern feel for the redesign. We’re keeping our logo and several of the illustrations but otherwise everything is getting face-lifted, reworked, and arranged to be more user friendly.
Thanks for posting this and helping to fuel this conversation Abby.
I just wanted to take a moment and let everyone know we’re watching the comments as they develop here on this post and the conversations on Twitter.
If anyone has anything they want to share in a non-public fashion, feel free to email the Threadbias team. Our support email is on the Contact page on the site.
We welcome all feedback good, and especially the bad. As was mentioned in the letter, we are currently working on a complete redesign and overhaul of the site. Since so much of the design is changing we are taking the time to also change how some of the site features work. So if people wish things worked differently than they do now, let us know. I can’t guarantee every suggestion will be implemented but I can guarantee every suggest will be listened to and evaluated.
Thanks again for sharing about us Abby.
Alex @ Threadbias
Carol aka Readknits says
I’ve viewed Threadbias at its startup and now again because of your query and their reply. They still appear to primarily be a quilting site…and I gave up quilting 10 years ago. I get more info from the numerous sewing blogs I read. Threadbias has its audience and they should not feel ‘dismissed’ by your original blog; their present focus is specific and not for everyone. What’s so superior about Ravelry is that the developers recognized immediately that their site had to be user driven and as limitless as possible. It’s become what it is today because we users continue to add and shape Ravelry into what we need – something quite fluid and therefore extremely personal to each knitter/crocheter’s need.
I was excited by your original question and hope this discussion continues.
Carol, thank you for this comment. You truly summed things up in such a smart, thoughtful way. I am not a quilter. I have no use for quilting software, or quilt-a-longs or anything else on the topic of quilting. I rarely sew with quilting cottons so a directory of quilting cottons is not useful to me.
I don’t think there’s any need to feel defensive if the site you’ve built is excellent. If it serves your intended users and serves them well, they will spread the word on your behalf. If it’s well-designed and useful, users will want to take ownership and make it theirs.
HouseOFpinheiro on Twitter yesterday made a very intelligent comment regarding this post. She said, “Knowing a business is human helps to understand human mistakes, but it will require more to make me sign up again.” What’s telling about this comment is that she was there once. She had an account. She tried it and was turned off.
When Threadbias began I opened an account and uploaded my most popular pattern to sell there. I was ready to be a part of it. I found the site to be so clunky and poorly designed I closed my account soon after. I didn’t want to spend time there. Having a poorly designed product that stays static for a year doesn’t get you off to a great start.
Lemon Tree Tami says
The main problem with trying to have one cohesive online community for sewists is that we’re all interested in different things: sewing clothes, quilters, toymakers, newbies, etc. Recently I’ve been super interested in learning how to longarm quilt so I’ve joined two longarm forums and a few yahoo groups. The yahoo groups aren’t as fantastic but I love the two forums. I’ll look at threadbias again once they’ve changed their look … it’s a bit clunky right now and I’m not thrilled with the flashing Moda ad on the left, very annoying. But I agree, no community is a success without lots of people joining.
In my first post about this topic I wrote a bit about this feeling that the sewing community is too divided. I have to say, I dont buy it. Crocheters and knitters are not unified, but they are on Ravelry. There are newbies there, and well-established designers who have been in the industry for decades. There are people who crochet stuffed animals and people who design knitted garments. That divide is big, but Ravelry works for all of them. What if the forums youve recently joined for longarm quilters lived on a site like Ravelry for sewists? And why shouldnt they? They d be easier to find and join and theyd be part of a larger whole.
I’m very glad the Threadbias folks sent that email and allowed you to post it. That was brave of them. I appreciate all the hours of hard work from so many people that have gone into their website. And their story led me to check it out. But I was pretty disappointed with it and have given as fairly accurate an account of my exploration of their site as I could.
I visited the threadbias site for the first time because of this post. I wanted to see if this could perhaps be a fun place to hang out with other sewers. But it just didn’t appeal to me. If I hadn’t known from the email that it was a site for sewers I don’t think I could have figured out what it was. There are a lot of words on the front page. Some of them are links, some aren’t. I couldn’t figure out where to click to find out what the site was about. I would have thought it was some sort of commercial site selling something, perhaps fabric. But on the fabric link half the page had “No fabric available” which is very off putting. There is a definite bias toward quilting since the words “Learn About The Quilt Design Tool” are the largest font on the page after the logo. I’m not a quilter so already I’m starting to wonder if this site has anything interesting for me. The alignment of the boxes on the first page is off. Drives me nuts. Finally I clicked on the options on the left. Projects: whose projects? I finally figured out it was members after clicking on it. Typed in plush and 4 items came up only 1 of which was an actual plush toy. I typed in toy and got 77 hits but more than half were not plush toys. I’m a plush toy maker so I didn’t see anything that caught my interest. Patterns: whose patterns? Finally I found where something is for sale on the site. What’s the difference between groups & forums? I haven’t figured this out yet. I went into the forums and see that there are a couple of posts from today but most of them are from days and even months ago. This is when I gave up. The site seems not very active and not appealing to my niche. BTW, copyright is not up to date. And all the while I was there the seizure inducing modafabric box kept continuously blinking on the left. Drove me insane.
I realize this is a site in its infancy and that by joining and actively participating I could essentially help to shape the content into something more appealing to me. What would make me do it? Hearing their back story is one inducement. Finding other plush makers on the site would be another. Making it easier to navigate with one click instead of the multiples and clicks that end up where I didn’t think I would be. I joined several sites in the past that have simply faded away. The ones that I’ve stuck with have listened to their users and changed to meet their needs. To the threadbias folks who have sunk hours of their lives into this site I would recommend some usability testing. And then listen to what your users have to say. Best of luck!
This is amazing. Thank you for clicking around and recording your experience with Threadbias. I had the very same experience.
Recently I did a good deal of research on message boards in search of a place where I could begin a forum for softie designers. There was no perfect solution (ideally I’d like a place that allowed for threaded, searchable conversations that was associated with a site people are already frequenting so that the forum would stay alive). Without a Ravelry-like site, I didn’t have a great option, so I went ahead and started a private Facebook group. Facebook is a “good enough for now” place for this forum to live. Anyone who designs sewing patterns for softies or dolls is welcome to join! Apply right here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1376531462573434/
What is it you do want from a sewing community then? I’m working on the kid’s clothes week community and would love to know what people love about online crafting communities. Granted the kcw community is more focused than most–but maybe that’s what we need, smaller more focused sites.
What do people want?!!
I’ve been excited about what Threadbias is doing from the time they started. And I just adore them too!
I am part of the threadbias community. And I am glad they wrote. I admit that I am not very active and the honest truth for me is that is because I don’t have an app that I can use on my phone. And that I’ve really committed to making social changes in my life that have me online a bit less. I do work on the computer daily, but I avoid socializing on it for the most part, because I need to get work done. So adding projects and participating in discussions is not easily done from my phone. I’m exciting to hear they are updating the site. I personally didn’t have issues with finding things or understanding what do to. I also wonder how much the huge increase in popularity of other social sites affects the growing of one online sewing community. I wanted the design tool to work for me so badly because I don’t have a windows based computer, so I love the idea of an online tool. The truth is for a project or two, it may be worth it, but if you’re really into designing patterns it just falls short. Anyway, thanks for the conversation. It’s a good one to have.
I’ve been giving this a little more thought and wondering how a site for sewers could be created and maintained like Ravelry is for knitters & crocheters. Using the treadbias site as an example, the difference seems to be that Ravelry’s connecting thread (ha ha) is yarn while Treadbias’s is the act of sewing. A noun rather than a verb. A product rather than an action. I believe Ravelry has folks talking about weaving, macrame and all things makable with yarn. Perhaps a sewing site would have a greater chance of large scale success if it focused on fabric instead of sewing. Etsy was a very generalist site from the get go with the tagline “Your place to buy and sell all things handmade”. Sadly, they’ve outgrown this tagline and Etsy is now mainly the place of resellers and unattainable dreams. Anyway, lots of folks love fabric and not all of them can sew. The designer of the Sis Boom line of fabric can’t even sew. Folks who can’t sew still love and buy fabric for other crafts so a site built around fabric might have a greater chance of success.
Another thought I had was about organizing a sewing site. Abby, you and I self identify as plush makers and we both looked for folks like us on the threadbias site. When we didn’t find those like minded folks we had to decide to either dig deeper to find some other way to make a connection or give up. So if folks are identifying themselves as a particular kind of sewer then perhaps those categories should be the ones visitors to a brand new sewing community site would see first. Another example is a click for hand sewers since some sewers don’t use a sewing machine. Anyway, a newish site trying to bring in sewers of all types could reach out to a selection of niche sewers active in their online community and invite them to partner with them in some way. This would bring in folks from several different specialty sewing areas and grow the site.
Allison Dey says
It would be nice to have a sewing ‘ravelry’ site. A friend turned me on to Sewing Stash on Facebook. They have a sewing pattern site that is rather small but sweet. It would be nice to see all these sites combine somehow to cerate a definitive site.
I am not sure they will combine. Each one is a separate company with their own goals and business plans, but Id agree that with so many its difficult to unite into one community.
My name is Deana and I’m the site creator of The Sewing Stash. Thanks for your kind words! The Sewing Stash is only a few weeks old but my dream is for it to become a Ravelry site for sewers and the little pattern search is growing each day.
I would love to have a place where people who are passionate about sewing can gather and share their knowledge, and build relationship. The community portion of our site is set to launch later this month.
Please come and check it out!
I have also wondered for a long time why there wasn’t anything as useful and interactive as Ravelry for folks who sew… I have been participating for years now on Stitchers Guild ( http://artisanssquare.com/sg/index.php ), which is an online message board that is VERY interactive and lively; while it is “only” a message board, the members there do form a real community, and I have learned a lot and made friends with people from all over. It is not as popular as Ravelry, and has a very different feel than PatternReview. I think that there is room for an assortment of online gathering places, in the same way that a city can have an assortment of cafes, bars, and other kinds of places to hang out and connect with friends. I had never heard of any of the sites mentioned in this post before, and will go and see what their feel, flavor, and inhabitants are like…
I had never hear of Stitchers Guild, Alison, but I just went to check it out and it’s amazing! It’s very interactive and lively as you said.
I think you make an interesting point about there being lots of places to hang out and lots of small communities, like in a city. That is certainly how the online sewing landscape looks now, and perhaps that is how it will always look.
I decided to check Threadbias out and it’s very offputting that the first thing you have to do is sign up. I don’t know if that’s a silly complaint or not but I assume I’m not the only one who likes to “try before I buy.” Generally when I encounter things that force me to sign up in order to view them, I turn the other way and explore other things the internet has to offer. Kollabora (which I’ve also decided to take a look at) really tells you what the site is offering right up front and if you don’t want to join? No problem. You can explore the site without being forced into joining the community immediately.
The layout of Threadbias isn’t as horrible as I expected through reading the comments. It feels clunky and crowded for sure though. It seems easy to start a new project or keep up-to-date on groups or things you “love” and I look forward to the pattern feature and the bookshelf going live. As for what the community has to offer, quilting is just much more popular than plush and soft toy making and other things of that nature so it makes sense that there are a ton of quilters and not much of the rest of that. The solution is to get involved with your own projects and build that portion of the community yourself. I see comments from people who’ve abandoned the site altogether because it didn’t appeal to their niche. But that just means that the site is prevented from gaining that niche.
The fabrics, I have to admit, do nothing for me because of the fact that I’m not a quilter but thankfully I don’t think I really have a need for fabric from a site like this. There are tons of minky, fleece, and felt sources and sources for things like tools, safety eyes, and stuffing.
Groups are a nice idea and I might eventually even start one! Who knows. The forums are a bust for me though. I enjoy the look of traditional forums because they’re so neat and tidy and easy to navigate and this forum set up is sort of annoying for me. I guess the niche issue comes into play here too – I wouldn’t say that the plush I made are for kids so there is no place for my work there outside of creating a group…
If Threadbias’s layout were cleaner (which seems to be on the horizon), I’d be much more sold on it. If they had a section like Kollabora does that is dedicated to learning and trading techniques and knowing how to choose fabric, I’d love it. As a resource, Threadbias is essentially useless but from Kollabora I feel like I can really sit down and learn something new. Sure, all the videos are pretty much just things I could have found on youtube anyway but they’re organized nicely and I can search through them effortlessly and some of the projects show how the work was created or link to an offsite blog where you can learn how to do it.
Maybe in a year the site will be more useable and friendly to members of all niches (and more active too). It’s up to how they choose to market themselves and if they can get people to stick around long enough to build niches that aren’t “quilting.”
I find the email rather prickly and defensive. I feel there was nothing to be defended just a personal view that a ‘ravelry for sewers’ doesn’t really exist. I am not sure I am feeling the warmth here. I don’t know the site and to be honest I’m now in no hurry to find out.
Incidently, I find as a general sewer that your blog is the most helpful, professional and generous I can think of. I do all kinds of sewing and I don’t feel the need to be involved in different groups for them. It’s all sewing to me; dressmaking, handsewing, embroidery, making ‘stuff’, quilting, aplique. As long as it requires a needle and thread or a sewing machine then I will do it or have done it. There is much cross over in any case. I’m of the opinion, build it and they will come. Just make everyone welcome. The bare bones is what is needed and then people will give it shape.
I think your original blog post was completly ok, giving as it did your own opinion.
What’s great about ravelry is that it is a community of people who knit. You can be totally devoted to it, or just a sometime knitter or crocheter. You can also post about anything and everything in groups that are not in the big six (the main ones in the forum, which are strictly moderated and definitely yarn arts focused.)
I knit and crochet too and find it a fantastic resource of help, information and advice. It’s the perfect place to find a pattern, both free and to buy. It’s also good for people who want to sell their patterns there. People are united in the fact they like yarn and needles/hooks of some kind. It’s not devisive, although there are sometimes ‘we’re better than you’ spats between knitters and crocheters, although many do both anyway. You can waste many an hour there not knitting or crocheting or in my case not sewing either.
What’s great about Ravelry is that it’s great even if you never knit. It’s not a knitting community.
It’s a yarn users community. Granted, the focus was originally crochet and knitting, but now you can find information on nalbinding, sprang, weaving, and other fiber arts. I do wish that they’d expand the “Project Type” options, but you can use the advanced search to find pretty much anything.
Recently there was, very briefly, a privately done competitor to Ravelry – Craftinoo, I think it was called. I’d only just started hearing about it, from some of the designers I follow on social media, when they decided to shut it down, because it was too expensive to keep open. I think they underestimated the online yarn user community. I had looked at it briefly, but I already have so much invested in Ravelry, I was loathe to diversify much (which is why I hardly go on Craftsy).
I just wanted to point out that when I published this post on August 6 all of Threadbias was visible without signing up for an account. By the time you wrote this comment three days later they had put up a sign-in wall forcing you to sign up for an account in order to see the site at all. I wonder what was behind this decision.
It’s over a year later, but I came to abbyjane’s blog posting by typing something like “revelry for sewing” into a search engine. I’ve since read all the comments and attempted to look at the Threadbias site, but the requirement to sign in first was too off-putting. I am not a quilter and if the site is mostly quilting I’d rather not start an account. This discussion has been very interesting, informative, and respectful. I wish Threadbias well, and I will continue looking for a forum that might be useful to me. I’ll also continue reading whileshenaps!
Julia Mitchell says
I am checking out Threadbias after reading this! Thank you!
Julia Mitchell says
OOPS! I just checked out Threadbias, I am sorry they gave up! I wish I had read this sooner!
I truly miss Threadbias.com It was such an easy site to share and view projects from sewists all over the world. I know a few other sites have popped up in the past couple of years, but I loved the format of Threadbias. User friendly, graphically beautiful and a wonderful sense of community.