The 2012 Ravellenic Games: Community, Challenges, and Competition
July 27, 2012. The countdown on the London 2012 website hit 0, the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremonies began, and I made a slipknot and slipped it onto my crochet hook. My daughters - sitting with me in their red, white, and blue outfits - curiously picked at the yarn that I’d strategically placed in their laps for this photo opportunity. My husband took a picture that would later be uploaded to my team’s group to document our official entrance into the 2012 Ravellenic Games.
I was one of over 10,000 Ravelers across the world to participate in the mass “cast-on” (or casting the first stitch of a knit or crochet project) as the London 2012 Olympic Games began. Last month, I posted about a group of Ravelry members who share the interests of Harry Potter and fiber crafts. A subset of that group, along with other Harry Potter fiber crafters, formed a group to compete in the 2012 Ravellenic Games. For the two weeks of the Ravellenic Games, our team, and hundreds of others made up of other Ravelry groups, used knitting, crocheting, spinning, and weaving to create items. These items could be entered in a variety of events including: sweater marathon, baby dressage, hat dash, toy toss, holiday hurdles, and the single skein sprint. Except for a few events, the items had to be started and finished between the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics. Badges were awarded to those who were able to cross the finish line (complete their project). For many Ravthletes, competing in the Ravellenics was truly a test of endurance that provided many challenges.
Figure: A badge awarded for a projected completed in the Baby Dressage event of the 2012 Ravellenic Games.
The Ravellenic Games started in 2008 as an event Ravelers could do while watching the Olympics. Members from across the world, varying interests, and different ages all come together in one group during the Olympic Games to craft together, enjoy the official games, and cheer their country’s athletes and each other on as they progress in their projects, take on new challenges, and even learn new techniques. Because of the camaraderie and enjoyment of such a large-scale shared purpose and activity, even those who are not normally Olympic fans join in the fun and may find themselves watching the Olympic Games.
Even the designers of Ravelry.com try to encourage participation in the Ravellenics by adding new features that help streamline participation. For the events this year, Ravthletes set up the standard “project page” on Ravelry as they do for all other fiber crafting projects. But they were also able to add Ravellenics-specific tags indicating their participation in Ravellenics, their team, and the event(s) for that project. These tags were easily accessed through the official Ravellenics icon, which, when clicked, brought up the event lists. In the actual Ravellenic Games board, a “village map” thread provided links to the event names, updates, team directories, and even a time zone calculator. This encouraged everyone from the novice knitters to the novice internet users to join in the fun.
In the spirit of the real Olympics, the Ravellenic Games are about challenging yourself. These challenges may involve pushing yourself harder to complete more crafts, learning a new technique, or even learning an entirely new craft. The learning and challenging aspect are so integral to the Ravellenic Games that, following the games, a thread was put up and stickied in the Ravellenic Games group entitled “What I learned at the Ravellenic Games 2012.” Here, Ravthletes could share what they learned and accomplished. In the first 24 hours following the Closing Ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics and the 2012 Ravellenic Games, Ravthletes have posted over 300 messages sharing what they’ve learned, including important crafting accomplishments (learning the kitchener knitting stitch, two-handed colorwork), new things about the craft (gauge can differ from left to right hand), personal insights (that they can finish that shawl if they put their mind to it; messing up isn’t that bad and can be fixed), and funny anecdotes (even with Ravellenics, that sock will never get finished; cider, gymnastics, and knitting do not go well together).
The building of the larger, worldwide Ravellenic Games community started months prior to the actual Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic games, though. Nearly four months prior to Ravellenics starting, the Harry Potter fiber crafters began getting out the word about the Ravellenics group to the Harry Potter interest groups on Ravelry. This was true for many other Ravelry groups and members as well. By the beginning of summer, the official Ravellenic Games group was bustling with team chatter. Ravthletes used their team area (a separate chat thread for each group) in the Ravellenic Games group to plan projects, show off pictures of the yarn they would use, and debate patterns and time constraints. Teammates offered advice and support. Many teams, like the Harry Potter one, even set up their own new, separate groups on Ravelry where they could plan, ask questions, and socialize with their Ravellenics teammates.
The teams also became a huge source of motivation, support, inspiration, mentorship, and resources. The Harry Potter team had approximately 90 members and had formed its own group on Ravelry so as to not get lost in the hundreds of teams in the Ravellenic Games group or the Ravellenic Games Village. There, we could post images of our completed projects for everybody to cheer on, we could ask questions about the Ravellenic Games process, and we could even just “hang out” and socialize in the chat thread. We took pictures of us starting our first projects to share in the cast-on of this mass activity, giving a glimpse into what the crafting activity looks like for us behind the screen. There were many late night conversations about accomplishments from the day, new projects we were about to start, the Olympic events and athletes, and even the cup of tea the members were enjoying. And on the last day of the Ravellenic Games, when I took on my largest challenge - learning to knit - several members cheered me on and even provided me with links to their favorite YouTube knitting videos.
After almost four months of organizing and two weeks of frantic crafting and socializing, the 2012 Ravellenic Games came to a close. In the Harry Potter Ravellenics team group, the recently shared projects section of the group showcased sweaters, shawls, bags, doll clothes, toys, and hats. For the two weeks of Ravellenics, it felt like we really were in our own little Ravellenics Village tent - on a fieldtrip away from Hogwarts (though many of us were also practical and submitted our projects for Hogwarts assignments as well!).
Following the games, the group even offered their own “Podium,” where the winners of the most badges were “called up” (tagged) and given congratulations. Members congratulated each other and thanked everyone for their support. But now that Ravellenics were over, what would happen with the group? As one member has asked, “What now?”
It is a question that I am sure is being echoed in many of the other Ravellenic Games groups - what now? While many Ravellenic teams were made up or founded by existing groups at Ravelry, the Ravellenic Games brought new people to those Ravellenic teams because of shared interests. This was true for the Harry Potter group as well. Most of the members came from Hogwarts at Ravelry, but not all. Many joined the Ravellenics group because of the shared interest in Harry Potter but had no history in a Harry Potter Ravelry group. Now that the Ravellenic Games were over, what would happen to the Harry Potter team and other teams that had these hyrbid mixes? What now?
For the Harry Potter group, this became the topic of discussion. As members chatted about future fiber crafting projects, the Hogwarts activities came up. All of the Ravthletes were invited to join and participate in the more permanent home for those who shared an interest in fiber crafting and Harry Potter. And so the temporary Ravellenic Games activity became the bridge for some members to join a more permanent home.