Ravelry mind-reading magic saves the day!
Ravelry is probably the most extensive chunk of its database. It would be an exaggeration to say that "Ravelry has every pattern ever made." As of this writing, Ravelry has over a quarter of a million patterns listed. From a practical standpoint, the older a pattern, the less likely it is to be in the Ravelry database. A pattern from a book published more than 20 years ago probably won't be in there. But every pattern published online or in a book in the last 10 years is definitely archived.
Is your mind blown? Because it should be. This is mind-blowing stuff!
The easiest way to look for patterns is to type what you want into the search bar. The more specific you are, the better. "Hat," for example, returns an overwhelming 28,615 patterns. Whereas the more specific "penguin hat" gives you a manageable (and adorable!) 42 patterns.
There are better ways to get what you want, though.
Tip 1: Crowdsource It
When you get 28,615 results back from a search on "hat," that's a lot of hats. But there are over a million Ravelers adding their projects to Ravelry every day. Those knitters know what's up! Let's see what THEY think.
Go to the Ravelry Patterns page, search by Hat, and then click the drop-down menu for "Sort." It defaults to "Best Match." Let's start by changing the sort order to "Most Projects." This sorts the results by the number of other Ravelers who have knit it. That's a good thing to know, because often patterns get popular by good word-of-mouth.
You can also sort by "Most Favorites" (which gives you the projects that other people thought were the best), and "Hot Right Now." From a practical standpoint, there is often a lot of overlap in all three categories. But it's good to know what everyone else likes!
Tip 2: Narrow it Down
Those boxes down the left-hand side of the page will narrow your results. Each box you check will filter the results to show ONLY the ones that match. This is amazing stuff!
Here's how it works: I'm trying to figure out what to knit with two balls of Reynolds Whiskey. I think it would make a good hat. I go to the Patterns page and type in "Hat." Now the magic happens!
First, I tick the box for Knitting (instead of Crochet). Then I scroll down and tick the box for Sport weight yarn (which Reynolds Whiskey is). Now we're down to only 1,359 matches! And if I sort those by "Most Popular," I notice that the pattern Hermione Hearts Ron is in the top three - a pattern that just so happens to be in my queue, but I had forgotten.
Bingo! Ravelry mind-reading magic saves the day!