Knitting Trends - Accessories
I made a post on 1st Jan looking at trends for garment designs on Ravelry, so I thought I’d do a follow up for accessories. I really love looking at data and hope this is useful for my fellow knitwear designers as well as people just deciding what to knit next!
Where does the data come from?
I used Ravelry’s “hot right now” pattern search, filtered for accessories, only paid for patterns and “new to Ravelry”. I feel like free patterns skew the results – they’re not necessarily “hot” because of the pattern but because of the price tag! I included “new to Ravelry” this time as well. When I did my garment design trends post at the start of January I didn’t do this and I think I got a lot of patterns which have been at the top of Ravelry for months if not years, rather than reflecting current trends.
I only looked at the top 50, so this is more of a snapshot than a definitive study, but I think it gives a good picture of what’s popular right now.
There are definitely categories that I think I could break down further – knit and purl in particular covers a huge range of fabric types from simple stocking stitch to complex textured patterns. When I wrote the post analysing garment trends, I only included one fabric type per garment because there were so many other variables (fit, neckline, sleeve length, hem length….). For accessories, I only had a main category, then one layer of refinement – e.g. neckwear is the main category and that’s refined into scarf, triangular shawl, cowl etc. So I felt like I had more bandwidth to include more detail on the fabric type. I assigned two fabric types to each accessory (if required). This meant I could have e.g. lace and cables rather than picking the more prominent one. I also broke down colourwork into stranded, mosaic, stripes etc.
Broad Garment Types
Number of Colours
Breakdown within Garment Type
What Stands Out from the Data?
There were a lot more complex fabric types than I found in the garment trends -lots of colourwork, textured patterns, lace and cables. I think this must be because there’s such an abundance of free basic accessory patterns out there, if you’re going to pay for an accessory pattern, you want it to be something special. Whereas even basic sweaters are normally “pay for” – a lot of work goes into grading for multiple sizes and getting the fit right for even a stocking stitch sweater. Neckwear was most popular – this is always great for gifting, one size fits all, versatile in terms of what stitch patterns you can use or which weight of yarn.
The yarn weights that turned up most often were fingering and DK weight – these accounted for two thirds of all patterns. This is maybe a little surprising given the time of year – I do love aran and chunky weight accessories when it gets really chilly. I think it’s explained by the nature of the fabrics – lace and especially colourwork often work better with finer yarns. A chunky cowl with a stranded fairisle pattern might be simply too bulky to be comfortable. If I hadn’t filtered out free patterns I think there would be a lot more heavier weight yarns in simpler stitch patterns.
Colourwork Triangular Shawls like Thieve's Road (left) proved popular this winter. More complex stitch patterns and multiple colours as used in Dip in the Lily Pond (centre) outperformed basic knit and purl fabrics. Lace shawls like Beinn Ghlas (right) are on trend for Winter 23/24!
What are the Major Trends?
Colourwork is in! Over half of the patterns used more than one colour, and over a third used colourwork techniques (stranded colourworks, stripes, slip stitch, modular colourwork and woven knitting). The most popular colourwork technique was stranded colourwork by a large margin – fairisle is definitely on trend for Winter 23/24.
The three most popular categories, with each type making up 10% of the patterns surveyed, were:
While neckwear is the most popular category overall, colourwork is definitely the most used fabric type. Since it’s easier to work colourwork in the round it makes sense for colourwork cowls to be so popular. The next two most popular categories, each at around 7% of patterns surveyed were:
Lace Triangular Shawls
I wonder if this also ties in with the kind of yarn people were gifted – I know if I’m ever asked what yarn I’d like as a gift I ask for 4ply or laceweight since you only need one skein to make an accessory. Although I have been known to ask my parents for a sweater quantity of aran weight yarn, I wouldn’t ask anyone else to splash out potentially £100 on a gift! Then these lighter weight yarns lead to pattern sales for delicate lace designs. Just a thought!
My Burrell Sweater is my go to comfy sweater. The body is super oversized, but the sleeves are nice and snug, and it's cropped to just the right length - so flattering. Plus it was a lovely easy knit in mainly garter stitch. The pretty modern lace pattern adds just enough interest to stop this being tedious to knit. Great with jeans or over a black jersey dress, this is cosy, flattering and easy to wear.
Tentsmuir is like a dressy version of my Burrell Sweater. A simple, timeless lace pattern at the neckline and around the cuffs adds a touch of class. Bracelet length sleeves make this perfect for Autumn and Spring too. This was the first oversized, cropped sweater I ever designed myself. I knitted one for my aunt (in 4ply yarn with 3mm needles - it was a real labour of love!) and she loved it, but it took me a while to come round to the idea for myself. I took a big leap of faith and knitted this while I was freshly postpartum with my daughter. Maybe I was crazy to knit a cropped sweater while I was least happy with how my stomach looked, but it really worked. Don't ask me to explain the physics of it, but this really truly is a flattering silhouette!
I am absolutely in love with the woven look of this stitch pattern. My Caisteal Sweater features a simple basketweave cable pattern that;s supersized by adding and dropping yo's at each stitch. This leads to an open, airy, elongated woven look that I can't get enough of. The sweater itself is cosy, comfortable and quick to knit, but if you're looking for a challenging stitch pattern this is the one for you. There's a video tutorial to help you master it though!
Autumn Fireside Knitting Pattern4. The "Textured Stitch Pattern" Oversized Cropped Sweater
If the last stitch pattern was a challenge, this one is more relaxing. Autumn Fireside is a basic "knit and purl" design that still looks fabulous. It's another super cosy pullover with a bold geometric design. The yarn is Eden Cottage Yarns Brimham DK, so slightly lighter weight than the other sweaters so far which have all been in worsted or aran yarn. It's a hardwearing merino/nylon blend that still feels luxurious to work with, and the hand dyed colours are saturated and rich - a joy to knit!
Living in Scotland, I'm definitely biased towards warm, cosy sweaters. But the list wouldn't be complete without something for summer wear too. My Monadh Top is a flattering, drapy, long crop knitted up in 4ply yarn. Again, it's mostly simple garter stitch so perfect for relaxed knitting, but the lace detail is (in my opinion) stunning. The lace looks very complicated but it's mainly made by making and dropping yarn-overs, with one row of gathered stitches in the middle. There's lots of room for creativity in the colour scheme here, you could knit this all in one colour or add even more stripes. Who doesn't have a range of leftover odds and ends of sock yarn to use up?
I have now been off work for 10 days and I’ve been suffering from symptoms of excel withdrawal. In my “real” job, I’m the Principal Teacher for Numeracy in a large inner city school in Glasgow. One of the huge reasons I’m not a knit designer full time (apart from the fact that I can’t afford it!) is how much I love teaching. Working with young people and helping them develop their skills is just unbelievable fulfilling. That and the data.
If I had to rank it, I probably love teaching the most, then designing knitting patterns, then data analysis. I’m lucky that excel spreadsheets are a huge part of both of the first two options. I need to know what kids need what interventions and I need to know if they work. Add into that exam results analysis, ongoing test score analysis, attendance statistics… the list goes on. And in knitwear design too, everything I do is organised in excel. Stitch counts and measurements for nine sizes as a pattern progresses would be a nightmare to do by hand. If you found out after 100 rows that you needed to cast on one extra stitch then you’d have to throw away all your paper calculations and start again.
So I’m putting lots of things I love together here really – a results analysis for “What’s Hot in Knitting” for January 2024!
Let’s break things down a little more.
Where did you get your data? I used Ravelry’s “hot right now” pattern search and filtered so it was only garments (not accessories, home etc) and only paid for patterns. I thought free things would skew the results. I’m certainly not Ravelry’s biggest fan, given their poor treatment of people with disabilities, but they surely are a good data source. I tried using Payhip and Etsy but it wasn’t really possible. Lovecrafts is massively skewed towards pattern which they also stock the yarn for. So Ravelry it is.
I think in future I’ll use search by newness rather than “hot right now” because so many of them have been in the top 50 for a loooong time. I think I’d get a better snapshot that way. I’m aiming to get that done by mid January.
What are the limits of the data?
I had to make a few judgement calls here, there are so many more things I could have included and many things that could be broken down further. “Knit and purl” as a fabric type covers a lot of things, and “textured” is certainly a bit vague. It all becomes a bit philosophical – when does a crew neck become a scoop neck? Where do you draw the line between oversized and slightly oversized?
There are a number of designers (who shall remain nameless) who only included a chest measurement in their pattern description so I had to eyeball things like ease and cropped-ness. And conversely a big thank you to all the designers who scrupulously label all their patterns features.
What were the results?
Most popular garment type:
Most Popular Fabric Style
Most Popular Yarn Weight
Most Popular Garment Fit
Most Popular Garment Length
Most Popular Neckline
Most Popular Sleeve Length
What stands out about the data?
There are some really obvious things, like long sleeves are popular in winter and laceweight cardigans are not. Some things are a bit more surprising, like the lack of aran or bulky weight patterns during the coldest season. I would speculate that this is due to cost of living increases, it’s certainly cheaper to knit a sweater with three skeins of 4ply rather than 10 skeins of bulky yarn. I was a little surprised that 94% of the most popular 50 patterns had positive ease (garment measurements bigger than body measurements). Even though I’m a big fan of oversized garments myself, I thought opinion was roughly 50-50 on the fitted vs oversized debate. Although to be fair, 48% were only slightly oversized. One thing I don’t understand is why pullovers are twice as popular as cardigans? And why are cables so unpopular? Maybe someone can explain it to me in the comments!
Oversized, cropped sweaters are in - like my Burrell Sweater.
What are the major trends?
There were five broad pattern types that covered a huge 86% of the patterns, this is what I would label as the key knitting pattern trends for Winter 23/24:
Yoked sweaters with lace detail ranked highly, here's my versions.
From left to right: Pollokshaws Cardigan, Bracklinn Sweater and Pollokshaws Sweater/Tee.
What’s the take home message?
It looks to me like a lot of pattern sales are coming from:
Having said that, I think the take home message should always be to knit what you like! Design what you like! Don’t be constrained by trends for sure. If you want to knit a fitted, cabled cardigan in super chunky yarn then do it!
I hope knitters find this interesting and get some knitting inspiration from it. It might be useful for knitting pattern designers, but then again maybe it’s better to find your own niche than try to copy the big hitters. I was trying to find some of my own knitting patterns that fit into these trends and it turns out I am not as trendy as I thought. Maybe I should try to be more data driven in my designs?
I hope this brings a little joy to any fellow data nerds, I know there are plenty of us in the knitting community, and I would certainly love feedback on my methods – I’m more of a dabbler in data than a true professional.
Wishing everyone a happy new year, filled with knitting patterns that bring you happiness!
Fairisle Hearts Sweater - my yoked colourwork pullover pattern