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