Is Knitting popularity declining in the US/Canada and rising in the UK/Ireland? A look at the data

Is knitting actually getting more popular?

In 2011, The Guardian wrote about the apparent rise in the popularity of knitting. “It’s no longer something owned by the east London hipsters who knit in pubs or on the tube. Rather, it’s something that normal, everyday people are willing to try their hand at.” The Dailymail said Pastime soars in popularity thanks to bad weather and celebrity fans “The boom in the traditional craft has been fuelled by celebrity knitters like Kate Moss, Julia Roberts  and Mad Men star Christina Hendricks.”

Isn’t it infuriating or frustrating is to hear that knitting is merely a “trend” people pick up because they say some celeb knitting? Something traditional and essential, and the livelihood of so many people… I hope people don’t see this as a passing fad.

But the data does shows that at least people are searching for knitting more in the UK and Ireland in the past few years.

What does Google trends say?

I blog in my day job and my colleague showed me Google Trends recently to see the relative popularity of search terms showing peaks (100) and troughs (0) over your specified time period.  This shows you “how many searches have been done for the terms you’ve entered compared to the total number of Google searches done during that time… For example, if you search for tea in Scotland in March of 2007, Trends analyzes a percentage of all searches for tea within the same time and location parameters.” (google help docs)

I chose “knitting” because it is more associated with the action, and less likely to be conflated with “knit garments”. I also compared crochet, but the word is used as both an adjective and verb.

Looking at Google trends in the US, you can see the interest in the search term “knitting” has gone down. Are people trying out spinning or weaving more in the US? Surely all that fibre-y love isn’t going away.

Google trends for US searches for "knitting"

Google trends for US searches for “knitting”

In Canada, people are searching for “knitting” as frequently as they were a few years ago. There was only a slight dip 2010-2011.

trends-canada-knitting-popularity-2

 

But just in the UK, you can see the trend has been rising, with a sharper rise after 2010, and a steady increase after that.

In Ireland you can see the same pattern of the rise, but more after 2011. This includes deep troughs in the summer, when basically no one wants to knit! In 2013 we had the best summer in ages, so I can understand why people weren’t pulling out their pins.

Google Trends in Ireland for the search term "knitting"

Google Trends in Ireland for the search term “knitting”

 

UK handknitting Association used the same stats and compiled Knitting Statistics for National Knitting Week: 14-20 October 2013. They estimate:

  • 7.2 million knitters in the UK
  • 12% increase in people participating in crafts year on year

Anyway, I couldn’t say that knitting is on the decline in the US based on this ONE data point. But it’s interesting to see how the popularity peaks and troughs according to the time of year. And maybe there is something to the buzz around knitting/crochet/spinning and fibre arts.

For me it’s been mind-opening experience. I originally just wanted something to help me “calm down”, but hadn’t expected the shift in my own thinking. It has made me think about everything I’m buying and how I spend my free time and money.

In terms of a forecast for these four regions… it looks like the US is the outlier. Perhaps it means we’re going to see more marketing and sales from US hand knitting companies into these other regions. But still the US market is huge anyway. Anyway, interesting to compare!

comparison-forecast-2

5 thoughts on “Is Knitting popularity declining in the US/Canada and rising in the UK/Ireland? A look at the data

  1. Interesting. Perhaps there is a minority of knitters who took it up to emulate celebrities, but the solid majority of us will keep knitting regardless. And I wonder whether the rise of Ravelry explains some of the reduction in Google searches? You could learn everything you needed to know, just from Rav.

    • Ah! That is a good point. I think even many of my searches originate within Ravelry. Him… Still Ravelry is a small section of the actual market, I assume? With 4 million ravellers and 7 mill knitters just in the UK…. Hmmm interesting thought tho!

  2. That’s interesting. I’ve noticed that since I have discovered Ravelry, I have been searching for knitting a lot less on Google and other search engines. It could be that. I can’t imagine knitting falling out of favor so quickly except for the people who actively emulate celebrities. I see more people knitting every day!

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