Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Casey, co-founder of Ravelry, recently posted some simple summary statistics of Ravelympics. I did a quick glance - and then a double-glance. Just over 50% of all projects tagged with Ravelympics were completed. I don't know if this is good or bad, but it got me thinking. Do the Ravelympics reflect Ravelry in general? Why do folks pick the projects they do for Ravelympics? Here's my pseudo-scientific analysis.

Casey posted summary data for the Ravelympics on March 17, 2010. On March 18, I performed an advanced search in patterns (empty search box), which returned all patterns in the Ravelry database. I then sorted the patterns by 'most projects'. I recorded the number of projects, row gauge (and converted to stitches per inch) and publication date. For each project, I tagged it as lace or not-lace. This was purely subjective, based on my own definition of lace (i.e., lots of holes).

About one third of the top ten projects appear in both Ravelry and Ravelympics (Table 1): February Lady Sweater, Clapotis and Baby Surprise Jacket. These three projects are knit at approximately the same gauge (4.5 - 5 stitches per inch), though the yarn weight is variable. Two (FLS and BSJ) are Elizabeth Zimmerman or EZ-inspired patterns. All three are tagged as low difficulty on Ravelry.

Ravelympics projects are newer. The mean publication date is 2002 for Ravelry and 2004 for Ravelympics (if we remove BSJ, which has a publication date of 1968, the mean publication dates are 2006 and 2008, respectively).

Of the top 10 projects in Ravelympics, 6 could be classified as lace (February Lady Sweater, Ishbel, Citron, Traveling Woman, Clapotis and Multnomah). Three projects in the top 10 of Ravely could be classified as lace (Clapotis, February Lady Sweater and Swallowtail Shawl).

Two socks appear in the Ravelry group and one sock appears in Ravelympics. Only one project on either list could be classified as colorwork (Olympic Reindeer Hat, Ravelympics). Further, only one project on either list could be classified as cabled (Fetching, Ravelry).

The mean gauge for Ravelry projects is 5.9 stitches per inch (+/- 0.6) and for Ravelympics is 5.2 (+/- 0.5). There is no statistically significant difference between these two groups (t-test, p=0.34).

Table 1. Top 10 projects in Ravelry and the Ravelympics.
Ravelry (No. Projects) (Pub Date) Ravelympics (No. Projects) (Pub Date)
1 Fetching (14,805) (2006) February Lady Sweater (166) (2008)
2 Clapotis (14,482) (2004) Ishbel (131) (2009)
3 Monkey (11,455) (2006) Citron (126) (2009)
4 Baby Surprise Jacket (10,866) (1968) Traveling Woman (116) (2009)
5 Calorimetry (10,809) (2006) Clapotis (115) (2004)
6 February Lady Sweater (8,540) (2008)     BSJ (81) (1968)
7 Saartje’s Bootees (7,339) (2007) French Press Slippers (74) (2009)
8 Jaywalker (7,284) (2005) Multnomah (73) (2009)
9 Noro Striped Scarf (6,919) (2007) Olympic Reindeer Hat (72) (2009)
10 Swallowtail Shawl (6,457) (2006) Skew (68) (2009)

Ravelympics projects only partially reflect general Ravelry trends. Ravelympians choose newer projects and gravitate towards lace. Many knitters list lace as difficult, requiring extensive time and attention. Thus, lace is seen as a perfect challenge for Ravelympics. However, the same can be said of color work and yet we find only one project in the Ravelympics top ten. Do knitters see color work as less challenging, and therefore less worthy of Ravelympics? Or do knitters see color work as even more challenging and beyond the constraints of Ravelympics? Or were there few enticing/exciting/enigmatic color work patterns released in the last year?

Socks are an incredibly popular project for many knitters. Yet the only sock to make Ravelympics was Skew. For most Ravelympians, I would suspect that socks do not pose a significant challenge. At the time of Ravelympics, Skew was an incredibly new pattern and offered a unique construction (hence the name, Skew), making it a popular choice for many athletes.

The lack of cable projects in Ravelympics is a bit mystifying.  On first blush, it may be that many knitters consider cables insufficiently challenging. However, as for color work, it could also be that a sufficiently challenging cable project (e.g., Na Craga) was beyond the scope of Ravelympics.

The February Lady Sweater is an interesting project appearing in both groups. FLS is an easy knit and makes a great first sweater for many. I would predict that many FLS are knit by new knitters or as a first sweater project by more experienced knitters (some who have sweater-phobia). As such, it represents an outstanding challenge for Ravelympics.

In summary, it seems that lace projects are quite possibly the perfect project for the Ravelympics. Challenging and beautiful, lace embodies what it means to knit, to compete and to achieve gold.

In the coming years, we might expect a few of the Ravelympics patterns to make their way into the Ravelry top 10 - although the enduring aspects of a project are open for discussion. I look forward to 2014, when we can again ask: what are knitters knitting and why?


Kristy said...

Interesting post! I would also suggest that colorwork might not have been chosen because of the amount of looking required. It's hard to do colorwork and watch TV!

Teresa said...

I was thinking for colourwork there wasn't a current must knit pattern, but there would be lots of different patterns. Doing a quick tag search there are 771 projects tagged with eventnordiccolorwork (the event for all things colour work) and 193 patterns used. Each pattern knit on average 3.99 times.

Searching on eventlaceluge gives 210 patterns used and 1436 projects, making each pattern knit on average 6.84 times.
So more people choose to knit lace projects and the patterns that are used are knit more often.

Not sure where that fits into your analysis but thought I would toss it out there.

Kimberli said...

Very interesting seeing the stats analysis. I agree that patterns allowing for tv viewing could factor into pattern selection. As for the popularity of lace. I think this probably represents a larger, rising trend in lace knitting in general. The past year we're seeing more shawlettes and mini-shawls popping up. Also just personally, the winter months find my thoughts turning towards lace, shawls and pretty things. Come summer it changes. Then I'm thinking small, portable or holiday gifts.

During the '08 Ravelympics Socks were the 2nd most popular event after WIPs Wrestling. I was surprised to see the lower stats for Socks in '10 games. Same holds true for Cowls, which we're very popular few years ago. Now people seem to be hearing the siren call of the Shawlette.

I do remember the Feb Lady Sweater being the top pattern from the '08 games though. So that is a Little Pattern That Could!

Can't wait to see what the stats yield in 2012.