Top 25 Yarns with the Most Projects on Ravelry

Top 25 Yarns with the Most Projects on Ravelry

Recently we’ve taken a look at the most popular patterns on Ravelry. We’ve looked at how the Hot Right Now list works (if you missed the post, read it here), and then taken a more in-depth look at the 25 patterns with the most projects on Ravelry (read that post here). Now we’re going to move to yarns and look at the 25 yarns that have the most projects on Ravelry; i.e., the yarns that crafters turn to again and again for their projects. We will consider the factors that make a yarn popular and how those factors relate to the popularity of patterns as

Here is the list of the Top 25 Yarns with the most projects on Ravelry at the time of this writing:

  1. Red Heart Supersaver Solids
  2. Caron Simply Soft Solids
  3. Cascade 220 Solids
  4. Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice (solids, heathers, twists)
  5. Malabrigo Merino Worsted (all colorways)
  6. Original Lily Sugar  n’ Cream (solids and heathers)
  7. Cascade 220 Superwash (solids and heathers)
  8. Lion Brand Wool-Ease (solids and heathers)
  9. Patons North America Classic Wool Worsted (solids and heathers)
  10. Malabrigo Sock (all colorways)
  11. Cascade 220 Heathers
  12. Tosh Merino Light (hand-dyed–all colorways)
  13. Knitpicks Wool of the Andes (solids, heathers, marls)
  14. Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick n Quick (solids)
  15. Knitpicks Palette (solids and heathers)
  16. Hobby Lobby I Love This Yarn (solids)
  17. Rohrspatz & Wollmeise “Pure” 100% Superwash Merino (hand-dyed–all colorways)
  18. Patons North America Classic Wool Merino (solids, heathers, marls) discontinued
  19. Lion Brand Homespun (variegated)
  20. Noro Kureyon (variegated)
  21. Malabrigo Rios (all colorways)
  22. Plymouth Encore (solids and heathers)
  23. Original Lily Sugar n’ Cream Ombres (variegated)
  24. Noro Silk Garden (variegated)
  25. Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted (solids, heathers, prints)

The #1 yarn with the most projects on Ravelry, Red Heart Supersaver, is a 100% acrylic aran-weight plied yarn that comes in jumbo 364-yd skeins. Yarn crafters have used Red Heart Supersaver for 199,316 projects, of which 116,598 are crocheted. Those crocheted projects fall predominantly into three categories: accessories, home, and toys and hobbies. Within those categories, there are currently 15,571 hats; 16,139 blankets; and 19,607 softies (stuffed toys). Knitters turn to Red Heart Supersaver less than half the time that crocheters do, but they use it for similar projects; hats, blankets, and softies are also the largest pattern sub-categories.  image (7)

We have to be specific, too. The Red Heart Supersaver at the #1 spot is the solid-colored yarn. The Red Heart Supersaver Multi/Ombres/Prints/Heathers comes in at 39,386 projects, well below the threshold of the top 25 yarns used in the most projects. In fact, the first three yarns on the top 25 list are specifically solids. The Ravelry users who created their database entries separated them from their multi-colored or heathered counterparts.The first kettle-dyed yarn to show up on the list is Malabrigo Merino Worsted at #5, and the first handpainted yarn is Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light at #12. Solids, heathers, and twists, all yarns that read as solids in projects, dominate the top 25 most projects list, although the truly variegated (with long color changes) Noro Kureyon (#20) and Noro Silk Garden (#24) do break into the top 25.image (8)

The fiber content of the top 25 yarns with the most projects is heavily skewed in favor of natural fibers. 13 are 100% wool, of which 5 specify that it is 100% merino wool. Two are 100% cotton, Lily Sugar ‘n Cream Solids and Sugar’n Cream Ombres, classic yarns for kitchen dishcloths. Noro Silk Garden and Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted are made of blends of natural fibers. Lion Brand yarns Wool-Ease and Wool-Ease Thick n Quick blend acrylic with wool, as does Plymouth Encore, with acrylic the majority fiber. Five of the yarns are 100% acrylic (well, Lion Brand Homespun is 98% acrylic and 2% nylon, but…) but three of those five are #1 (Red Heart Supersaver Solids), #2 (Caron Simply Soft Solids) and #4 (Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice Solids, Heathers and Twists)  on the list, accounting for almost 480,000 projects. The top three 100% wool yarns (Cascade 220, Malabrigo Merino Worsted and Cascade 220 Superwash, on the list at #3, #5, and #7 respectively) total just over 340,000 projects. It’s pretty clear that easy care is an important factor in yarn selection for crafters.image (9)

The overwhelming choice for yarn weight falls into the worsted/aran category. Add “light worsted” and the three combine to account for over 75% of the top 25 yarns used in the most projects. The popularity of these yarn weights suggest that a size H crochet hook or a US 8/5.0mm knitting needle is the tool yarn crafters reach for the most. There is a single super-bulky yarn on the list (LB Wool-Ease Thick n Quick), a single bulky (LB Homespun) and four light-fingering to fingering weight yarns (Malabrigo Sock, Tosh Merino Light, Knitpicks Palette and Wollmeise “Pure” 100% Superwash Merino).

Where yarn crafters can obtain these yarns is likely another factor in their popularity. Sources for yarn fall into five basic categories: direct from the manufacturer;  individually-owned specialty stores (LYS),  big-box specialty stores (Hobby Lobby, JoAnn’s), big-box general retailers (Walmart, Walgreen’s) and online stores (any of the preceding). You can pick up Red Heart Supersaver in your neighborhood drugstore along with your toothpaste if you really need a yarn fix, while Cascade 220 is a staple yarn in many LYS’ inventories. The top 25 list suggests that most yarn crafters are getting their yarn either from big-box craft stores or big-box general retailers. Only the Cascade 220 line (solids, superwash, heathers), Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, Malabrigo  Merino Worsted and Sock, Noro Kureyon and Silk Garden, Plymouth Encore and Lamb’s Pride Worsted are yarns found mainly at local yarn stores. All of them, however, are available from online retailers and thus more widely accessible. Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (13) and Palette (15) are available only from Knit Picks; that they make the list shows that Knitpicks’ model of developing private-label yarns and selling them directly to the consumer has worked very well for them.

Special Cases
The outlier in the top 25 is Wollmeise “Pure” 100% Merino Superwash, a fingering-weight yarn hand-dyed in Germany. With over 50,000 projects, Wollmeise “Pure” has only about 25% of the total projects that Red Heart Supersaver Solids has, currently holding position 17. It is a remarkable number, however, because Wollmeise currently has a single outlet in the US (The Loopy Ewe), one in Austria, two in London and 17 yarn shops in Germany, including their own bricks-and-mortar store in Pfaffenhofen. They do sell online, however, and will ship anywhere in the world. It probably doesn’t hurt that Martina Behm, designer of the popular Hitchhiker shawl, the #2 most projects pattern in the Ravelry database, has recommended Wollmeise for Hitchhiker as well as for Lintilla, Magrathea, and Trillian, the other patterns in the Hitchhiker eBook collection. Those four patterns together account for 2,648 of the 51K projects in Wollmeise “Pure”, or about 5%. In fact, the “pattern ideas” tab for the Wollmeise “Pure” yarn entry reveals that it is a suitable yarn for all of the fingering weight patterns in the Top 25 Most Projects list, and has been used for the flexible patterns like the Baby Surprise Jacket as well. Wollmeise is also avidly bought and sold  in the secondary market via Ravelry’s ISO/Destash of Yarn board, another avenue for knitters to acquire this not-widely-distributed yarn.

One can view Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light (TML), at position 12 on the list with 60,134 projects, as an American counterpart to Wollmeise “Pure”, but its US distribution is far larger. According to the Ravelry Availability page, 199 LYS’s in the US may have TML in stock at any time. TML shares its fingering weight and small-batch hand-dyeing with Wollmeise “Pure,” although it is a singles rather than a plied yarn, making it less suitable for socks. A scan of the Pattern Ideas tab for TML shows lots of shawls, scarves and other neck accessories, including such Top 25 Most Projects patterns as Veera Välimäki’s Color Affection. TML also shares Wollmeise’s popularity on the Ravelry ISO/Destash of Yarn board.

Most Stashed vs. Most Projects
It’s also interesting to note that these two yarns fall among the “most stashed” of the Top 25 Yarns with the Most Projects. Ravelry members have created 120,750 stash entries for Wollmeise “Pure” and 78,904 entries for Madelinetosh TML. A stash entry can be one skein or a sweater quantity, so it’s safe to say that these are considered highly desirable and/or collectable yarns. Knit Picks Palette falls between them with 81,988 stash entries. Since Palette is designed for colorwork, those entries may represent smaller quantities. Cascade 220 is high also, with 83,236 stash entries. In general, the yarns that are widely accessible in big-box specialty and general retail outlets have a lower number of stash entries than the yarns available primarily through local yarn stores. It makes sense; yarns with no dyelots or highly uniform dyelot stability don’t create urgency among yarn crafters. You don’t have to hang onto that unique skein because you can always get another one just like it.

Age of Brand
Longevity is a small factor in a yarn’s appearance on the list of Top 25 Yarns with the Most Projects. Red Heart’s website claims that they have been America’s favorite yarn for over 75 year; Caron, maker of Simply Soft Solids, is celebrating its 100th year in business in 2016. Their acrylic yarns, however, were not commercially available until the 1950s. Lion Brand yarn has had Vanna White as their spokesperson for 18 years and has introduced a number of yarns, including Vanna’s Choice (#4), under her name during that time. At the other end, Wollmeise began to sell yarn in 2002, Malabrigo in 2005 and Madelinetosh in 2006. Their relative youth as yarn companies has not hindered their widespread popularity. A discontinued yarn, Patons North America Classic Wool Merino, was rebranded as Patons North America Classic Wool, but the entries are separate on Ravelry, and the Classic Wool Merino continues to move down the list as it is available only in Ravelers’ stashes for new projects.

Popularity of Patterns Influencing Popularity of Yarn
What remains to be considered is the relationship between the list of Top 25 Yarns with the Most Projects on Ravelry and the yarn requirements for the Top 25 Patterns with the Most Projects on Ravelry. It is in the intersection of the two lists that we can find valuable insights into what is driving yarn and pattern sales in the knitting and crocheting industry.

Exactly five patterns on the Top 25 Patterns with the Most Projects list specify yarns that appear on the Top 25 Yarns with the Most Projects list. As noted above, Martina Behm’s Hitchhiker, #2 on the Patterns with the Most Projects list, recommends Wollmeise “Pure” Superwash Merino. Jared Flood’s two striped patterns, the Turn a Square Hat (8) and the Noro Striped Scarf (11), are written for Noro Silk Garden, with Cascade 220 as the solid for Turn a Square. Natalie Larson’s Star Crossed Slouchy Beret (now available through Yarn Canada)(13) suggests Malabrigo Merino Worsted and Grandmother’s Favorite Dishcloth (20) recommends Lily Sugar n’ Cream.

The meager overlap between the Most Projects patterns and the Most Projects yarns demonstrate a few things worth noting:

– Knitters are more than willing to substitute for recommended yarns in patterns.
– Crocheters use more yarn than knitters and prefer low cost, easy-care acrylics.
– Both crocheters and knitters prefer acrylics for blankets and toys, none of which appear in the Top 25 Patterns with the Most Projects list.
– A very popular pattern can make a specific yarn rocket in popularity (Hitchhiker and Wollmeise “Pure”).

It’s this last one that suggest possibilities to indie yarn dyers and pattern designers. As a yarn dyer, exploring a partnership with a designer whose aesthetic fits your yarn can help both of you. Getting your yarn listed as the suggested yarn on a Ravelry pattern details page offers your product exposure to your market in the place it matters most. As a designer, you may want to keep an eye out for up-and-coming dyers as well as approaching established yarn companies with design proposals. The big companies don’t necessarily need your work, but the smaller ones are looking for designers whose patterns showcase their unique yarns. Partnering with the right company gets your design listed on the Pattern Ideas tab on a yarn’s Ravelry entry and brings your work to the attention of more potential makers.

In conclusion, we have seen that the Yarns with the Most Projects on Ravelry aren’t necessarily “hot” yarns. By sheer total number of projects, they are dependable workhorses of worsted or aran-weight, solid or heathered colors. They include both easy-care synthetics, synthetic blends, and 100% wools, priced, for the most part, at or below $12.00 for at least 100 grams of yarn. They are widely available to crafters who may not have an independent local yarn store in their area, either at big-box retailers or through online retailers. The few designer yarns that have broken into the Top 25 list may have gained their wider recognition and desirability by being specified in patterns by popular independent designers. The segment of the market that is following both pattern and yarn designers and whose eagerness to try new patterns and yarns drives these rankings is the target for your products. Let Stitchcraft Marketing help you reach them. Contact for more information on how we can help you expand your brand.

Leanne Pressly
  • Marina Nygård
    Posted at 10:00h, 06 November Reply

    Hello! What year is this post from? We are using it as a reference in our thesis. Thank you.

    • Leanne Pressly
      Posted at 10:07h, 13 November Reply

      This post was published May 24, 2016. Hope that helps!

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