Which yarn colors are most stashed and most used ?

Color is a pretty important part of a knitting project, and a big factor in deciding to buy and knit a skein (or hank, as is more often the case with hand-dyed yarns). Maybe counter-intuitively for non-knitters, many knitters buy yarn without a specific project planned for it, sometimes even in quantities that they couldn’t knit through even if they spent the rest of their lives knitting 24/7! Such is the power of beautiful yarn.

The yarn stash entry on ravelry allows the user to select the color category of their yarn when adding it to their notebook stash. Color is quite subjective and categorizing yarn colors can be especially difficult, as shown on those pictures:

Which color is this ? (“Top Draw Sock” by Skein in the “inner city” colorway)

Is this yellow, brown, or orange ? (“Tosh Sock” by Madelinetosh in the “ginger glazed” colorway)

Often though, the color distinctly falls into one of the Ravelry color families: “Blue”, “Green”, “Purple”, “Brown”, “Gray”, “Blue-green”, “Pink”, “Red”, “Natural/Undyed”, “Black”, “Red-purple”, “White”, “Orange”, “Yellow”, “Blue-purple”, “Red-orange”, “Yellow-green”, and “Yellow-orange”. This post excludes yarn spun by the users (“handspun”), to look only at commercial yarns (spun at a mill) that users have bought and added to the “yarn stash” section of their notebooks.

The color family of projects cannot be retrieved with the API (it is a yarn property); in addition, the actual number of stashed yarn items and projects in Ravelry are displayed when doing a manual search. I entered this data by hand to look at color distributions rather than doing an API call. Not as practical as an API call, but it’s more accurate since those tend to timeout if we query more than 5000 entries.

The code below defines the data as taken (manually) from Ravelry, and shows a plot of how many items are stashed in each color (bars) and how many projects were knitted using this color (dots).


# Colors selected among the 140 html supported color names
ravColors <- c("Black"="#000000","Blue"="#0000ff","Blue-green"="#008080","Blue-purple"="#6A5ACD","Brown"="#A52A2A",
                "Gray"="#808080","Green"="#008000","Natural/Undyed"="#e0d8c8","Orange"="#FFA500","Pink"="#FFC0CB",
                "Purple"="#800080","Red"="#ff0000","Red-orange"="#FF4500","Red-purple"="#C71585","White"="#ffffff",
                "Yellow"="#ffff00","Yellow-green"="#ADFF2F","Yellow-orange"="#FFD700")

# Color breakdown (august) from project and stash search page info: 
yarnColors <- data.frame("color"=c("Blue","Green","Purple","Brown","Gray","Blue-green",
                                    "Pink","Red","Natural/Undyed", "Black","Red-purple",
                                    "White","Orange","Yellow","Blue-purple","Red-orange",
                                    "Yellow-green","Yellow-orange"),
                          "project"=c(702934,572417,420128,384078,495350,368599,
                                      412316,362362,268711,237424,148006,
                                      254850,170679,168060,143248,92505,
                                      65680,53732),
                          "stash"=c(923548,753213,600723,534547,506782,493983,
                                    561139,433341,304647,261388,204782,
                                    241738,228724,194401,198696,127643,
                                    82374,65809))


# sort by increasing number of items in stash
yarn_colors <- arrange(yarn_colors,stash)

ggplot(data=yarnColors)+
  geom_bar(aes(x=seq_along(color), y=stash, fill=factor(color)),
           stat="identity")+
  geom_point(aes(x=seq_along(color), y=project, fill=factor(color)),
             colour="white", pch=21, size=5)+
  guides(fill=guide_legend(title="colors\nbars: stash\ndots: projects"))+
  theme(axis.text.x=element_blank())+
  theme(axis.ticks.x=element_blank())+
  scale_fill_manual(values=rav_colors)+
  xlab("Ravelry color family")+
  ylab("Number of stash items / projects")+
  ggtitle("Color distribution of stashed yarns and yarns used in projects")

Colors in stashes and projects. Blue and green lead !

Colors in stashes and projects. Blue and green lead !

Projects colors tend to follow the same distribution as stash colors. Blue is clearly the winner, both in stashes and in projects. Yellows and oranges, on the other hand, don’t seem to tempt many knitters.

Gray is knitted a lot more, comparatively, than it is stashed (its dot doesn’t follow the slope defined by the other dots).

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