Homemade knitting is experiencing a moment this winter as the “Tom Daley Effect” sees more young men and women picking up knitting needles to create “slow” fashion.
Figures show that around 1 million people have embraced the hobby since the start of the pandemic, and the Olympic gold medalist-turned-super-craftsman has launched a new line that could encourage even more to adopt it.
Since being seen knitting at the Tokyo Games, Daley has grown into a craft influencer whose dedicated Instagram page attracts 1.4 million followers. He now has a collection of premium knitting kits for sale on the LoveCrafts site.
The kits, aimed at beginners, include a £ 90 sweater with trendy varsity stripes and a £ 125 unisex sweater with a flamingo on the front. The high price tags partly reflect the cost of thick merino wool, which he says is “ethically sourced” in the UK.
In 2020, the newly locked down Brits spent time at home baking banana bread and sourdough. But in 2021, with the realization that they were here for the long haul, the focus shifted to crafts, as many sought to avoid burnout at home.
The UK Hand Knitting Association (UKHKA) said around 1 million people have started knitting since the start of the pandemic. The figure, based on last year’s Craft Intelligence report, means the country now has around 7 million knitters.
The sight of Daley winning medals without losing a stitch encouraged more men to get involved, UKHKA spokeswoman Juliet Bernard said. A quarter of people using her site, which supports independent wool stores, were now men, she said, up from around 10% before the Olympics.
Daley’s status as a national treasure propelled needles and wool in John Lewis’s 2021 Retail Report, which identified key buying trends.
Yarn sales increased “ridiculously” during the pandemic, said Bernard, who suggested people had focused on the “meditative quality” of knitting. Daley says the hobby helped him earn his medals, describing knitting as his “secret weapon.”
During the pandemic, leisure has acted as a “safety valve for many Britons, providing solace and escape,” according to a recent report from market researchers Mintel.
However, when it comes to knitting and sewing, two in five said they do it to save money, while a similar number cited environmental reasons. Described as “slow” fad, this DIY approach is seen as an antidote to the noxious fast fashion of the street.
LoveCrafts chief executive Edward Griffith said the company’s sales reached £ 66million last year.
The new wave of Covid meant things were “busier again,” said Griffith, who describes crafting as a “winter sport”. In December, sales of knitting and crochet kits on the site were up 225% from 2019. While the traditional heart of knitting was among women in their 40s and 50s, Daley was attracting a younger clientele. as well as a male audience, he added.
Not everyone will be able to take home Daley’s cutting-edge designs, which cost as much as buying the finished item, but Bernard said they would appeal to the Zoom generation.
“You got on your pajama bottoms and that glorious, extravagant sweater on top,” she said. “People are exhausted from what has happened in the last few years. They want cocooning, but they also want to have a little fun.
Covid’s ‘pet baby boom’, which has skyrocketed sales of animal lifestyle products, means dogs as well as humans are covered in luxurious knits. Craft site Ravelry, for example, has over 400 different designs of dog coats.
While children’s knits can be bought on the streets for less than the balls of yarn needed to make them, there is a persistent demand for patterns. “It’s one way people still seem to express their love,” Bernard said.