Much of the industrialized world is, too. Today I don't want to debate the perils of obesity and overweight; I'll leave that to Michelle Obama and your doctor and all the healthier (and often genetically luckier) people in your life. What concerns me today is that business in general and the knitting industry in particular just don't get it.
Attention yarn companies, designers, and publishers: America is fat. And growing older, too. And you're ignoring the fastest growing and most underserved market in the world.
I love diagrams, charts, and maps that SHOW what I'm talking about. So let's start with some illustrative maps provided by the Centers for Disease Control. This first map shows the prevalence of obesity by state in 1994, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. In 1994, the prevalence of obesity ranged between 10 and 19 percent nationwide. Note that this data does NOT include the number of people who are considered overweight but not obese.
Fast forward 15 years and look at the 2009 map, the most recent data available from the CDC. In 15 years, obesity expanded to 20 to 30+ percent in every state except Colorado.
From this we can deduce much of our country is obese - and that's not counting the many more who are overweight. WebMD states that in 2010, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index found that "36.6% of Americans are overweight and 26.5% obese." Add those together: over 60 percent of Americans are fat.
I'm not saying this is a good thing. What I'm saying is that this the truth. This is reality. Here's some more reality, as reported by the New York Times:
For years, an average woman was thought to be a size 8, although some circles had bumped that up to size 12 in recent years. But even the women who came in on the small side in the SizeUSA survey look more like what the longtime clothing industry standards would consider a size 14 -- the size at which ''plus size'' clothing begins.But the average American woman is not only a size 14; she's also older. Despite the fact that every seven seconds someone turns 50, the knitting industry delights in the increase of young craftswomen, as evidenced in the knitting magazines and pattern books published every year. But let's look at reality. The following chart represents age distribution of knitters according to research conducted by the Crafts Council of America. Despite the CCA's overheated press release that claims that "20 and 30 year olds are turning on to crocheting and knitting," the truth is that the VAST majority of knitters are middle aged or older.
ERGO, Knitting Industry, I challenge your denial about the age and weight of knitters - and more pointedly, the incredible inavailabilty of patterns in larger sizes. From a quick review on Ravelry, there are 24,174 adult sweater patterns available. Of those patterns, only 3,411 patterns are designated plus. The term "plus" is unfortunately not defined on Ravelry so it sometimes means anything from size 12 up.
Now let me put this all together for you:
- Over 60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese.
- The average women's dress size is at least a 14.
- Women often get heavier as they get older.
- Over 75 percent of knitters are aged 35-65.
- Only 14 percent of patterns are designated plus on Ravelry.
February Lady - 52.5 largest size
Featherweight Cardigan - 50 largest size
Central Park Hoodie - 60-inch largest size
Hey Teach - 55-inch largest size