Before a knitting pattern is published, designers will often have a small number of knitters “test” the pattern by knitting it up. Designers have their own ways of running tests, and do the tests for their own specific purposes, which can vary from designer to designer. One question I get asked a lot is: how do I become a test knitter? I thought I’d try to answer this question in regards to my own designs, and give you some insight into how I run my test knits.
Firstly, whenever I have a new pattern in the works, these are my main goals for running a test knit:
To discover any errors in the pattern, including but not limited to: stitch count numbers, typos, and weird anomalies that work on paper but not on the needles.
To get feedback on the readability and comprehensibility of my instructions, to make the pattern as concise and easy to follow as possible.
To get feedback on the practical details of the knitted items, including: how close the measurements match the schematic, how much yardage is used for each size, how well the finished piece fits, and if any fit or sizing adjustments are suggested.
To have projects posted to Ravelry in different sizes for other knitters to see at the time that the pattern is published.
How I find test knitters
Whenever I have a design that is ready for testing, my main method for finding test knitters is to send out a call to my email list. I find this the easiest, as people can hit reply with their info if they are interested. Depending on how much of the design details I want public, I may also publish the information publicly on my website journal. In most cases, I’ll put out the word out on Instagram too!
For my patterns, the best way to become a test knitter is to sign up for my email list, or keep an eye out on my Instagram. Please keep in mind that I do have a limited number of slots for each test knit, and I usually get a high volume of inquiries, however I do reply to everyone personally.
I am always happy to work with test knitters who are new to me, or even new to test knitting. It is also not necessary to be on Instagram or post to social media. What is most important to me is finding test knitters who:
Feel confident that they can knit at the skill level of the pattern (I always list the skill level and skills required in my pattern info).
Have a general knowledge of key knitting pattern information, such as how to swatch for the correct gauge, and how to choose the correct size (gauge info, a full schematic, and pattern sizes including intended ease of fit are also included in my patterns, when applicable).
Are on Ravelry. I try to keep my requirements of test knitters as minimal as possible, but I do ask that the knitters post their finished projects to Ravelry.
What to expect as a test knitter
Before any test knit, I have written a knitting pattern and had it professionally tech-edited. My hope is that by this stage, we are all working with a pattern that is as close to correct as possible, and will clean up any errors along the way. However, because this is a test knit, there can sometimes be changes that require ripping back and re-knitting.
I aim to provide a timeline and requirements that are as clear and minimal as possible, to make the test easy for everyone involved.
Because questions or clarifications may come up during the test knit that need to be answered before continuing, I aim to reply as soon as I can, or at least on the same day.
How I run a test knit
When I run a test knit, knitters purchase their own yarn and keep their finished projects. Being a test knitter for me (and most designers) is on a volunteer basis, but I try to keep it fun and worthwhile to anyone to test knits for me. I always offer a free copy of the completed pattern, plus one additional from my Ravelry store. I also make myself available for general questions knitters might have — a lot of test knitters are budding designers too, and I’m happy to share knowledge I have learned along the way. In terms of number of test knitters, that varies by design, but I usually aim to find 2 knitters for each size.
To start the actual test knit, I send a PDF via email to my test knitters, and then set up a discussion board. I prefer to have test knit discussions in private, so I use a program called Slack as a forum / discussion board for conversation and questions between me and the test knitters. I like Slack because it’s free, you can share photos and other media in the discussion, and they have a synced phone app so I can see and reply to questions when I’m away from my computer. This is starting to sound like a Slack ad and it’s not… but I really enjoy the format!
As the test knit is happening, I usually end up updating my PDF based on feedback and / or errors pointed out. I keep a log of changes made, which I email out with new PDFs as necessary. I find that emailing PDF patterns with point form notes about changes, and then having a general / longer winded / sometimes casual chat about things on Slack is a great balance of keeping relevant information separate while still having fun and sharing photos of the WIPs.
At the end of the test knit, I send out a questionnaire to my test knitters which varies based on design, but is usually similar to this format:
Which size did you knit?
How much yarn was used (approximate yardage)?
If not the suggested yarn, which type and brand of yarn did you use?
What size needles did you use to obtain the gauge?
Did your finished measurements match the dimensions of the schematic? If not, how did they differ?
Are you happy with how the item fits?
Did you find any errors in the pattern not previously discussed in our thread?
Are there any ways that the test knit experience could be improved?
So there you have it! That’s how my version of test knitting works. If you’re interested to become a test knitter for me in the future, please feel free to sign-up for my email list, and send me a message / comment below with any questions you might have.