This is a three-part blog series on test knitting. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 later this summer.
Part 1: How Do You Become a Test Knitter? (this post)
Part 2: 5 Top Tips for Test Knitters (July 27, 2018)
Part 3: Interview with Tineke of Yarnpond (August 24, 2018)
Have you ever wanted to become a test knitter but you just don't know where to start? Then you're reading the right blog post! In this post I'll share a former test knitter's and now-designer's point of view on how to get started in test knitting, a test knitter's mind set, and resources for finding test knitting opportunities. (The same advice can very well be applied to test crocheters.)
But first, let's start with a definition.
What is test knitting? Why do designers need test knitters?
Test knitting is the phase in new pattern design in which the pattern draft (sometimes also called 'beta pattern') is sent to actual knitters to see if they're able to produce the intended outcome following the designer's instructions. Test knitters give feedback to the designer as they're knitting the pattern and they look for errors, confusing or missing instructions, suggestions for improving the pattern, etc.
Designers need test knitters for a bunch of different purposes. The most common reason is to have another pair of eyes to go over the pattern to spot mistakes that the designer may have overlooked. (This is really the task for a technical editor, a professional with a keen eye for math.)
Running out of yarn mid-project is the worst feeling. No matter how carefully you might calculate the amount of yarn needed to knit a pattern, yarns, gauges, and personal knitting styles vary so much it is nearly impossible for two knitters to end up using the same exact number of yards to knit the same pattern. Having a group of test knitters do a test run on the pattern helps the designer estimate the yardage required to knit the pattern. (I always love to add a little bit extra so that no one runs out of yarn.)
Another reason is to have a selection of samples ready when the pattern is released. Have you ever hesitated over buying a pattern because there weren't many Ravelry projects knitted with? Yeah, me too. Knitters love to see how a pattern looks in different yarns, different colors or color combinations, or on different body types. No designer is able to knit, for example, all the sizes of a sweater pattern, and here's where test knitters can be tremendously helpful.
I want to be a test knitter! What skills do I need?
Test knitting is a lovely way of showing support to your favorite designers... not to mention getting your hands on a pattern before anyone else! To participate in test knits you don't necessarily need to be an experienced knitter — in fact designers love to have a mix of skill levels in the testing group to see if knitters of all levels of experience can follow the instructions.
Being a test knitter is more of a mind set than a skill set.
The most important quality in a test knitter is that they're able to follow instructions and stick to the deadline. If you're the type of knitter that checks the cast-on stitch count from a pattern and then wings it... test knitting is not for you. Designers expect you to follow the pattern to a tee, without variation.
You don't necessarily have to be a fast knitter, either, but be prepared to focus on one project only for the duration of the test knit. Some test knits might have flexible schedules but the designer usually has some idea when they'd like to publish the pattern. That's why it's important to be able to knit the pattern in the allotted time.
You'll also make an excellent test knitter if you have a great eye for detail — that way you'll be able to spot errors, inconsistencies, or even typos. (Sometimes a spellchecker just doesn't catch everything.)
Beta patterns can have serious errors, despite being checked over by the designer and the tech editor. In these cases you might have to rip back and re-knit entire sections of the pattern. If that doesn't faze you, test knitting is definitely for you!
People love beautiful photos of finished objects and designers are not an exception. Use your Ravelry projects page and social media profile as portfolios to let designers know you'd be a great asset in their testing group. Some knitters also like to include the words "TEST" or "TEST KNIT" in project names to let designers know they've test knitted before and are familiar with the procedures involved.
Where can I find test knits?
If you've now become interested in trying test knitting yourself, you might be wondering where to find these elusive tests. They're not actually that elusive — you just have to look in the right place!
Ravelry forums are a great source for finding what designers call "testing calls" in which they announce a new pattern that's ready for testing. There are groups dedicated for just announcing tests, like Open for Testing, and there are groups dedicated for running tests, like The Testing Pool and Free Pattern Testers.
Designers' groups are another likely place to start looking for testing calls. Some of my favorites like Melanie Berg, Isabell Kraemer, and Ambah all announce new pattern tests in their groups. But beware: the more popular the designer, the harder it is to get chosen as a test knitter!
You can also stalk your favorite designers on social media! In addition to following designers on Instagram, you can now also follow hashtags. Great hashtags to check out include #callfortesters, #testknitterswanted, and #testknittersneeded.
Yarnpond is a brand new website for knit and crochet pattern designers to manage their pattern testing process. If your favorite designer is on Yarnpond, you might want to sign up for an account. If you join before the end of August 2018 you'll get a chance in participating in Yarnpond's big launch giveaway.
Many designers don't announce their tests publicly so if you've never test knitted for them before, you have no idea of knowing when these tests become available. In this case you might want to subscribe to your favorite designer's email list. I always announce test knits first to my mailing list members. You can join my mailing list here — be sure the tick the box that says you're interested in test knitting.
Did that pique your interest in test knitting? Stay tuned for Part 2 of the series in July 2018. I'll be sharing my top 5 tips for what to do when you're participating in a test knit.
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