This is the second part in a 3-part blog series on test knitting. Stay tuned for Part 3 in August 2018.
In the first part of the series I talked about the definition of test knitting, test knitters’ mind set, and resources for finding testing calls. Now let’s get into the nitty gritty: tips for making the test knitting process go smoothly for both you, the test knitter, and the designer running the test.
#1. Read the requirements
When you find a testing call, carefully read through the testing requirements. The testing call should present enough information for you to decide whether it’s a project you’re willing and able to knit successfully. What’s listed usually is
item type, often with a photo
yarn weight and yardage
gauge and suggested needle size
estimate of knitting time needed (in hours)
Pay attention to the skill level as well. I also like to include techniques used in the project — this should give you an indication if the project is something you’re able to manage. If you’ve never done brioche, for example, a full-sized shawl might not be the greatest pattern to start with — unless of course the designer is looking for complete brioche beginners. Also take a note of the deadline. For your sanity — and the designer's — don’t overcommit to multiple tests at the same time, or sign up for a test when you know you’re going to have a few hectic weeks with little knitting time. To sign up for a test, the designer might want you to reply in the thread, via private message, or by emailing them. Like replying to a job application, go through the testing call and answer all the questions they might pose: Which size would you like to test? What yarn are you planning to use? Do you prefer to work from written or charted instructions? Some designers might even ask you to post a photo of the yarn(s) you’re using.
#2. Communicate, communicate, communicate When you’ve received the pattern, go over it carefully to see if you’re able to follow everything. It’s best to ask even about the tiniest details if you’re unsure about something — nothing’s too insignificant. You might even be able to catch a few typos or unclear instructions on the first pass. And then just cast on! If you spot an error, let the designer know right away rather than wait until you’ve completed the project. For one, you might not remember everything if you wait (even if you take notes). Second, other test knitters who might be slower than you don’t have to run into the same issue again. Designers are also open suggestions and improvements on a pattern. You as the knitter are well-experienced with the writing styles of many other designers. Got a more succinct way of expressing a line of instructions? Let the designer know. (They might not take your advice on board but at least you’ve offered it.) The testing threads on Ravelry can even become mini-KALs, with the test knitters cheering each other on. I for one love a test knitter who’s vocal and active on the forums over a tester who disappears into a void for a few weeks. And everyone loves to see each others’ yarn choices and progress photos so feel free to post them — unless it's a secret test, of course. Sometimes life just happens. If for some reason you must bow out of the test, let the designer know of that, too! They might be able to find another test knitter to replace you on a short notice.
#3. Stick to the pattern Sometimes it can be hard not to modify a pattern but I can’t stress this enough: knit the project exactly as specified in the instructions. If you change the pattern in some way, it could affect the yardage required to knit it, making the designer’s estimates go out the window. Or you might run into problems later on in the pattern that the designer can’t help you with. Don't make changes to the pattern when you're knitting it. Try to achieve the suggested gauge, don’t change stitch counts, don’t add a few extra waist decreases... at least not without asking the designer first. I usually give some leeway when it comes to, say, making a sweater fit your body better — I wouldn’t want you to end up with a garment you can’t wear! Having said all that, sometimes you have to be gutsy and know when you’ve got it right. I once had a test knitter in a sweater test saying that the sleeves were coming out too tight and they’d knitted fewer decreases than specified in the pattern. It was still early enough in the test that I was able to update the sleeve instructions so that they came out fitting much better for everyone.
#4. Give feedback After you've finished knitting the pattern, go back to the original testing call and read the testing requirements again. The designer might ask you for specific things before you can “pass the test”, so to speak. In addition to giving feedback on the clarity of the pattern you might be asked to create a project page on Ravelry, post photos of the finished test knit, give the pattern a star rating on Ravelry, etc. The Free Pattern Testers group on Ravelry uses a generic project survey that each designer presents at the end of a test knit. Keep a track of (at least) the needle size you used, how much yarn you used, how long it took you to knit the project, and finished measurements of the blocked item for the survey. This is your last chance to suggest improvements and changes to the pattern before it’s released.
#5. Share your project Then it’s your time to shine! After you’ve completed the test knit successfully, take lots of photos of it and blast them all over Ravelry. Like I wrote in Part 1 of the series, other knitters love to see how a pattern looks on different body types and in different color combinations. Designers love to see your finished test knits as well. When the pattern has been released on Ravelry, link your project to the pattern page. Make sure to take good, well-lit photos of your project — the best shots might end up as featured photos on the Ravelry pattern page. Share your photos on social media as well. Check out the testing call again: the designer often suggests hashtags to use. If you’re knitting one of my patterns, tag your photos with #talviknits and the pattern name. You can also tag me, @talviknits, and I get an instant notification of your lovely creations.
Are you ready to dip your toe into test knitting? Stay tuned for the final part of the series in August 2018 when I’ll be chatting with Tineke, the founder of a new test knitting platform called Yarnpond.
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