Pattern Testing. Test Knitting, Test Crocheting. You may have heard these terms and have questions about them. What do pattern testers do? Do I qualify? How do I become a pattern tester? You’ve got questions; I’ve got answers.
In this post, I will:
- Define pattern testing
- Explain why designers use pattern testers
- Explain the difference between test stitchers, sample stitchers, and tech editors
- Outline the skills good testers possess
- Tell you how to find testing opportunities
- Provide advice for testers from experienced designers
What is pattern testing?
Many self-published knit and crochet designers use pattern testing to check the usability of their patterns. The designer sends an untested draft of a pattern to the knitter or crocheter. The pattern may or may not have been tech edited at that point. The tester makes the project according to the pattern, then gives feedback to the designer. The tester gets the finalized pattern when it is released.
Why do designers use pattern testers?
Designers can find pattern testing useful for many reasons. Testing can help:
- Check the accuracy of a pattern
- Get feedback from different skill levels
- Check that users can match gauge
- Collect information on yardage used
- Envision what a project looks like in different yarns and colors
- Provide promotional support in the form of social media shares and linked projects on Ravelry
Why would I want to be a tester?
Pattern testing can be quite rewarding. Some of the perks include:
- Getting a sneak peek at new designs
- Being exposed to a wide variety of pattern styles
- Learning new techniques
- Developing personal relationships with designers
- Helping designers write better patterns
- Getting paid jobs as a sample maker
Do pattern testers get paid?
Usually pattern testing is a volunteer position. The tester is expected to provide their own yarn and any other notions needed for the project. Upon the conclusion of the test, the designer provides a final copy of the pattern to the tester as payment.
The tester gets to keep their finished project. The designer may ask to borrow the project for photography. In that case, the designer should cover the back-and-forth shipping costs.
Is “testing” the same as “sample knitting/crocheting”?
Often “test stitching” and “sample making” are used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. If you are entering into an agreement with someone, make sure you both understand the terms the same way.
Sample knitting and sample crocheting is a paid job. While the sample stitcher incidentally tests the pattern, the main goal of a sample stitcher is to create an exact version of the pattern for photography.
They make the project exactly as stated in the pattern, with the same yarn, gauge, and so on. They work to a deadline and to exacting standards of technique and finishing. The designer or publisher keeps the finished item.
Many designers who use paid sample stitchers find them by word of mouth. Being an excellent test stitcher is a good way to get noticed by a designer, and perhaps be asked to take on a paid project.
How is pattern testing different from tech editing?
Testers are volunteers who make the project. They offer feedback on how easy the pattern is to follow from a user’s standpoint. Professional technical (tech) editors review patterns for accuracy, consistency, logic and many other things. Read more about Working with a Technical Editor.
Many experienced professional designers do not use testers; they use technical editors only. Less experienced designers may use only pattern testers, but they would benefit from working with a professional for at least some patterns.
Testers and tech editors serve different roles. Testing is not a substitute for tech editing!
What skills do I need to be a pattern tester?
You don’t have to be an expert crocheter or knitter to test a pattern. As a matter of fact, some designers specifically look for beginners and advanced beginners. Different designers and different patterns call for different types of testers, but in general everyone needs the following skills:
- Attention to detail – Testers are expected to spot errors in patterns and not breeze past errors or omissions.
- Communications skills – Be able to articulate your questions. It’s not enough to say “I don’t understand the pattern”; you need to be able to say exactly where and why you don’t understand something. Responding to comments and questions in a timely manner is crucial.
- Understanding of gauge and how to match pattern gauge – Pattern testing is not useful if the tester is not matching the gauge of the project. You *must* match gauge, or check with the designer for additional instructions if you are unable to match the pattern gauge.
- Ability to follow written directions – You’ll get directions from the designer about how the test is being run and of course you’ll need to follow the written pattern instructions.
- Ability to follow charted directions – Some patterns will have charted instructions; if so, you’ll be expected to understand charts and to follow them.
- Ease with various communications platforms – You may be asked to communicate with the designer through email, a Ravelry or Facebook group, Slack, Yarnpond, or some other platform. Before agreeing to take on a project, be sure you are comfortable with (or willing to learn) the form of communication you’ll be using.
- Commitment to the project – Even as a volunteer, you are taking on a “job” in which someone is relying on you.
How do I become a pattern tester?
Check out your favorite designers to see if they use testers. Look in their newsletter, blog, or social media for that information. Some designers have their own testing groups on Ravelry. Not every designer uses testers, and even those that do may not make the information public. You may need to reach out directly to them to ask for information.
Look for testing opportunities online. On Ravelry, there are several groups that connect testers and designers. Free Pattern Testing and The Testing Pool have specific rules. Be sure to read all the group rules before posting.
You may need to fill out an application for testing. The application may include questions about your experience level, the amount of time you can spend on the project each day, and the types of things you like to make. Be honest in your assessment of your skills and interest. If you don’t know how to knit socks, or you can’t stand filet crochet, don’t volunteer for those types of projects!
What advice do you have for aspiring pattern testers?
Some experienced designers weigh in with advice they have for aspiring testers. You’ll notice some repeating themes.
Please do not make any assumptions as you stitch. Please do not make any changes to my pattern without my approval. – Melissa Leapman
Please meet the deadlines. Be very attentive to the details of instructions and diagrams. Be honest if the project is a bit complicated for your knit/crochet skills. — Alla Koval
Deadlines are important. Emergencies happen, but please don’t commit to a test if you aren’t really giving your best effort to get it done in time. Photos are also hugely important these days! Read the expectations all the way around. Oh yeah, and gauge has to be met in order to test successfully. — Kate Oates
Gauge is important. Good photos are important. —Jessie Rayot, Jessie at Home
The relationship between designers and pattern testers is all about communication. Clarify expectations on both sides. What are the deadlines? What kind of feedback is expected? How will communication take place?
Stay in touch. Let the designer know if something comes up that’s going to delay completion. Don’t make assumptions. If you have questions, ask for help before continuing.
Interested in testing for me? Complete the testing interest form.
Contact me if you need a tech editor.
Do you have more questions about pattern testing? Ask in the comments.