Following up on my previous 2-part series on getting involved in the hand-knitting industry (Part I, Part II), today I'll be exploring test knitting a little further, providing some guidelines on how to succeed as a test knitter.
Test knitters provide a valuable service to designers, ensuring that their patterns are clear and easy for knitters to follow.
Have you ever spotted a brand new pattern up on Ravelry and thought, "Wait, how have so many people knit this already??" That's the work of test knitters! In exchange for working through what is essentially a rough draft and providing helpful feedback for the designer in finalizing the pattern, they get early access to a new design and are therefore the first to show their versions off on Ravelry and elsewhere.
But it's not as simple as just grabbing the pattern and getting to work. To succeed as a test knitter, it's important to establish a relationship with the designers you're working with and to provide the feedback they need to publish high quality patterns. These guidelines will help you to achieve that goal.
1. Be Honest
Carefully read the description of the pattern the designer has provided, the requirements for the test knit, and the deadline for completion.
Can you reasonably expect to meet that deadline and fulfill the other requirements set out by the designer? If you are working full time, caring for your 3 kids and spending your weekends feeding the homeless, perhaps knitting a complex cabled sweater in 4 weeks just isn't possible for you. And if you don't own a camera, you certainly can't take photos of your finished knit!
Do you understand all of the techniques involved? If you've never done short rows before, a test knit garment full of short rows might not be the best place to learn them.
Do you already have the materials, or can you get them quickly? Because deadlines for test knits are usually just a few weeks out, it's easiest to complete the test on time if you already have the yarn and other materials, or can get them quickly--ie, from a local yarn shop, rather than ordering them online and waiting for them to ship.
Do you like, want and have a use for the finished garment or accessory? Compensation for test knitting is generally modest--often a final copy of the pattern you're testing, and perhaps additional patterns from the designer. Your true benefit is early and free access to the pattern being tested, so make sure you actually want whatever it is you'll be tasked with knitting.
Remember, even if you can't test knit, you will have the opportunity to purchase the pattern after it's published! So make sure you can reasonably expect to complete the test knit as described before you sign on.
2. Follow Instructions
Use the yarn weight specified, make sure you get gauge, and follow the pattern as written. The goal of test knitting is to confirm that the information provided in the pattern is accurate and understandable, so it's not a time for experimenting.
And, yes, you have to swatch! Getting the gauge specified in the pattern is essential to confirm that the finished object is the size specified by the designer. If you work at a different gauge, your knit will come out a different size, and therefore any feedback you can provide to the designer regarding sizing is, essentially, useless.
Beyond the pattern instructions, the designer may require test knitters to provide photos of the finished item and to link a Ravelry project page to the pattern page once the design is published. If the designer specified these elements, they are not optional--the test knit is not considered complete until you've fulfilled all the obligations set out by the designer.
Perhaps you don't agree with the designer's requirements--that's fine! Some designers' tests are more involved than others, and it's perfectly understandable that you may feel the designer is asking for too much. But if that's the case, don't agree to test knit (please see point #1!).
3. Meet Deadlines
Designers set deadlines for a reason--after the test knit is complete, the designer may need to re-draft parts of the pattern, have it tech edited, finalize it and perhaps draw up schematics, take photographs or do the final layout before it can be published. While self-publishing may not have the kind of strict deadlines that formal publications have, the designer likely has a goal publication date that won't be met if deadlines along the way are ignored. Which leads me to . . .
Check in with the designer frequently--I ask my test knitters to check in once a week for tests that run 4+ weeks. Just to make sure you're still alive, and making progress!
Any time you're unsure about the pattern instructions, you should check with the designer--this helps him/her understand which sections may need to be rewritten for clarity. It's best not to try to guess what the designer meant or wing it if you're not certain.
And the minute you know you may not meet the deadline, let the designer know! Don't wait for him/her to ask you what's going on. (Full disclosure: if a tester fails to meet the deadline and doesn't let me know ahead of time--or waits for me to ask before admitting the deadline won't be met--I delete that tester from my database. I just don't have time for guessing games!)
5. Take Good Photos
You don't have to be Ansel Adams, but clear, well-lit photos are important for the designer to determine that your finished item looks the way it's supposed to. In addition, if your photos are good quality, the designer may use them (with your permission and attribution) on the Ravelry pattern page, his/her blog, or a social media platform like Twitter or Instagram to give knitters a better idea of how the item looks in different yarns and/or sizes. This will give you and your knitting more exposure (if you're looking to expand your test knitting or sample knitting work, get more followers on Instagram, or just lots of hearts on your Ravelry projects), so there are benefits on both sides.
And what should you expect from the designer? I'm glad you asked! The relationship between the tester and the designer implies responsibilities on both sides. The designer you are working with should
- clearly lay out the requirements for the test knit ahead of time, indicating everything expected from the test knitter and setting a deadline for completion of the test.
- provide the draft pattern by the date specified; if the pattern is delayed, you can reasonably expect the deadline for completing the test to be extended.
- respond in a timely fashion to all questions ("timely" will vary by designer, but should be quickly enough to prevent significant delays in your progress!).
- issue a revised pattern when changes of consequence are made.
- provide the agreed upon compensation once the test is complete, assuming tester has fulfilled all of his/her responsibilities.
- request permission to use your photos, and provide attribution when using them.
Test knitters and designers, do you have other tips to share?