Today we need to talk about Tech Editing and Test Knitting. The differences and similarities and why and when you might want to do one or the other – or ideally both!
Being a knitting designer isn’t free. Even if you get all your yarn and tools for free (that’s rare!) and you don’t count your time as money (which is a whole other important discussion) there are things you do that cost money. And today we are going to talk about the very necessary expense of tech editing and the sometimes free option of test knitting.
What is test knitting? Test knitting is where you provide your pattern to testers to get their feedback and sometimes corrections on the design. A lot of designers – especially when they are first starting out – use test knitters to make sure their designers are error free. Another advantage to test knitting is that test knitters post their projects and photos on Instagram and Ravelry and the like which creates added buzz for your design. There are actually groups on Ravelry and I think on Facebook that help facilitate test knitting – just be very careful to make sure you understand all the rules of group before you utilize that resource.
Normally test knitters use their own yarn for projects. And most test knitters will do it for free. But we need to remember that sometimes you get what you pay for. You cannot expect professional feedback if test knitters are working for free. Sure, you might get lucky and have a dedicated group of testers who provide detailed feedback and help you put out error-free patterns. But sometimes even that is dangerous. If a knitter becomes very accustomed to your style and language, sometimes they will understand things about the pattern that a new customer won’t get at all!
Test knitters can be experienced or novices – and sometimes it’s good to have a mix of skill levels test a pattern. The last test knit I ran I specifically asked for test knitters who used charts and were avowed chart-haters so that I could make sure that the written instructions and the charts were clear.
Test knitting is NOT the same as sample knitting. Test knitters get to keep their projects. Sample knitters are knitting a project to be used for photography and/or display. Sample knitters are paid contractors that you can use to help lighten your knitting load. But that’s another post for another day.
What is tech editing? Tech Editing is where you send your completed pattern off to an editor and pay them (usually an hourly rate) to professionally tech edit your patterns. Tech editors are experienced knitters or crocheters who have a complete grasp on the language and charts for their specialty. They also completely understand how different things are constructed – sweaters, hats, socks, shawls, etc. – so that they can easily see whether or not the instructions you have provided will produce the item pictured. Tech editors can also be math geniuses and/or excel experts who will check and double-check your math.
Professional tech editors will let you know up front an hourly rate and can usually give you a rough estimate of how many hours of editing a project will require by looking at your pattern. Experienced tech editors will know right away if you’ve completely jacked up your pattern and will ship it back to you for some major fixes before they sink their teeth into it – yes I’ve had that happen more than once as a designer and as an editor!
Another thing that tech editors do is insure consistency in our patterns. You can provide your style sheet to your editor and they can make sure that your abbreviations and verbiage all adhere to your desired style. They will also catch typos and help you to clean up your wording to be more clear and concise. Those are things that a test knitter really doesn’t do – nor should you ask them to do this (especially for free!).
So which is better? Well if you want to be a professional knit or crochet designer (and you wouldn’t be reading this if you didn’t) then you MUST have your pattern tech edited. You cannot tech edit your pattern yourself. You just can’t. Trust me you will miss things. One thing that I’ve done in the past to save costs on tech editing is to trade edits with a trusted editor/designer. But you can’t skip this step.
So where does test knitting fit in? I think that test knitting can be super valuable – just in different ways. You get feedback from test knitters that editors don’t think about. They will tell you things about your patterns that you won’t see because you are just too close to it. And having project photos out on the interwebs is good for your brand!
So find yourself a tech editor you trust and get back to work! I don’t tech edit anymore, but I know tech editors that I trust and can recommend. So if you need help finding one, just shoot me an email. But just promise me you won’t release patterns that aren’t tech edited. Ok? Ok!