A Knitting Pattern Designer's Guide to Tech Editing: What, Why, and How Pattern Tech Editing Works
Updated: Jan 25, 2022
When you've finished writing your knitting pattern, you've only finished the first step of the process. Often the following steps, where your pattern is reviewed and edited, take even longer. If you're familiar with the design process, you're likely familiar with the terms "tech editing," but what does that mean and how does it work?
In this blog post, I talk about what a tech editor does, what they're looking for and editing in your pattern, how to find a tech editor, what to expect in the tech editing process, and more.
Why do I need a knitting tech editor for my knitting pattern?
Having your knitting patterns tech edited is a very important part of the pattern design process. Just like any kind of writing, it's helpful to have a "fresh" pair of eyes on your work. It's easy to get so caught up in your pattern, and spend so much time with it, that you start to glaze over mistakes and areas that could be confusing to knitters.
In addition, tech editors are looking at every part of your pattern to make it clear for knitters. They help smooth out any of the rough areas to make the knitting experience as enjoyable as possible for your customers.
What does a knitting tech editor do with my pattern?
In general, a tech editor's job is to review your pattern for accuracy, consistency, and clarity. You will want to check what services a tech editor offers prior to hiring them, however, as not every tech editor offers the same thing. Some tech editors offer grading; some are more particular about your grammar; and some offer translation services for additional languages.
Checking Your Knitting Pattern for Accuracy
First and foremost, a tech editor will go through your knitting pattern line by line with fresh eyes (that's more important than you think!) to ensure that your pattern is correct. They will check all of your stitch count numbers, insure that any increases and decreases work correctly from a mathematical perspective, confirm the dimensions you give in your sizing align with your gauge and your stitch/row counts, and doublecheck the yarn quantities for each size align with the number of stitches in your pattern.
A tech editor will also compare your instructions with your photos to make sure the pattern instructions will create the shape and size you are showing in your photos and your schematics, and they will check your written and charted instructions to ensure they match. When using a stitch pattern, whether it's textured, colorwork, brioche, or anything between, your tech editor will confirm that all of your stitches line up correctly in your instructions.
This is all the very "technical" part of tech editing, where the tech editor double-checks all of your math and makes sure every stitch in the pattern is correct. While not all tech editors will do as much of the editing with grammar and clarity (which I'll discuss below), all technical editors will be checking your knitting pattern to ensure the pattern is mathematically correct, and that your pattern matches your photos and schematics.
Checking Your Knitting Pattern for Consistency
Nearly all tech editors will also check your pattern for consistency. If you've ever heard of a style guide, the purpose of a style guide is to keep your patterns consistent, both within a pattern itself, and between your patterns. This keeps the pattern clear for the knitter, and it ensures that a knitter who's worked one of your patterns before knows what to expect with any of your other patterns.
Consistency applies to several areas of your pattern, from the layout (font, order, picture size, and colors, for example) to the way you write the instructions (abbreviations, how detailed your instructions are, how you indicate repeats, and how you link to tutorials, for example). Having a consistent pattern is very important for the customer's experience; without consistency, a pattern can be confusing and overwhelming.
So, a tech editor will compare your pattern to your style guide, and they will point out anything that is inconsistent in your pattern writing.
Checking Your Knitting Pattern for Clarity
While not all tech editors put as much emphasis on checking your pattern for clarity, I believe all good tech editors are concerned with the clarity of your pattern. When your pattern isn't clear, it doesn't matter if your pattern is accurate (the math and instructions are correct) and consistent (you use the same formatting and writing style), because your customer will struggle. If they can't figure out if the row is a right side row or a wrong side row, if they continue the repeat to the end of the row or if they stop at a certain point, or if they are supposed to work two repeats or three repeats; the knitter is going to struggle and won't be able to follow the instructions as you'd intended.
A tech editor is trained to recognize these frequent places for misunderstandings. They also are familiar with several writing styles, as well as the standards of pattern writing. While you, as a designer, might think one style of writing is more clear than another, or you might be so familiar with the pattern that it makes sense to you, your tech editor is able to look at your pattern from a position that is removed from the design process and share how knitters commonly interpret the instructions.
For example, writing repeat instructions as "Repeat Rows 1-4 four times" can be confusing; should the knitter work Rows 1-4 one time and the repeat them an additional four times, or should the knitter work Rows 1-4 for a total of four times? However, writing "Work Rows 1-4 for a total of five times" or "Work Rows 1-4 an additional four times" is more clear.
However, while a tech editor is able to give you their best recommendations and resources, in the end you have to decide what to keep, change, and/or remove.
What does a knitting tech editor not do?
There's a lot that tech editors do to help you make your knitting pattern the best it can be, but there is one thing that tech editors to not do: knit your pattern. And sometimes there are errors that look right on paper and mathematically but don't work quite right when you knit them up. This is why it's important to have a group of test knitters work through the pattern after you've finished with tech editing for your knitting pattern.
Want to learn more about knitting tech editors? This post talks all about the ins and outs of tech editing from the pattern designer's perspective. Note: You'll want to have your pattern tech edited prior to having your pattern test knit; it makes the whole process a lot smoother!
What does the tech editing process look like?
The tech editing process can look different from editor to editor, but here's the basic structure for how tech editing works.
First of all, you find a tech editor that you want to work with. You reach out to them to ask any questions you have about their process, share some information about the pattern you are wanting tech edited, and ask about their availability.
If you decide your pattern is a good fit for the tech editor, and you are interested in the work they do, you will send them your knitting pattern. Some tech editors prefer to work from PDF files, some in Word, and some in Google Docs. Many tech editors will send you a cost estimate for tech editing the pattern and will ask you to confirm that price is ok before they start working on the pattern. Even if that isn't their standard procedure, you can request a cost estimate.
The tech editor will work through the pattern, making recommendations throughout your pattern. Depending on their process, they will either make notes on the document with their recommendations, or they will use a track changes feature and make changes to your document. Some tech editors will also color code their notes to tell you how important it is that you change that part of the pattern. If they have any important questions, they may send you questions during their editing process.
Once the tech editor has completed the edits, they will send the document back to you. While it depends on the tech editor, most tech editors will want to see the document again after you've made the changes. Sometimes there will be multiple exchanges back and forth as you continue to polish the pattern. Be sure to confirm with your tech editor when you think the pattern is finished with editing.
Now you wait for the invoice from your tech editor! If additional questions come up later (either in test knitting or after the pattern has been published), most tech editors are willing to answer your questions. However, be mindful of their time, and if the edits take very long, they will typically charge for their time.
Who works as a knitting tech editor?
Of course, anyone can become a tech editor, but folks that choose to become tech editors are often people that are good with knitting, numbers, and understanding knitting construction conceptually. They are thorough and detailed in their work. Although it's not always the case, tech editors often have taken tech editing courses. (For example, The Tech Editor Hub's Learn to Tech Edit course or Tian Connaughton's Edit for Clarity course.) Some tech editors haven't taken any courses but they are designers themselves and very familiar with the work of tech editors.
Where do I find a knitting tech editor for my knitting pattern?
You can find tech editors across the online knitting communities, from Ravelry to Instagram. However, I find the most convenient place to find tech editors is in The Tech Editor Hub Facebook group. Inside the group, you can reference a list of folks that have taken the Learn to Tech Edit course, and you can post a request for a tech editor based on your needs.
I also highly recommend my tech editor, Joanna Fromstein of Professional Tech Editing. She's amazingly thorough and does great work. I found her via a recommendation on Ravelry, and after communicating with her via email (and seeing a sampling of patterns she's tech edited, including patterns by Holli Yeoh and Kate Atherley, among other names you might recognize), I decided to give her work a try. And I am so glad I did! She taught me how to read and create charted instructions, walked me through several phrasing changes for the sake of clarity, and completely transformed my pattern writing into the work it is today. You can read my testimonial here. No, I don't receive any compensation for referring her; I just love working with her!
What should I look for in a knitting tech editor?
Finding a tech editor that you work well with can be difficult, and it may take working with a few different editors before you find one that "clicks" really well with you. As you work with different tech editors, you'll be able to pick up on some of the aspects that you like and don't like. But to get you started, this is what you may want to look for:
Reliability: Do they respond in a timely manner? Do they keep their word? (This is important for knowing you can depend on them to be responsive and complete the work they promise to do.)
Do they use proper grammar on their website? (This is important if you want them to edit your grammar.)
Do they share the patterns they tech edit on social media? (This may be important to you if you're looking for a tech editor that will help get your name out. It also gives you an idea of what kind of patterns they have edited and which designers they've worked with.)
Does their communication style work well for you? (The tech editing process relies very heavily on communication. It is important that you're able to communicate well with your tech editor.)
Do they have several good testimonials? What stands out about what other designers have to say about their tech editing style? Is that what you're looking for? How experienced are the designers they're working with? Have you knit from any of their patterns? If so, what did you think of the pattern; was it easy to read?
Do they have a website that showcases their work? (I often choose to not work with small businesses that don't have a website or landing page, because I feel a website/landing page is a simple place to start if you're taking your business seriously. If I'm going to pay for a service like tech editing, I want to be sure it's of professional quality.)
Do they have the ability to edit what you design? (Not all tech editors edit everything. Some only edit certain types of garments or accessories. Many won't feel comfortable editing more advanced techniques, like brioche. It's important that your tech editor is able to edit your patterns.)
How much do knitting tech editors charge?
While tech editing fees change from editor to editor, most of the tech editor fees that I have seen are between $20 USD and $30 USD per hour, depending on experience level. However, I have seen tech editing rates of $50 USD per hour and up.
What can I do to decrease tech editing expenses?
If you're feeling particularly concerned about the cost of tech editing, you will likely want to reduce the amount of work your tech editor will need to do. To make the tech editing process go as quickly and smoothly as possible, set your pattern aside for a few days before picking it up and editing it yourself. Read through the whole pattern, check that all of your abbreviations are listed, doublecheck the pattern against your style guide, and rework all of your math. By taking a few days away from the pattern, you're likely to catch some mistakes that you wouldn't have before. And if this isn't your first pattern, you likely have an idea of what mistakes you tend to make and what you should look out for.
My #1 Tip for Working with Knitting Tech Editors: Start Right Away!
I frequently hear new pattern designers say they can't afford to pay a tech editor. No judgment at all, because I waited a year to have most of my patterns tech edited. However, I would recommend you start working with a tech editor from your first design. In many ways, a designer most needs a tech editor with their first few designs. By working with a tech editor from the beginning, you will have a clearer understanding of how to create a well-written pattern (thus increasing your credibility and customer satisfaction) and you won't have to go back and edit all of your patterns down the road! Yep, that's what I did! I went back and had my 17 patterns from my first year of designing tech edited and re-test knit (due to the changes from tech editing and the addition of charted instructions to my patterns)... all while working on designing/tech editing/test knitting 9 new patterns that I was working on for upcoming collection releases! It was hectic, to say the least.
But what if I can't afford to pay a knitting tech editor?
Can you afford free? Even if you can't afford to pay a tech editor monetarily, you can exchange goods and services. Many new tech editors (including students from the Learn to Tech Edit course, in The Tech Editor Hub Facebook group) are willing to exchange their tech edit for your testimonial of their work. You may also find that you can trade other goods and services in exchange for an editor's service.
My #2 Tip for Working with a Knitting Tech Editor: You need to have a trusting relationship with your tech editor.
As you're working back and forth with your tech editor, it's important that you trust them and don't feel threatened by their edits. It's easy to get defensive about your pattern because you've worked so hard on it. Remember your tech editor is there to help you. You are now a team working to polish your pattern together. If you feel that you're working against each other, having trouble communicating, or getting defensive, the experience isn't going to be enjoyable, and it may be reflected in the quality of the pattern.