Updated: Jan 25
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 "test knitting" and "tech editing," but what do they mean and how do you know if you need them for your own knitting patterns?
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 your pattern is correct. They will check all of your stitch count numbers, ensure 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 (or style sheet), 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're supposed to continue the repeat to the end of the row or if they stop at a certain point, or if they're supposed to work two repeats versus 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 sources of 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? 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.
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 have often 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.
In comparison to test knitters, tech editors tend to have more experience looking at patterns critically, and they work with more patterns.
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 find 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!
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!
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.
Want to learn more about the tech editing process? Check out my "A Knitting Pattern Designer's Guide to Tech Editing: What, Why, and How Pattern Tech Editing Works" blog post.
What does a test knitter do with my pattern?
A tech knitter's job is to ensure your pattern creates the project you're promising to your customers. This means your test knitters are checking your knitting pattern from the knitter's perspective. They're making sure the instructions work, make sense, and create the project they were hoping for (this includes design and size). While there is some overlap between the work of test knitters and tech editors, the work of test knitters is, well, less technical.
What is test knitting?
The main thing a test knitter does is test your pattern. While your tech editor is "only" reading and reviewing the pattern, test knitters are knitting the pattern just as if they had purchased the pattern and are working through it as a customer.
This is extremely valuable because it gives you more perspective to how your customers will use and absorb the information in your pattern. I highly recommend including test knitters of different skill levels and familiarity with your work to replicate the diversity of your customers. Each test knitter will have a different perspective and interpretation of the pattern.
The accuracy and clarity of the pattern are of particular importance in the tester's mind. They want to be sure they can knit the pattern without confusion and without having to rework any of the math. However, they typically don't have the same attention to detail as they work through the pattern. They also don't have the same breadth of pattern writing knowledge to recommend adjustments to that will work for other knitters as well.
Who works as a test knitter?
Typically, test knitters are "just" knitters. Meaning, they love to knit and they're happy to help test your pattern in exchange for the knitting experience. They haven't taken a class on "how to test knit," and they don't have a textbook telling them what to look for when test knitting a pattern. Instead, they are guided by their intuition, their understanding of your pattern, and your direction.
Where do I find test knitters for my knitting patterns?
There are several locations where you can find test knitters, from your Instagram audience to Ravelry and Facebook groups. However, most of the beginner designers that I coach love Yarnpond.
Yarnpond is a platform that was created just for test knitting, test crocheting, and tech editing. However, it is primarily use for test knitting and test crocheting. The platform is set up so that, when you post your request for test knitters, all of the testers on the website can view the request. Additionally, Yarnpond sends an email to each person signed up as a test knitter every day (this may differ based on the knitter's email preferences) AND Yarnpond posts the call on their Instagram. This helps you reach a much larger audience.
Not only that, but the platform is set up to make the test knitting process as simple and straightforward for you as possible. Before the test knit opens, it will prompt you to provide specific pieces of information that test knitters will want to know prior to applying for the test knit; and it makes it easy to link to the pattern so testers receive access immediately after they've been accepted to the test knit. Additionally, there is a chat area, an area to document changes you've made to the pattern, a feedback form for test knitters, and the ability to review test knitters (you will see reviews for each test knitter, and any comments other designers have left about the test knitter, as soon as they apply for your test knit). While the platform has many features, it does seem to help reduce the overwhelm of "I don't know how to run a test knit!" and keeps things organized in the same platform.
However, it does cost to use the platform. At the time that I'm writing this post, it costs $5 USD to post one test knit, or you can purchase bundles for multiple test knits at a lower price per test knit.
Prior to using Yarnpond, I used Ravelry groups. The group that I most preferred is called The Testing Pool (note: this is a Ravelry link). It is essentially a forum on Ravelry where you can find test knitters. Beyond the feature differences between the platforms, do remember that Ravelry isn't accessible to many knitters, including test knitters.
Lastly, don't forget to share your call for test knitters on your social media platforms and with your email newsletter! And start building an email list of test knitters that want to work with you, so you can easily contact them when you have new test knits open.
Want to learn more about running a test knit? Check out my "A Knitting Pattern Designer's Guide to Test Knitting: What, Why, and How Pattern Testing Works" blog post.
Why do I need both test knitters and a tech editor for my knitting pattern?
Sometimes designers feel that if they have test knitters or a tech editor, they don't need the other. I strongly disagree, for several reasons. Test knitters and tech editors do different work and look for different details, even though their work does overlap in some places. If you opt to work with test knitters and not a tech editor, your pattern doesn't end up as polished, accurate, and clear. If you opt to work with a tech editor and not test knitters, you don't get the variety of perspectives and input on how easy or difficult it is to knit from your pattern.
It could be tempting to opt to work with just a tech editor because they tend to be more thorough and detailed in their work. However, it's important to remember (1) the tech editor is not knitting your pattern, and sometimes there are mistakes that don't work when you're knitting but look fine on paper; (2) tech editors are humans and may accidentally miss something; and (3) it's always valuable to have multiple perspectives. Plus, when you have test knitters, you have opportunity for testimonials and test knitter photos to share with your audience; and you know that the different sizes of your pattern are fitting correctly.