Have you heard of test knitting and sample knitting, but you don't know the difference between the two? Or maybe you haven't heard of either terms before? Today I'd like to break down the difference between the two, the necessity of both positions, and the pros and cons of each! I'll also provide a few resources for how you can find positions in both categories.
The main difference is that either you get to keep your knit or you don't, but there's a lot more to it!
Test knitting is simply "testing" a pattern for a designer. Your job is to make sure the pattern works successfully and to provide feedback about how to make the pattern better. Typically, a designer is not able to provide monetary compensation for your work, but you will receive the pattern for free (and often 1 or more patterns by the designer) and you will keep your finished project.
You do NOT have to be an excellent knitter.
As a test knitter, you need to be able to follow pattern instructions effectively, but you do not need to have perfect knitting. In fact, a lot of times it is helpful to have not-excellent knitters. The idea of the test knit is to replicate the experience for knitters that will be purchasing the pattern. If there will be beginner knitters purchasing the pattern, it is very helpful to have beginner knitters test knitting the pattern. Wherever you are in your knitting journey, your perspective can be helpful!
It is ok if you make mistakes in your knitting.
This is a subcategory of the previous point, but I want to emphasize this point. Of course, you want to follow the pattern completely, but if you knit through the front loop instead of the back loop on a couple of stitches, no one will probably know the difference. Other people will see the photos of your finished object, but they won't be looking at it in person and seeing all of your mistakes. To me, this makes test knitting much less stressful than sample knitting.
You can ask questions for clarification.
When you're test knitting a pattern, you have direct communication with the designer. It is easy (and expected) to be asking questions and providing feedback through your whole knitting process. If you're sample knitting a pattern, it isn't always so easy to ask questions of the designer.
You have more flexibility in what you knit.
In most test knits, you are able to select the yarn, size, and any specific customizations from the pattern that you would like to knit. As long as you're following the pattern instructions, you are free to do what you want!
You can build relationships with designers.
Do you love building relationships? One of the great things about test knitting is that relationships can be formed between the two parties as you work together frequently. As a test knitter, this leads to potential friendship, free patterns, and a smoother testing cycle (as you become familiar with the way a designer organizes and writes their patterns). If this is something that you are interested in, I highly recommend getting on the test knitting lists for the designers that you love to work with. Once you are on their list, you will receive notifications for all of their test knitting opportunities. (Plus, if a designer starts to make more money and is better able to compensate their test knitters, you've already built their trust!)
Maybe your intentions are even business related. If you are interested in designing your own patterns, test knitting gives you exposure to a variety of designers' styles and techniques -- for free! If you are a tech editor (or an aspiring tech editor), you will share your expert skills with the designer as you test knit. When you build the trust and friendship of the designer, they will be more likely to hire you as their tech editor!
You (typically) do not get paid.
If you live by the mantra "time is money," test knitting may not be for you. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, designers aren't able to compensate you for your time. If you're looking to make money from your knitting, test knitting isn't what you are looking for. However, if you love to knit, you enjoy knitting from free patterns, and you are happy to help other people out, test knitting may be for you.
Sample knitting is typically a matter of knitting a sample of a specific yarn and pattern either for a yarn dyer or a designer. The dyer/designer will then use your sample to promote their yarn/pattern at trunk shows, knitting events, and more. They typically will provide the yarn and pattern, you knit the sample, and then you return the sample to the dyer/designer.
You receive compensation for your work.
Whether you are paid in yarn or in monetary compensation, sample knitters are typically compensated for their work. In many ways, it can feel much more like a professional business agreement than test knitting.
You receive free yarn and a free pattern.
While this yarn and pattern aren't for you to use for your own enjoyment, you do receive the yarn and the pattern for the sample knit for free. If you love to knit just for the joy of knitting, this is definitely a bonus!
You don't have an ever-growing pile of knitting projects you don't wear.
If you love to knit but don't always wear everything that you knit (a.k.a. a process knitter), sample knitting may be a great solution for you! It is like gift knitting, except you get paid for it! When you are completed with the sample knit, you return the finished object to the dyer/designer.
You do not have as much flexibility in what you make.
The dyer or designer that has hired you will tell you exactly what pattern, yarn, and size/dimensions you will be knitting. If you start knitting and don't love the yarn that they've selected, you can't rip back and try a different yarn.
You need to create beautiful finished objects.
If your knitting doesn't look nice, sample knitting probably isn't for you. If your knitting always looks stellar, this isn't an issue for you. However, it is for this reason that I don't recommend offering to knit a complicated technique you've never done before as a sample knit. Sample knitting is not the place for experimentation. Remember, you are trying to represent the yarn and pattern well.
Where Can I Sign Up for Test Knitting?
You can follow a variety of test knitting threads to see a constant flow of patterns that are available for test knitting. You can also join your favorite designer's group, if they share their test knitting opportunities on Ravelry. Here are some threads that I personally know about. (I'm not affiliated with any of the groups or designers -- just sharing some resources that I know about!)
Snickerdoodle Knits - Test Knitting Earburns (that's me!)
Some designers will ask you to sign up for test knitting notifications via a form or on their website. Here, they may ask for specifics about what you like to knit to tailor what test knitting opportunities they send to you.