How to be a Great Test Knitter

A good test knitter is like star dust. They are precious and any designer would be silly to let them go. They are difficult to find. Rare like a white peacock and something that I, as a designer, value immensely. However, being apart of this rare breed is not difficult if you just listen to what the designer needs and completes the task accordingly. After all, being a test knitter can be a rewarding experience. Although every designer requires something different, and may or may not offer rewards for your time, you are, at the very least, witnessing a design in it’s fledgling form, helping a designer out more than you know, and getting a pattern for free! 

Here are a few tips to becoming a great test knitter…

Eight Tips to Becoming a Great Test Knitter

1. Read the entire request

Just looking at the pretty picture of the beautiful design and deciding you want to knit it is not enough. Designers have requirements that need to be fulfilled and you need to know if you can meet these requirements before you sign up to test knit. There will be schedules and usually the test knit is created around the release date of the new design. You must make sure you’re able to meet the expected deadline before you sign up.

You should also be aware of what is expected of you. Do you need to supply your own yarn or will it be sent? Do you need to take a photo of your finished object (FO)? Do you need to fill in a questionnaire on completion?
Read the post from start to finish and make absolutely sure you can fulfil all requirements, otherwise you are letting the designer down.

2. Be Truthful About Your Skills

People of any skill level can test knit. In fact, some patterns are aimed at new knitters and therefore require a novice to give it a go. I have personally needed new knitters to test knit for me and they are very hard to find.

Don’t be afraid to try test knitting, as long as you don’t jump into something you’ve never done (unless requested). Be honest about your experience and tell the designer if there is a technique you are unsure about.  They can adjust the test to fit your needs (I once switched an i-cord strap to just a garter stitch strap for a tester who had never done an i-cord before. She was able to complete the rest of the test as normal, and the i-cord was not the important part). It will also stop you from feeling trapped and stressed and backing out of the test or even putting your head in the sand, which a lot of test knitters do when they hit a snag.

3. Get Gauge

Pile of knitted swatches

I think at some point, every knitter will knit something without getting gauge first. Whether it’s a toy or a scarf, we’ve all done it. You’re just so excited to get on with that project. But test knitting is different. 

Getting gauge with test knitting helps a couple of different things. Is the gauge easy to obtain or have you had to drop five needle sizes to get it? And most importantly, does the item fit properly, now you have gauge. You can’t be a test knitter, telling the designer that the hat you just knit is far too big, if you didn’t get gauge. That isn’t helping anyone. 

Get Gauge!

4. Be Prepared for Ugliness

This might not be what you think. When a pattern is written up, it is usually in it’s basic form. Later it is added to the beautiful templates that we receive when we buy a pattern. But a test knitters pattern could be a few pages of text with no pictures. I’ve even seen designers photograph their note pads and send that out. Be prepared to deal with the un-pretty. You will more than likely receive the tidied up, beautiful version when the pattern is released.

5. Take Notes

When you begin the test knit, have a note pad next to you and be prepared to write anything down that seems wrong. You could even write straight on to the pattern print out if that makes it easier.

Remember, you are there to find any errors in the pattern. You are not there to sit back and happily work away blinded by any mistakes. You have a job to do and you need to be vigilant. Think about how you would feel if you purchased a pattern that had been test knit but was riddled with errors. I know I’d be pretty pissed off. The designer has worked hard but it’s easy to miss silly mistakes and it’s your job to pick them up. 

There could be a row of lace that doesn’t work out correctly because the ssk is missing off the end. Or a technique could be described in a way that doesn’t make sense.’

6. Do Not Make Changes to the Pattern

We all like to take things and make them our own, but when test knitting, that’s really not ideal. The designer needs to know that everything works exactly how he or she has written it. If you come back with; “yes it went well, I changed the needle size for the brim because I prefer a tighter brim, and I altered the crown slightly because I like a slouchier hat…” well, you haven’t knitted it as stated. The designer doesn’t know if his or her version fits properly around the brim or if the length is enough. You haven’t completed the test properly. They need to know everything is accurate and fits correctly. 

At the end of the day, you are receiving this pattern. You have all the time in the world to make another one with the alterations you wanted.

7. Be Communicative

Some designers will only want to hear from you at the end of the test, but others will want you to check in regularly. Personally, I like to check in. I have had a LOT of test knitters never message me again after receiving the pattern. So when someone goes very quiet, I panic and think they’ve run off. I like to know as soon as a tester has found a mistake so I can fix things asap. In fact, while I’m running a test, I have that pattern open in edit mode on my computer at all times. That way I can open the laptop, fix the error and close it again. 

For me, a quiet test knitter makes me nervous, but not all designers are the same so ask them what they require and stick to it. 

The only exception when a designer tells you to contact them at the end, is if there is a major error. Like the neck section is missing, or the pattern has huge chunks of text missing. Something detrimental to the pattern. The designer will definitely want to hear from you then!

8. And Finally

The critique isn’t complete until you have checked over the finished product. Is it a good fit? Does it look like the designers photos? Was the pattern easy to follow? Are you happy with the results? If you paid for the pattern, would you be happy?

You are the only one who can tell the designer all of this information. This is why they have hired you too. Not just to work through the pattern. Make sure you give them as much information as you can. And be honest about it.


To Summerise

This might all seem a little daunting if you have never test knitted before but really, it’s all just courtesy and common sense. Lets have a quick run down:

  1. Read everything thoroughly before signing up.
  2. Don’t jump in feet first, make sure you can handle the skills required.
  3. Get Gauge before you start the pattern.
  4. Be prepared for an ugly document.
  5. Take notes of all errors you spot and be vigilant.
  6. DO NOT make changes to the pattern. At All!
  7. Report back regularly so the designer knows you are still on board.
  8. Remember to critique the actually item as well as the pattern itself.

And there you have it. Don’t be scared, just go for it the next time you see a test knit you’d be interested in participating in. I advertise in my Ravelry group, in some of the other Raverly groups for test knitting, on my Facebook page and my Instagram too. So keep your eyes peeled to jump in on the next one.

Just remember those 8 golden rules and I’ll always be glad to have you back!


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