Designer tips - Test knitters/crocheters: What? Who? & Why?
Updated: Feb 7
Do you use test makers? You might not even be sure what a tester does and where they fit into your design plans, let's chat about that.
What does a tester do?
The tester will take your pattern and knit/crochet it. They should report back to you on the pattern, which can include errors found, issues with understanding, comments on fit etc. They might offer photos of the finished object you can use.
Ideally the test is done within your set timescale. Other elements, for example, yarn choice can be either set or flexible.
Why use test knitters
There are lots of benefits to having your pattern made before it goes out into the wider world on release day.
Errors that have slipped through editing may be identified.
Seeing the pattern on different body shapes and sizes provides an opportunity for adjustment if needed.
Testers can let you know if they had issues with understanding how the pattern was written, the style of instructions, is it clear what was being said etc. Although a pattern may be technically correct it might be clearer phrased a different way.
You can ask for information on yardage required.
You can see the pattern in a variety of yarns and colours.
Samples of finished objects can be shared during your pattern promotion, with the maker's permission of course. Showing several finished versions, in different sizes, different yarns and on a range of bodies, can help buyers fall in love with your pattern.
If you use Ravelry to sell your patterns you can ask testers that use the site to link their project, patterns with projects tend to be more popular and give buyers confidence.
When to run your test
Testing is usually done after tech editing, but before pattern release. After editing means you are giving your testers the most complete version of the pattern possible - you want to avoid having to make major pattern changes during a test if you can as it can mean a lot of ripping out and frustrated testers.
Fitting the test in before release means planning your design process carefully. If testers need six weeks to make their version (easily if it is a sweater pattern) you need to have your pattern written, edited and corrected six to seven weeks before you intend to release it.
Finding testers can be difficult. If you can, over time, it is worth building up a list of people who like to test for you and contacting them directly, with their permission of course!
To find them in the first place try these:
Tester calls on social media - share pictures of the pattern and details of your test, ask interested testers to message you for details.
Yarnpond offers a tester matching service. You offer your test and interested testers sign up. You can add lots of details, run the test through the site and see reviews of testers. They also advertise tests on their social media and daily emails.
Your newsletter - assuming everyone on it is already a fan of your work, they may be keen to test new patterns for you.
Ravelry offers a few groups where you can advertise tests. Some have very specific requirements.
Issues with testing
The most common issue has to be the "ghost tester". They agree to do the test, but then disappear once the pattern is sent, never to be heard from again. For many, life happens and they cannot finish the test, which is absolutely understandable. Checking the tester reviews if you use Yarnpond can reduce this, as can building up your own list of testers you have worked with successfully and contacting them directly (I'll say it again, with their permission of course).
Makers "tweaking" the pattern can be a problem during a test. Many knitters will be used to adjusting patterns slightly to suit how they like to knit, or want the item to come out. When it is a pattern test you usually need the pattern to be made exactly to pattern to be sure the instructions work and give the desired finished object. There may be some elements you are happy to have adjusted, like sleeve or body lengths. Make sure you are clear with your testers about what you are happy to have changed.
Mismatch of tester and pattern can cause some issues, for example, if they have taken on a pattern that is significantly above their skill level they may be in touch for assistance on the skills rather than the pattern. This can require quite a bit of emailing, but does provide an opportunity to identify helpful links and information for the pattern or a related blog post/newsletter.
This is totally a designer choice and will vary depending on your resources. The most common options are:
A finalised copy of the pattern being tested.
A free copy of another pattern you have produced, usually the maker's choice from your collection.
Paid testing, either a flat fee or an amount per metre of yarn used.
You might do a combination of the above.
Tips for success
Allow plenty of time for the test- remember your testers will most likely be making the project around other commitments. If you are testing larger items make sure you think about the extra time it will need - a sweater dress will need much longer than a hat, this might be up to eight weeks or more.
Be clear with your testers - what do you want from them? Photos, comments, a post completion survey? Get permission if you are wanting to use photos in your marketing.
Paid tests tend to have the highest levels of commitment from testers.
Building up a list of testers who love to work with you is the best way to solve both the finding testers and tester commitment issues. Ask any successful testers if they would like to join your list, it might be easiest to run this as a separate "newsletter".
Flexibility on yarn choice opens testing up to those who have different yarn preferences and budgets. It might be you need a particular characteristic, like drape, but the more flexibility you can offer the more interest you will get from testers.