Dream scenario: you’ve just gotten the message that you’ve been selected to be a pattern tester for your favorite designer. Congrats! You should be excited and feel honored. Each pattern is a designers “baby” and it takes a lot of trust and vulnerability to put it into the hands of another person before it’s absolutely perfect. You are a huge part of the process, and should not take it lightly. Because of that, you should also feel appreciated. So from myself and every knit and crochet designer, THANK YOU!
Now let’s talk about how to be a great pattern tester – the kind that the designer comes to again with more patterns to test. Maybe you have tested before, or this is your very first time. One thing you should understand is that every designer is different, which means each one comes with a different set of unique requirements. Some designers will be very clear about their expectations, while others will seem more relaxed. No matter how the designer comes across, you should take your position seriously, and have clear expectations set for yourself as well. You should assume responsibility and a shared sense of pride in this pattern since you are helping bring it to life.
I am in no way a perfect tester or designer, but these are things I expect from my own testers and try to put into practice whenever I pattern test for someone else. I hope you find them helpful as you navigate your own testing experiences!
Where to begin:
I like to start every pattern by reading (if it’s long you can skim) through the entire document just to get an idea of the pattern and a feel for how it’s written. You don’t need to look for typos or mistakes yet, but if you do see one it’s a good idea to make a note in a journal or on your phone so you don’t forget about it. I personally like to print the pattern when I’m testing so I can make notes in pencil as I’m going, however, this is totally optional.
Next, take a look at the materials and gather your own. I usually like when testers try other yarn (within the same weight) to see if it works with the pattern too. For example, if I designed a hat with Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick and you want to try Big Twist Natural Blend yarn because it seems to be a comparable weight 6, super bulky yarn, then I encourage that because I can add it as an option to the materials section of the pattern. Sometimes a designer may require that you use the same yarn they designed the pattern with, in that case you should try your best to find the same yarn. Gather the other materials needed and then move onto the biggie… GAUGE.
Sounds scary, right? I used to hate gauge swatching. Okay… I still do. But as a designer, I understand the importance, so I always make sure I gauge before starting a pattern. Let me say, if you are someone who does not typically gauge swatch and likes to just jump into a pattern, you do you! But please don’t do this when testing. It’s extremely frustrating to get a message or email from a tester saying the finished product did not fit and then find out it is because they did not gauge swatch.
So why is it so important? It is important because we all knit/crochet slightly differently, and not just because of tension. Simple things like whether you pull your yarn from the center or the outside of a skein can affect gauge. Knitting Continental vs. English style can affect gauge. Wooden vs. metal needles can affect gauge. The list goes on. You get it. PLEASE make sure you gauge swatch.
Here’s a great post for how to knit a gauge swatch: https://www.dummies.com/crafts/knitting/designs-patterns/how-to-knit-a-gauge-swatch/
Here’s one for how to crochet a gauge swatch: https://www.dummies.com/crafts/crocheting/how-to-crochet-a-gauge-swatch/
If you end up with less stitches, that means your gauge is looser. You can try to tighten your tension if it’s really close, or go down a needle size and try matching again. If you end up with more stitches, that means your tension is tighter and you will need to do the opposite. I tend to knit a little loose, so my testers usually have to go up a needle size.
By following these (annoying, I know) steps, you can be sure your finished item will fit the way it was intended to!
Can I start now?
If you’ve read through the pattern, gathered your materials, and worked out your gauge, it’s safe to go ahead and begin the pattern you’ve been anxiously anticipating!
Now that we’ve covered the big stuff (aka gauge), here’s a list of dos and don’ts I’ve gathered from my two years of designing experience and having my patterns tested. Some may come across as blunt or harsh, but please know my intentions are to help YOU and help other designers!
- Take notes while you make the pattern. Look for things that could be explained better, typos, formatting, etc.
- Ask questions. The awesome thing about pattern testing is that you get to ask the designer a question and get a pretty speedy response! This helps the designer know if something is confusing or if there may be an error. Occasionally I get an email and in the notes it will say something was confusing so the tester just did something else, or I can visibly see from the picture that there were mistakes and the tester never asked any questions which means I have no clue what happened. Don’t be that tester. Ask questions like crazy!
- Take quality pictures of your progress as well as the finished item. I love when testers not only post pictures on social media, but send them to me so I can include them in the pattern or the listing.
- Encourage other testers if you see them posting on social media. Testing can be a really great way to make new friends. I met my best maker friend through pattern testing for another designer!
- Help the designer market the pattern by posting on social media. I always look for public profiles when choosing testers. Marketing is a huge part of the testing process!
- Get started early. If you know the pattern is going to take you two days, don’t start the day before notes are due. Give yourself plenty of time to take your time and allow for having to start over if needed.
- Finish the whole pattern. This may seem silly to even mention but you’d be surprised how many people sign up to test a pattern and never actually finish it.
- Send final notes on time. Most designers have a date in mind that they want to release the pattern and rely on having all the notes in on time so they can make any necessary changes. It’s also just common respect.
- Say yes because you’re flattered the designer asked you. In this scenario the designer privately approached you asking if you’d like to test the pattern instead of doing a formal tester call. I’ve been there, said yes, and ended up stressed because I didn’t actually have time to test the pattern.
- Volunteer to test a pattern just so you can get it for free. If this is your sole motivation for testing the pattern, I can guarantee you will be frustrated with the testing process. Just support the designer by purchasing the pattern when it comes out. Most even offer a discount the first day it releases.
- Criticize the pattern. It’s one thing when there’s an error or something that needs fixing. It’s another thing to point out something you just don’t like and it’s very hurtful to the designer. It’s not your pattern. If you don’t like it, oh well. You didn’t have to sign up to test it.
- Alter the pattern to fit your preferences. Most designers are perfectly fine with you slightly adapting a pattern as long as you still give them credit for the design. HOWEVER, please refrain from making any design alterations while testing the pattern. It’s very important to test the exact pattern you were sent. If you make changes, it skews the whole testing process. I’m not talking about changing needle size or working less stitches to meet gauge, I’m talking about actual changes to the design.
- Complain if you have to frog (rip out) your work. This is something that makes a designer feel horrible. But, it’s sometimes part of the testing process, especially with bigger items like sweaters. When you agree to test a pattern, you acknowledge that there may be some hiccups.
- Make small changes to the pattern and publish it as your own. This is stealing. Your momma raised you to know better.
- Ghost the designer. Things happen, and that’s ok. It’s not ok to disappear with no explanation. If for some reason you absolutely cannot finish the pattern in time, most designers are very understanding if you are genuine.
- Send back notes that say “everything looks great!”
Let’s talk about that last bullet point more below…
What do I say in my notes?
Sometimes you test a pattern and it really does seem to be perfect already. What kind of feedback can you give?
I always send my testers a list of questions so there is no confusion about what kind of information I want. This helps me get specific answers, and saves testers some time trying to figure out what to say. If a designer sent you the pattern to test and didn’t ask for specific notes, here’s a list of some things you can cover in your notes:
- What yarn did you use? How many yards?
- What size did you test?
- Did you match gauge or did you have to change needle sizes?
- Did you find any typos?
- If the pattern had any links, did they work?
- Was the format easy to read and follow?
- If the pattern had pictures, were they helpful?
- Is there a step in the pattern you think needs a picture or link for a tutorial?
- If you printed the pattern, was the font and color printer friendly?
You can also list any other things you think would help the pattern be the absolute best. I also like to close with a compliment about the design and attach at least one picture of it. You have no idea how special that can make the designer feel!
I hope you found this post helpful. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them. Best of luck with your pattern testing adventures!