some knitting required

Write it off

It’s so funny. I once had a designer friend tell me that I could write off yarn costs on my taxes because it is a business expense, and I had to laugh. The amount of yarn a designer uses for work in a year is as big as Mount Everest (write it off!), while the amount of yarn a tech editor uses for work in a year is as big as the smallest anthill, and is forever renewable.

But it was fun for a minute to think I could write off yarn purchases. :)

There is no knitting!

Technical editing is not knitting, and tech editors do not knit the patterns to do their work editing patterns. There is no knitting. No knitting. Beginning your business as a technical editor, you know this. You’ve got yourself all set to go.

You may have, for setting off on your career:

  • favorite pencils sharpened (or new pens out)
  • printer full of ink and paper
  • computer or laptop set up just how you like it
  • spreadsheets full of shortcuts
  • cheat sheets on the desk
  • key articles bookmarked
  • sizing standards easily accessible
  • references dying to be cracked open
  • giddy anticipation all queued up.

What you don’t have on your desk is yarn and knitting needles. Because you will not be knitting. You might have a personal knitting project nearby, cuz you’re a knitter, so that’s standard, but it’s not for work.

Dpns for the win

I don’t know about other tech editors out there, but I wasn’t one month into my editing career when I looked at a line of instruction and screwed up my face and raised my eyebrow, said under my breath, ‘what the f . . .?’ and scanned the desk helplessly, eyes darting around the room ‘til I landed on that knitting project. I reached and reached, chair precariously teetering on two legs, grabbed those needles, and knit that bit right in the middle of my project.

Next break I took that day, I went and got a glass or a mug, I forget (this has changed a bunch over the years), two sample hanks of Marianated Yarns fingering that were handy, and a set of 2.75 mm dpns, and they have lived on my desk ever since. I have never needed more yarn, or different needles, and have ripped and reused this lovely yarn a gajillion times.

I drop a needle now and then so it’s cool to have a set of five, so there are always at least two in the cup. And the yarn doesn’t always get ripped very neatly, as I knit for work quite crudely, so it works out well that I never need to work more than a little bit since a lot of the yarn is (ahem) tangled.

Knit it out quick

As a technical editor, you may find it handy to have some needles and yarn, even though knitting is not part of the job description. I am a big words-girl, and things make sense to me best on paper, but knitting patterns being sort of their own language . . . when something has you scratching your head, sometimes you just gotta knit it out.

Designers are creators, and make up some pretty cool ways to do things. We need to check it, and sometimes it simply doesn’t look recognizable right off.

Some of the many things that may not be what they seem and may be quicker for you to knit to check:

  • picot bind-offs
  • lots of different bind-offs, speaking of
  • wacky shoulder shaping
  • funky short row situations (aren’t all short rows funky situations anyway?, you ask)
  • cables
  • textures
  • lifted increases
  • passing slipped stitches anywhere (and then back)
  • brioche decreases (unless flawlessly defined by Leela Frankcombe)
  • anything written in a way that makes you lift an eyebrow.

Most knitting I have done for work has been seconds of my time, some a few minutes, almost all abbreviated and ripped out. You don’t need to go whole hog to know if the instruction works; abbreviate it. Just like you map out a smaller chunk of short rows on graph paper, you can knit out a smaller chunk of something.

Check so your testers can knit

Only once did I, with permission from my client, chuck my evening plans and knit up a whole shoulder. We were tired of scratching our heads wondering why it wouldn’t work out (see above, wacky shoulder shaping), so we both just knit it that night. She didn’t want it going to testers until the instructions were right. Because these knit checks are not the same as test knitting. It’s just checking.

Checking that the instructions are correct, or not, is a tech editor’s job. Every line of instruction needs to be checked, corrected, and verified that it is in fact right, and makes sense in the pattern. This fast and dirty knitting that a tech editor might do is one tool they can use to check an instruction, just like graph paper or a spreadsheet. It’s not experiencing the whole pattern as a knitter, or on the needles the way a test knitter does.

A tech editor knitting some stitches is only verifying that bit works, and is not knitting the pattern. They are editing the pattern, in their heads, on paper, in a digital document. Sometimes, a line won’t make sense, and being a knitter themselves, they may want to just knit it out. So don’t be surprised if you see a mug (or jar or bag or bowl or basket) of needles and yarn on a tech editor’s desk, right next to the jar of pencils, the jar of pens, the tape measure, the basket of swatches, the pile of books, (and the coffee and chocolate).

Knitting for clarity (no matter who you are, if you’re a knitter)

Getting it right and getting it to the test knitter in great shape is the goal. Then the test knitters can get right into the pattern with good information and do their thing. And you’ll get better results from your test, every time, hands down.

Working in the knitting industry, in any capacity, you cannot escape that you will need to knit bits now and then to clear something up. Any job you can name is knitting it out sometimes. What are you knitting out? What was the last thing that tripped you up until you had it on the needles?

TL;DR: When tech editing in doubt, just do some fast and dirty knitting. Your client and their testers will thank you.