a lot more (and a lot different) than editing

Test knitters, or pattern testers, UX knitters as One Wild Design describes it, are knitting your pattern to give you information and feedback from a knitter’s perspective on the usability of your pattern, and the value of the end product.

Loving the end result

So yes, there will be comments on the instructions, if they are clear and easy to follow, or not. And there will be comments on choices you’ve made - maybe the tester will need to modify things to get a better fit. But don’t forget that their work also represents your work, what you designed, what you wrote – is it good? Does it look good? Will people want to wear it, use it? Testers will demonstrate that value for you, give you those answers. This is the process where you can sort out what needs to be adjusted or what is perfect in your work before it’s out there.

So for all that is worthy, give your testers an edited pattern so they can do their work. They are working your thing, so you better have done your bit first!

Straight talk

For this article I spoke with pattern tester Christina Yovovich. Christina is a knitter and a sewist and an a accomplished writer. You can find her work many places online, including Body of Work, where she writes directly about making clothing for her own body. The patterns she has tested were tech edited first, which she felt was good for her because she didn’t want to work from something full of mistakes.

Christina said she is not even looking for mistakes, she’s knitting, seeing if it makes sense as a knitter as she works through it. Yay for the beauty and purpose of test knitting! She said she purposely volunteered for designers she knew offered tech edited patterns, and if she had encountered a lot of math errors she probably would have been annoyed. Hear, hear.

Things she is looking for and asked for feedback on in tests she has participated in:

· Confusing instructions that tripped her up

· Sizing and fit issues or joys

· Any modifications needed, asking for guidance with that

· Flow of instructions and ease of use

· Option for designer to use her photos and feedback publicly if she chooses

· Yardage used for project

Things she is not asked to do or look for:

· All the stuff a technical editor does.

User experience

When testers are working their size, if they find something off, or make suggestions, it is not the same as editing the whole pattern – correctness in every size, checking language, style consistency, correct instructions and stitch counts, exact measurements, complete lists, accurate notes, etc.

Even a group of testers working different sizes and mods does not a cohesive tech edit make, my friends. Also, expecting them to edit is uncool, and will not result in good feedback - the feedback you need from testers, which is the experience of the user, the customer, with your product.

Christina’s experience is of course as a knitter, but also as a fat knitter; the experience of many fat knitters often begins with not knowing how clothes should fit or that they can fit well, since historically, patterns never existed for them. We discussed this, and she talked about how that experience makes test knitting and knitting for your body a huge moment – these patterns have the potential for tremendous impact (negative or positive), and we must be sensitive to it, not take advantage of it, as knitters test our patterns.

Giving your body

She said something else really powerful that is incredibly important to never lose sight of when someone volunteers for a test group: She explained that test knitting is giving your body’s shape as a gift to the designer. That is the truth of it, and a wildly precious gift, a huge vulnerability for the knitter, to be handled with care, my darlings. Supreme care.

Let me know what you love about testing in the comments. Christina said she loves the community aspect, learning about different pieces of the design, helping each other, and seeing each other’s progress. She said it is super cool to be one of the first people to make something, to be part of that process, and especially wonderful when giving her body as a gift is appreciated.

TL;DR: Knitters are people, even pattern testers, UX knitters, test knitters. They are not tech editors, and they are not doormats. They are in fact, your customers, the most important people.