the truth of a tech edit

I originally wrote about this for The Tech Editor Hub, addressing tech editors, which I know not all of you are. I felt this could be valuable here, to see what I’d say to myself, how I approach this important job. I hope even if you are not a tech editor, that you find benefit in this article.

What is the role of the technical editor in the process of producing a pattern? They receive the pattern from the designer or the publisher, and read it through line by line, working it in their head, going over all the math involved, making sure the numbers are right. They make sure the stitch patterns are correct and that the charts match the instructions.

When I first started editing, I thought our job was to make sure the pattern was correct as written, that what was printed on the page worked out mathematically and was easy to follow, and that’s it, all done. And it is that—the numbers in the instructions and the measurements they produce need to be correct on the page. But is that all? Are they the numbers the designer wants, just because the math works out? Is it our job to know what the designer wants, to question what is in front of us?

At first, I didn’t ask those questions. I checked the math and made sure it was right and that stitches and rows equaled the right measurements. It didn’t take me long, however, to realize that there is a lot more going on in a tech edit than checking for accuracy and clarity. That may not be true for all tech editors, but it certainly was for me. What exactly is the tech editor’s role? What is their responsibility to the designer and to the pattern?

Responsibility to the designer

A tech editor’s goal is to help designers put out their best work and produce quality patterns. They also want to be sure the designer’s voice in the pattern is their own and matches what they are striving for. They have to be thinking about the maker too (happy knitters!)—my goal is always happy makers because ultimately makers being happy with a pattern is what will make my clients successful. Making that happen includes a lot more than just ensuring the pattern is correct as written and is easy to follow, and once a tech editor sees how much the pattern needs to accomplish, it obligates them to expand what they are looking for and what they check when editing that pattern.

There is the responsibility to the designer, but there is also a responsibility to the craft of making clothing and to the maker of that clothing. In our industry, the tech editor is a person in the process that is also bound by that responsibility. I maintain that it is our job as tech editors to do more than check what is in front of us, because we are where the buck stops in this process of creating patterns, and designers are counting on us to consider the maker’s needs, to value what the designers are trying to accomplish in writing a pattern. We make sure the art of writing a pattern is its best. We respect both maker and designer by making sure the business of making clothing is done well.

Responsibility to the art of making clothing

Consider what a maker is looking for in a pattern and from a designer—they want a pattern that will come out as they expect when they work it and that the project will be fun to do.

The instructions need to be clear and consistently done, as well as correct. This may lead a tech editor to check for consistency across a designer’s pattern portfolio and not just that one pattern, which might mean they help the designer write a style sheet, or consult their previously published patterns. This may lead to some conversation back and forth about establishing trust and cementing a designer’s voice in their pattern. These things help the maker along and get them to trust the designer, but they also make the pattern easy to follow and fun to do!

The finished item needs to look like the picture. This may lead a tech editor to work a little bit of a repeat or a bind off or a shaping section, to be sure the instructions have it right. It may lead them to research yarn characteristics, stitches, cables, or shaping constructions, to be sure the finishing instructions are clear as to what the photo shows. A pattern can be written so it will produce what it states and be correct, but not match the picture the maker was promised. Watch out!

The item has to fit as the designer intends. This element of tech editing is often missed. Patterns can be correctly written but produce poor fit, and the designer doesn’t want that, and it will not make for a happy maker.

Why does fit often get missed? Tech editors (rightly so) work hard to respect the designer’s autonomy over their work, and they recognize that it is not the tech editor’s place to change their pattern or take any ownership over it. And fit is certainly something that is subjective in the design process—a design is intended to fit and look a certain way, and that is the designer’s call, 100 percent.

So, not all tech editors think to question fit, or even check for it. They do the math of the pattern and it produces the measurements it produces and they call it good. The pattern is correct. But part of checking a pattern, part of checking all those measurements, is checking the grading to ensure that the measurements on the pattern actually reflect the fit the designer intended in their process—to make sure their intended fit is indeed coming through in the instructions. And that is entirely objective, and does not take anything away from the designer’s voice or ownership of their work. It is, in fact, supporting their work and their choices!

Interested in learning more about grading or learning to grade? Click HERE!

Checking for good fit

This doesn’t mean all tech editors grade patterns, or even need to know how to grade patterns. You don’t have to know how to grade to check the grading for accuracy. Checking grading means seeing what ease was applied to all the body points in the sample size and making sure that the same ease was applied in all the sizes. It also means checking the sample size for things that seem off—like a neckline that is wide when the photo shows a close crew neck, or an upper arm so tight it wouldn’t make sense in that size.

This checking practice is simply using tools, like construction resources and body size charts, to determine if the fit is what is intended based on the sample. This is also part of the correctness of a pattern! Remember that what the maker wants is to get what they expect. This is based on the pattern pictures they have seen or the gauge listed in the pattern—those things need to come true when the work is done.

Just like you would check to make sure the cables are leaning the proper way, the ribbing is the right pattern, or the chart matches the written instructions, the fit also needs to be checked. I would go so far as to say that fit may be the most important thing to be checked, far above cables and ribbing, and not the thing that is overlooked or forgotten. If a clothing pattern doesn’t fit, it hardly matters that cables cross the same way or ribbing is instructed correctly.

Please check the grades in your clients’ patterns. Check for correctness in fit. Because if the fit is off, even if the numbers work out, the pattern is not correct.

Ask your clients for the following in each pattern:

· What is their sample size?

· What ease did they apply (and want) for each body point in the sample?

· What sizing chart did they use to base their grading and design?

· Are there any specific issues they had in grading that need to be addressed?

Producing a great pattern

Our responsibility as tech editors is to our client, to help them produce a clear and correct pattern, to check to make sure the maker will have a smooth experience working the pattern, to make sure the pattern supports the designer's vision and communicates what they want to share—the design, the fit, their voice, and their style.

A technical editor’s role is to check that a pattern is clear, correct, consistent, and concise, and that encompasses a lot more than making sure the math on the page works out. There is a lot in a pattern that has to be right for it to produce a beautiful item and for it to be a happy experience for the maker. The math and words have to be right for the pattern, not just right on the page. Well done style and proper grading are the nuances that make these patterns great and allow them to stand the test of time. Making sure this is accomplished is our role, and our responsibility, when we pick up that pencil.