Pattern Testing

Spread the love
Susan moddeling the Hill of Tara hat, scarf and mittens, which will be available for testing October/November 2022

Pattern Testing is widely used in crochet, knitting, sewing and other crafts. As a designer, I send my pattern to selected volunteers before I publish it. These volunteers make up the pattern. As they do, they will spot if there are any mistakes. They will also be able to help me promote my design when I publish.

Pattern testing can be very rewarding for the tester, and is also essential for the designer. In this post I will show you a few of the crochet pattern tests I have completed, and talk about the benefits of pattern testing for both the tester and the designer. Some of the pitfalls that might crop up are covered, and hints on what to watch out for. Finally I will suggest where a new Pattern Tester might find designers looking for crochet or knitting testers.

What does a pattern tester do?

A pattern tester provides feedback on a pattern, and helps promote it. There are 2 jobs in one, but I have not yet met a tester who is great at both, so it’s OK to bring the skills you have. The designer will be working with several pattern testers.

What does a pattern tester do? Checking, feedback, promotion. image shows myself and my mother in our Summer in Carlingford pullovers

How experienced does a tester need to be?

You need to be honest with yourself, and the designer. Other than that, you can be any skill level. I started pattern testing less than 6 months after picking up a crochet hook, and I found my first pattern quite a challenge. I made the ‘Vers la Lune’ child’s cardigan for Svenja Tränker. Fortunately, it was a very clear pattern, and so I managed, although I really didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing.

One type of pattern I like to design is the very easy item for the beginner. If I carefully write out a beginners tutorial for a simple item and some highly experienced testers all tell me its fine, or worse, complain that I have added extra information that they don’t need, it isn’t helping me see the pattern from the point of view of the new-to-crochet maker. In short, I am delighted to work with inexperienced pattern testers for some patterns. On the other hand, if I design a highly complex, long slow garment full of lace panels, cabled, shaping and other features, aiming at the advanced crocheter, then an inexperienced tester isn’t much use. They will struggle to follow the pattern, not because the pattern isn’t clear, but because they are working outside their area of competence. They will manage that pattern some day, but it’s not time for it yet.

What kind of feedback?

So, the first job of the tester is to give feedback on how well the pattern works. This involves everything from finding all the small typos, places where a stitch is written out incorrectly, and so on. It also involves more general feedback on both the pattern itself – is it easy to read and understand? and the final item that is made. If its a garment, does it fit well, does it flatter you, would you plan on wearing it all the time, only for special occasions, or feel that the lack of pockets mean it will mostly be relegated to the back of your wardrobe? The designer wants to know.

When my testers tested a recent pattern, they showed me that I had put ‘C1 and turn’ at the end of most rows, but not all rows. I had forgotten it in a few places.

My pattern testers for the Bluestack Mountain Mittens pointed out that the thumbs were too long. They were. I have unusually long narrow fingers, it turns out! (The strange things you lean about yourself by becoming a designer) I got some better mitten size charts to work to, and used the suggested row count as put forward by one of the testers from the way she made her samples. So the pattern testers are helping make sure that not only do the written instructions work, but also the quality of the final item or garment.

These are examples of why pattern testing really helps make a pattern better.

How does a tester help promote a pattern

Imagine our poor struggling designer on their first pattern. They may have worked on it for 6 months, or longer. It’s their baby. So its finally through all the stages of design, tech editing and pattern testing. Our designer uploads it onto Ravelry, sits back and waits …. for nothing. A deafening silence. No one buys it. No one even sees it. Its lost amongst the millions of patterns that exist.

To sell a pattern is a very different skill to writing a pattern. And it’s hard! (Imagine me, sobbing in the corner … yeah, it’s really, really hard!) The first part of the job is to be able to provide what marketers call ‘social proof’. Has someone else made this? Did it work for them? Did they think it was any good, or do I only have the designers word for it?

Testers make Ravelry project pages. They also put up posts on their social media channels. They tell their friends, and show off their wonderful make, which hopefully they are very proud of, and all this helps the designer get the word out about their pattern.

It helps to be good at taking photographs, and have the ability to take modelled photos, and to be confident in at least one area of social media. One weakness I have had as a tester is that I’m fairly bad at most of this. It’s also a terrible weakness as a designer. I am undertaking a diploma in photography, the rest I continue to muddle through.

Is pattern testing the same as tech editing?

No. Tech editing is a different process, which good patterns also go through. But a tech editor is using a an alternative method to improve the pattern in different ways.

Can I get paid for pattern testing?

Not normally. A very experienced pattern tester may occasionally manage to find paid work for publications such as books or magazines, or evolve by doing courses to become a tech editor and start charging. Some get an insight into the design process, and go on to try out designing themselves. Most pattern testers are volunteers.

What’s in it for the pattern tester?

Every designer and every tester are different, and compensation can vary, but the typical pattern tester will be gifted the final, finished copy of the pattern, plus one more of their choice from the designers selection. So they are getting 2 patterns for free. In addition to this, they are also getting contact with and support from the designer during the process of making the item. It’s not often you get the designer of the pattern hanging on your every word and ready to drop everything and help if you are unclear about an instruction in a pattern. But designers during testing can get quite needy (I certainly do) and are just desperate to hear from you, and help in any way they can.

I would like to try pattern testing, where do I start?

The 2 best places to look for opportunities are Instagram and Ravelry. On instagram, look for the hashtag #patterntester, #crochetpatterntester #knittingtestercall #sewingtestercall, and try similar hashtag searches, as various ones can be used by different designers and groups.

On Ravelry, you can search in groups for designers who have their own personal groups for their tests, and many are posted in the group ‘The Testing Pool’ which is a great place to start.

Other options include the website Yarnpond, which is a website specifically for linking designers and testers.

Finally, the website Ribblr is a pattern hosting site, with built in mechanisms for linking designers and testers, so if you are interested in testing, it might be good to set up an account and watch the forums for tester calls.

If you know of other reliable ways for designers and testers to make contact, mention it in the comments below!

Individual designers also often maintain closed groups on facebook to work with their testers. You can find these by searching for key terms such as ‘crochet testers’ and if you like that designers work, apply to join. Mine is available here.

If you have any other questions about being a pattern tester, please send a message or ask in the comments below, and consider signing up to my newsletter in the box at the bottom!

Many thanks,

Ciara

By Ciara

I learned to knit as a young child, and came to crochet much later in life when I could no longer knit. Sharing the joy of crochet with sustainability and slow fashion in mind is a passion

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *