Friday, October 12, 2012

Why I test knit for designers

Over the past year, I've venture more and more often into the intriguing and exciting world of test knitting for designers. Aside from my straight-out love for knitting, part of the attraction for me comes from my day job. I'm a technical writer, which means that I write documentation for software products. I take information given to me by the programmers and turn it into instructions that are easily understood by our customers.

I guess you could say I'm a natural born test knitter. I love discovering new designers and participating in the process of delivering an error-free, simple to understand pattern to my fellow knitters.

Let's back up a bit. What's a test knitter and how did I become one?

Low Tide Cardigan - 7 yr size
Knit in Wollmeise Twin sock yarn
A test knitter takes a designer's pattern and follows the instructions to knit the garment. Our job is several fold: we must understand the designer's intent for the garment. What is it supposed to look like? From that understanding, we need the discipline to follow the pattern exactly yet with enough understanding to recognize potential errors. For example, in a current test knit one row called for a repeat of *YO, sk2p, YO, nupp, YO*.  This resulted in a double yarn over, which seemed suspicious to me. Sure enough, it's not what the designer intended.

We also need to keep an eagle eye out for areas of potential misunderstanding. Repeat rows 1 & 2 three times - does that mean I should knit rows 1 and 2 and then repeat it 3 times, or does that include the first time I did those rows? We also provide feedback to ensure the designer is using conventional terminology. Or sometimes we may suggest alternatives to a specific stitch: a M1 (make 1) instead of kfb (knit through the front and back of 1 stitch, which creates a knit and a purl stitch).

How did I get started? On Ravelry, there is a Free Test Pattern Knitters forum, in which designers post their patterns and request test knitters. Volunteers apply and are selected by the designers. I started slowly, with patterns I knew I could successfully complete - mostly socks. As I gained experience, I spread out to sweaters, shawls, and so on. Within the confines of this Ravelry forum, the testers use their own yarn and commit to create a project page with photos and link it to the designers pattern. Testers keep their finished garment and receive a free copy of the finished pattern. There is no other payment.

Other designers may work outside of Ravelry's test knitter forum and come to other terms with testers. Some designers have test knitters they use over and over again. Sometimes the yarn is provided and the tester do not keep the finished sample. It all depends on the designer and the test knit.

My personal criteria for selecting what to test knit includes:
  • It must be something I will enjoy knitting. If I'm going to spend all that time (sometimes up to 60 hours or more!) I better have fun doing it. Or learn something from the experience. Straight-away this eliminates intricate color work.
  • It should be a garment that I could see myself wearing. I'm not going to spend all that time knitting and not have something that suits me at the end of it.
  • If it helps me destash some yarn that's been languishing on my shelves, so much the better!
I've discovered a few new favorite designers while test knitting. One of the earlier designers I 'met' is Londonleo, who has her blog and designs here. I tested her Harbinger shawl pattern and thoroughly loved it. It was such an interesting technique that I'd never seen before, yet it was easy to learn and produced beautiful results. And the Harbinger I knit provided me much comfort and warmth recently when my father was in the hospital.

Harbinger Shawl (Copyright Londonleo)
Another design team I've discovered, and promptly fell in love with, is the dynamic duo of Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel at Tin Can Knits. I recently finished the Low Tide Cardigan, which I ejoyed so much that I've knit it for both my 7 year old daughter and for myself!

But more on Tin Can Knits and their delicious designs in another post, including a review of their gorgeous book, Pacific Knits.
Low Tide Cardigan - adult size
Knit in Colourmart Silk & Linen

No comments :

Post a Comment