Five Features of Fantastic Designers: How to be Good to Your Test Knitters

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the things that I think make a good test knitter great. If you read through that post, I think most designers will agree that when you find test knitters who do all of those things I listed, they’re really the ones you want to hang on to. Having been a test knitter many times myself, I’d like to share the characteristics of designers who are great to test for.

  1. Be clear about expectations. I have a list of requirements for my test knitters to read through before they commit to testing for me. I want them to know right off the bat what I expect from them and what they can expect from me.
  2. Pay attention to details. If you’ve got the funds to be able to have your pattern tech edited I urge you to do so, and my vote is to get it done before you pass it on to the test knitters. If you’re not able to afford it yet, go over it yourself repeatedly, and see if there’s a designer friend who’s willing to trade proofreading with you. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and headache during testing, and make the process more enjoyable for your testers if the obvious errors are caught beforehand.
  3. Be open to suggestions/constructive criticism. Sometimes it’s hard when first putting your pattern out there for people; it’s your creation, and you don’t really want people to be negative about it. But the point of test knitting is to make a pattern the best it can be, which requires you to acknowledge that there’s room for improvement. Obviously you can stand your ground on matters of preference, but be willing to make changes that will make things easier on your future customers.
  4. Remember test knitters are usually volunteers. Most test knitters are not getting paid with anything other than the final edited copy of the pattern. Some designers will add in other small incentives, such as a coupon code for an additional pattern, a discount on specific yarn (if it’s part of a collaboration), or a small gift like stitch markers. But even more important is making sure the good ones know how much you appreciate them; thank them personally, and mention them on the pattern page, and in the pattern itself!
  5. Be understanding about unexpected circumstances. I have a statement in my requirements that says to let me know ASAP if you don’t think you’ll be able to make the deadline. I have a couple of times had dramatic family situations that kept me from completing tests on time. Both times, the designers were super understanding, and I would be happy to test for either of them again.

*Bonus* I’ve recently started trying something new that I’ve seen another designer do, and it’s working pretty well. At the end of my list of requirements/expectations, I have a secret “code word” that I asked them to send me in a private message. This does a remarkably good job of weeding out those who are not good at reading and following instructions, a skill that is in my opinion vital to being a great test knitter.

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