I’ve been publishing crochet patterns since the autumn of 2017. In that time I have written over 100 patterns including for my own collection, for magazines such as Inside Crochet and Simply Crochet as well as on line publishers including Love Crafts. As a tech editor , I have read and reviewed many more.
With each pattern I write or edit, I learn something new. Wether it’s a new way to explain something or a change in layout to give a pattern better flow, there is always room for improvement, especially with more involved patterns.
Using feedback from pattern testers is another way to improve how patterns are written. They are, after all, the people who need to be able to take the instructions and make the thing!
I have been using testers for just over a year now and it’s what I want to talk to you about today.
What is a crochet pattern tester?
Different designers use testers in different ways. This is my take on their role and how I have come to use them.
A crochet pattern tester it is a crocheter who is given an unpublished or draft pattern to make, provide feedback on and confirm that it makes what it sets out to. Essentially, they are testing to see if it ‘works’!
Pattern testers will often spot mistakes in stitch counts because their sample does not match that given in the pattern but if, for example, they are making a sweater, they are only going to be looking at the numbers for their size so this is no substitute for a good tech edit (see more about that below!).
Often testers will be asked to provide photos of their makes and spread the word on social media. In this respect, pattern testers are supporting the designer’s efforts to market their new pattern. As a maker, you like to see a few versions of an item for reassurance that the pattern won’t let you down!
How do I work with pattern testers?
My main goal when using pattern testers is to validate the readability of a pattern. Can they understand it, follow it and make the thing?
Testers are real-world way to learn about where people may come unstuck – just because I know what I mean, will other people?
This, for me is the most important aspect of testing. It gives me feedback I can use, not only in the pattern being tested, but also in future patterns (or in updating older ones) to improve the general user experience.
Because, there is no universal way of explaining everything in crochet patterns, such as where to put the first stitch, it is sometimes really hard to communicate things ‘just so’ without the pattern becoming way too wordy.
It’s actually a really hard balance to strike. Advanced crocheters will know immediately from looking at a pattern, beginners need more step-by-step guidance.
In reality when a pattern is published, a maker may shrug if they are off a stitch or two here or there, but a tester needs to be more precise and question that. If they are off a stitch or two, is it because they have missed something or is it because there is an error in the pattern?
I love testers who ask questions if they are not 100% clear on something. A good tester will recognise when they are making assumptions instead of following the instructions.
I tech edit my patterns so I can be fairly confident that they will be error free* and that they make what I expect them to. I also personally make at least one sample of every pattern. But what I can’t replicate is the cross section of makers’ experience
This is why I choose to use testers with a range of crochet experience. I want to mimic the real journey of a maker. Generally my designs are suitable for advanced beginners and up, so I want my testing to reflect that.
I ask my testers for all their feedback and niggles and gripes included. As a designer, you need to have a thick skin about this stuff and be open to constructive criticism – it’s the only way your patterns will get better!
Plus, critical feedback from a tester, whose job it is, will be way preferable to a negative comment or a bad review from someone who gets stuck having purchased a pattern! I offer priority pattern support for my paid patterns but some people don’t seek advice, preferring to leave a snarky review over asking for help!!!
I’m getting off topic!
The draft pattern is sent to my testers to make and feedback on, usually over a period of a couple of weeks. I will ask testers to check their gauge (where relevant), take measurements of their finished item and give feedback on other aspects of the make. It may be that I am concerned about a particular area of a pattern so I may ask testers more specific questions too.
Once I have all the feedback, I incorporate this into the pattern and make any updates or changes as needed. The pattern it has a final tech edit before publication.
*Sometimes errors do sneak through. I am not perfect!! In this digital world, it is easy to update patterns to rectify mistakes.
What’s the difference between a pattern tester and a tech editor?
A pattern tester is not a tech editor (short for Technical Editor). The pattern tester role is to use the pattern as it would be by any other maker ‘in the wild’, though with a more critical eye,
A tech editor’s role is to go through a pattern meticulously, check the maths, the accuracy of the instructions, the copy (text). the formatting, the flow of the pattern, the clarity of the instructions AND to check (theoretically) it makes the thing it sets out to.
Tech editors do not create a sample of the pattern like testers do, so they may not be able to feedback on some of those issues that only come up when making.
This is one of the reasons that many designers use both testers and tech editors. It’s not an either-or comparison in my view!
Many pattern testers may well pick up some of the same issues a tech editor would too. I am grateful for every one they point out, but I would not rely on testers to find my errors!
Why do testers test?
There are a number of reasons why people might want to test a pattern and I wouldn’t like to assume anyone’s motivations, but these are some of the common reasons I see given.
Testers like the look of an item being designed or love a designer’s work and want to get an exclusive on the new pattern.
Some testers enjoy trying a new technique or style or their first garment maybe. Some are just looking for an interesting project or challenge and some may be a friend of a designer and test on request!
Many testers are interested in the design and pattern writing process and testing patterns can give great insight into how they are put together.
I am fascinated by how different designers write their patterns – there is always something new to learn about how I can better explain something – so this really resonates with me!
Do I use testers for all my patterns?
The short answer is no!
As my experience as a designer grows, I can apply the lessons of one pattern to another. So if I’m making a sweater that is, for example a similar shape to something I’ve made before then I use the knowledge from that previous pattern.
The testing process is convoluted and time consuming so if I don’t have a clear goal as to what I want from it then I will think twice.
The main circumstance in which I do use testers is if I am trying out a new technique, or shape or style and I’m not sure if my explanation will be widely understood.
How to become a pattern tester
If you want to become a tester my advice would be to seek out a designer who you may be interested in testing for, follow and interact with them on their social media channels and see if and how they use the testing process.
Many designers put out calls on social media asking for testers so keep an eye out for those. This is the method I have used up to now, but I am looking to change things up a little. (Part of the reason for this post!)
Each test comes with a deadline. Sometimes this is quite a long time but often it is just a couple of weeks so if you are considering testing, you need to ensure you have the capacity for it.
Sometimes my testers miss a deadline. I get that life happens so this is okay so long as they communicate with me. Trust is a big deal in the testing process!
Usually they will have got far enough into the pattern that they can provide useful feedback. Like remembering a phone number, the most difficult bit of a pattern is normally getting through the first pattern repeat – the area code if you like! (that said, who even remembers phon numbers these days!!)
Can I test for Dora Does?
Historically, as I mentioned above, I have put out an open call for testers. Whilst I am building up a bank of testers who have tested more than one of my designs, I always like to give some new makers a try – partly so they can look at my writing style with fresh eyes.
Using untested testers, so to speak, has its risks. I often have testers take my pattern and never come back to me with any feedback. This is deeply frustrating and disappointing but I have chosen to accept it as part of the process and move on (and not give them another testing opportunity!). Again with the trust thing!
This form will ask you, as a potential tester, to fill out some information about you crochet experience, project preferences and leave your contact details (all contact is via email).
The next time I have a pattern I would like to get tested, I will drop you an email as my first port of call with the details (before any possible public / social media calls).
With some designs, I may not want to show they finished item on social media whilst it is still in the testing phase – this way I can share it with a smaller group of potential testers not in the public domain!
I do not offer payment or yarn support for testing as I do not have the financial resources to do so. I will normally gift my testers a choice of one of my patterns on completion of a test as a thank you gift!
Sounds like something you might be interested in?
Click here or use the button below!
I hope you have found this insight into the crochet pattern testing process interesting, even if it’s not for you.
I believe that the more designers share their process with makers, the greater their understanding of the amount of work that goes into producing a quality crochet pattern. All for around the cost of a take out coffee or two!
Thanks for sticking with this post, it’s a wordy one!
I look forward to maybe working with you on a future design… I have a lot in the pipeline!