Last week in the Anyfest KAL, we talked about experiences in knitting that can leave us feeling left out. One thing that came up repeatedly? Getting passed over again and again for test knitting.
What is test knitting?
Independent designers often will solicit a group of knitters to test a pattern before release. The pattern should be tech edited and in final draft form. The goal of test knitting is to see if there are places where the language could be clearer or to surface any fit issues. Although not within the official scope of testing a pattern, test knitters often share photos of their finished objects to help other knitters choose a size or envision the pattern on a variety of body shapes. Test knitting is done on a volunteer basis, and in exchange, the designer provides a fun, friendly and safe environment that resembles a knitalong. In the best scenarios, the designer is available to help knitters learn new techniques, finesse their fit, and credits the work of testers.
What is not test knitting?
Sometimes, designers will add other elements to the test – such as requiring photos for marketing purposes, forbidding fit modifications, or forgoing tech editing and relying on test knitters to surface all errata. My stance is that these sorts of requirements are outside of the scope of testing. Knitters can still choose to participate in ‘tests’ like these, but at its heart, testing is just that: testing the pattern.
Building a test team
When I’m choosing testers, I have several goals:
Sufficient experience to complete the project, with modest help from myself or other testers from time to time.
A track record of finishing projects.
Participants who will help me maintain a testing environment free from fatphobia, homo & transphobia, racism, ableism, etc.
Representation of a wide variety of identities and backgrounds, including testers of different racial backgrounds, gender identities and neurodivergence.
Yarns from a variety of different budget points.
Honor the contributions of previous testers by welcoming them back as frequently as possible
Constantly seek new perspectives by choosing knitters new to my testing team
Generally, I release testing calls first to my ko-fi members, then to members of my Slack group, then to my email group, and then to Instagram. Completing a test application can take a chunk of time – 10-20 minutes. Because I value the time of testers, I try to monitor applications and fill in tests as quickly as I can. Once I have confirmed sufficient applicants for a size, I mark it full.
What’s in an application & how I use that info
Note – Every designer does things differently. This is just how I do it.
This test will be held on Slack, and pattern files will be shared there. Are you prepared to use Slack for this purpose?
If you hate working in Slack, you won’t enjoy this test! I feel like it's fair to let knitters know that I run my tests entirely on Slack, so that they know what they're getting into. Why only Slack? I often have several tests going at once, so I can’t accurately manage email volume for multiple tests on top of my regular email, and I don’t want to risk missing communication from testers.
What size do you think you will knit? Please review the test call info. Will you knit short rows for bust shaping? Will you knit View A (cropped) or View B (6" / 15 cm longer)? What is the actual body measurement of your upper chest? What is the actual body measurement of your full bust?
With these questions, I want to make sure the team is working on as many sizes as possible. Sorting out fit questions at this stage means that we won’t get a week into the pattern and have everyone change sizes, and end up with some sizes with far too many testers and some with none. Many knitters are also unfamiliar with choosing a size based on upper chest. Asking these questions here allows me to talk with them about what size they will knit and how they might make fit modifications. Finally, testers will sometimes see that their size is full and apply for a closed size. Although I earnestly appreciate testers who want to help, having someone knit the wrong size will not provide any feedback on the fit of the test or on the accuracy and helpfulness of my instructions for choosing a size. Note – once the test starts, there are times when testers DO decide that they should make a change in size, and that’s fine! But collecting this info up front gives us a chance to smooth out any wrinkles before the test starts.
Do you agree to keep me posted on your progress, checking in every few weeks, and to let me know if you are unable to complete the test as soon as that becomes clear to you? I promise to be kind and understanding!
We’re human, this is a volunteer gig, and I know a lot of knitters feel devastated when they can’t finish. But it happens! Especially during a global pandemic. When I find out early on that someone won’t be able to finish, I can sometimes tap a tester that I didn’t have room for and fill that spot back up.
Are you able to show the sweater modeled? I do not require testers to provide photos for me to use for marketing purposes, but I need to evaluate the fit on actual bodies. You may crop heads or faces out of photos for privacy if you wish.
I can tell a lot from a photo! Seeing your photos helps me know not only if the pattern should be adjusted, but also whether my instructions for choosing a size or making a modification should be adjusted.
What is your Instagram name, if applicable? What is your Ravelry name, if applicable?
I use your public social media presence to screen for safety. For example, I will not choose testers who promote anti-trans public figures, share the work of racist publications, or post weight loss content. I also use these accounts to review past tests. A red flag for me might be someone who has started dozens of tests, but not finished many. I am looking for knitters who finish projects. I am NOT looking for an audience of a certain size, professional photography, or a curated grid. Because I firmly believe that providing me with free marketing is not part of testing, I do not require a public page, although I am better able to review for the above points when there is some presence. For that reason, I do tend to gravitate towards applicants I can get a sense of on one platform or the other.
Finally, yes! I’m always trying to build a diverse team. Recently, I’ve begun leaving approximately half of my testing spots for testers I haven’t previously worked with. I design my tests to be explicitly accessible to folks with physical and neurological differences and choose those testers whenever I can. I try to select testers with many different identities, ranges of experiences, yarns, and in different parts of the world. The richness of the testing environment and the depth of the feedback I get is much richer when every single tester brings a different lens. I hope that this insight into my testing selection process is valuable for you. Sizes 3-5 fill up so, so fast – often in minutes – and I know that many testers are left wondering what the heck happened and why they never get chosen. It’s NOT YOU!
My testing processes are based on my values. You can read more about those here.
Tip: I plan long tests! One week per 200 yards, a metric I picked up from AKLori, and which has always felt really fair. Yes, there's a downside - the longer the test, the more Real Life happens and some testers may not be able to finish. But y'all, it's worth it. Knitters in larger sizes, with ability impairments, and with neurological differences deserve a place in our community that's accessible to them.
Want to see what my testing application looks like? I created a sample, here!