What is Tech Editing?
Updated: Sep 3, 2020
If you've been around the fibre community long enough, you may have heard of tech editing - or you may not! Despite knitting from patterns for over 25 years, I had no idea that this was a job that existed. I really didn't think about the process of creating a knitting pattern at all until I decided I wanted to do it myself.
Anyone who has followed a knitting pattern though, knows that they involve a lot of detailed math and sizing information, short hand, and sometimes charts. If any of these instructions has an error, or something is missing, it can be a nightmare for the knitter. Any small error can result in the knitter becoming hopelessly stuck and unable to continue the pattern. That's where the tech (short for technical) editor comes in.
A tech editor combs through the pattern line by line. They check every bit of spelling, formatting, and math. It's amazing what they find! I even had my tech editor, Frauke, let me know that the yarn I was using had been discontinued - this is a really important thing to know because it means that I would either need to change my yarn or include instructions to help knitters find a substitute that would produce the same result.
A tech editor does not knit the pattern, so they rely on their understanding of techniques, construction, and math in order to follow the instructions on paper, rather than on the needles. This makes tech editing much quicker than test knitting - it can often be completed in a couple of hours depending on the complexity of the design.
Many tech editors also provide other services that help get a pattern ready for publication, such as copywriting (writing text about the pattern, also known as the "pattern romance"), grading (creating instructions for multiple sizes) and making charts.
Tech editing typically happens before the test knit, so that the test knitters will have an error free pattern to work from. When I first started designing, I wondered if test knitting would be enough. But because test knitters give valuable feedback for free, I want to ensure that they have the best possible experience working with me. Knitting is time consuming, and it's important to me that the pattern they receive is error free so that I am not wasting their time.
Unlike test knitting, tech editing is a service that designers pay for. A lot of times, this cost is the reason that a pattern is made available for a small fee instead of for free. Generally speaking, if a pattern is published in a book or magazine, it will have been tech edited. If it was published independently on a blog or on Ravelry, it may or may not be. I polled some of my designer friends to find out how you know if a pattern has been tech edited or not. Some designers said that they thank or credit their tech editor on their pattern page so that knitters know that the pattern has been professionally edited - but this doesn't seem to be routine practice across the board. That said, the vast majority of respondents said that they do use tech editors for all their patterns.
Are you interested in trying your hand at writing your own designs? Aroha Knits and Sister Mountain have great resources for getting started. Additionally, a tech editor can give you lots of helpful feedback, and many are happy to work with new designers in exchange for a testimonial of their work. I am currently accepting tech editing jobs in exchange for testimonials. Please contact me for details!