If you have been following my blog or Instagram you've heard me talk about test knitting, but you might not know what it actually entails. I didn't, until I started learning about designing.
Test Knit vs. Knit-Along
You may have heard of a knit-along. A test knit is similar in that a group of knitters are all starting the same pattern at approximately the same time, and interacting with each other throughout the process.
There are some great benefits to this as a knitter. For one, I don't know about you, but I don't have many "in-person" friends who knit, certainly not as much as I do. A test knit or knit-along is an opportunity to socialize with other knitters - and in this magical online world of ours, a chance to meet like-minded people from all around the world.
If you are having difficulty with any instruction in the pattern, or are trying out a pattern with skills you haven't attempted before, a test-knit or knit-along is a great opportunity to connect with others and get support.
It can also be very inspiring to see how other knitters make their work their own, by using different colourways, fibres, or techniques such as special cast-ons or other modifications.
Benefits of a Test Knit
A well-run test knit has a few additional perks above and beyond what a knit-along offers. Designers run test knits on a small group of volunteers to make sure that their new pattern is well written, error free, clear, and enjoyable. They depend on your feedback to make sure that their pattern is the best it can be before releasing it for sale or download. What do you get out of it? A brand new never-before-seen pattern, for free; one-on-one support and feedback from the designer; and the aforementioned social experience. A well-run test knit can very fun and exciting for everyone involved as they work together to make this new pattern the best possible.
What Makes a Well-Run Test Knit?
Test knits can be difficult to organize. Without clear guidelines and regular communication, it's easy for people to fall off. This means that the designer doesn't get the feedback they need, and the knitters don't get the experience of knitting together. When I run a test knit, I start with very clear information about the style and construction of the pattern, the difficulty, and the specific yarn and materials needed. It's also important to set a completion date (I learned this the hard way on my first test knit).
It's also very important to have a place for the group to meet, discuss, and share progress pictures - as well as clear expectations about how frequently this should happen. My first test knit was run on a Ravelry group, but I ended up communicating with my testers mostly by email, so the collaboration wasn't really there.
Note that in a test knit, the designer may not want you to stray from the suggested yarn or techniques because they are depending on the information from your experience to ensure that the pattern comes out exactly as intended.
How My Test Knits Work
I advertise a call for test knitters on my email list, my blog, Instagram, Facebook, and Ravelry - in that order (I want my subscribers and followers to have first crack at opportunities). For my most recent test knit, I found that Yarn Pond had everything I need to run a successful test knit.
I create a Test Knit Application on Yarn Pond and have each tester fill it out. Questions include email address, size they wish to knit, yarn they wish to use, etc. I try to get a group that includes at least two testers for each size.
I upload the pattern and any other relevant information to Yarn Pond, so only the participants that I invite will have access.
Once a knitter completes the application, I invite them to join the group, and away we go! I get notifications whenever they post a question to the group, so I can quickly respond and help them continue with their project - but if I'm not available, other members of the group can also see and respond.
As we continue together, I encourage testers to post progress pictures to social media, Ravelry project pages, and the group, as this gets everyone more excited about the pattern!
Test knitting is a fun process that I look forward to. If you're interested in trying it, subscribe to my mailing list or follow me on Instagram to be the first to know about upcoming opportunities! You can also make an account on Yarn Pond to see what other designers are running tests.