Tech editor and testers – do I need both?

tech editor and testers / correcting written text with a red pen

Are both a tech editor and testers required?

Do you need both a tech editor and testers for your pattern design – or is it one sufficient? In this article, I discuss how what role plays in producing a quality pattern, including the differences and why each is important.

Note: this post originally appeared on the A Simple Homestead website. I moved it here and updated it so it’s current!

Tech Editing

What does a tech editor do?

Designers hire a tech editor to review their pattern looking for things like:

  • All relevant sections are in the pattern: name, yarn used, hooks or needles needed, size(s) finished project, stitches used, etc.
  • No typos or bad grammar.
  • Are the stitch counts accurate, if they are included?
  • If there are charts, do they match the written instructions?
  • Are the instructions consistent throughout the pattern?

Disclaimer: I myself am a Tech Editor. I have a long checklist of things to watch for when looking through a pattern so I don’t forget anything.

You might think that being a tech editor that I would be able to process my own designs, right?  Wrong!  It’s too hard to see the mistakes I make in my own writing and formatting.  The designer side of my brain knows what it is supposed to say, and therefore it is too easy to skim past the problems because my brain reads how thinks it should be written!

What is the process?

Tech editors typically do not make changes to the actual pattern.  They offer suggestions to make it as readable and error-free as possible.  Most tech editors “mark up” a PDF or other digital document, so it’s all done electronically.  It is then up to the designer to make the final corrections to the pattern based on those suggestions.

Tech editors are paid for their services.  Some charge an hourly rate and others use a flat-rate fee depending on the type of item.

Where can I find a tech editor?

Of course, I’d love it if you would hire me as your Tech Editor! 🙂

Probably the best way to find a good tech editor is to ask your fellow designers and knitting friends if they have a recommendation. Otherwise, you can often find listings of available tech editors on Ravelry, either in the Indy Pattern Designers’ group. Or watch for advertisements at the bottom of the screen, especially if you are viewing / chatting in one of the many designer groups.

But do I really have to?

I understand there is a temptation to skip this step. Especially if the cost of a tech editor seems a huge expense compared to the cost of the pattern.  However, even if you plan to offer your design for free, it is still a good idea to have a tech editor review the pattern.  Poorly written instructions can affect a designer’s reputation!  If your free patterns are quality work, then knitters and crocheters are more likely to purchase patterns from you.  Sometimes you can find someone who is new to the tech editing world. New editors might gladly offer a reduced rate in exchange for an honest review or testimonial of their work.

Testing

If you have a tech editor, why would you also need testers?  A tech editor strives to not just look at formatting issues but tries to find as many technical errors as possible – stitch counts being off, measurements that don’t match the proper sizing, etc.  However, sometimes it is hard to spot problems without actually making the item.  This is where testers are invaluable.

One thing to note: testers are not the same as sample knitters.  Sample knitters are paid for their time to work up a prototype of the design.  Often they are also sent the yarn needed to knit the design.  When complete, the finished project is mailed back to the designer to take measurements and photos.  Testers on the other hand are working the pattern according to the directions, typically using their own yarn but they also get to keep the finished project.  Some designers only use a sample knitter while others (like myself) will knit the prototype themselves and then use testers.

What does a tester do?

Testers can help with determining:

  • do the directions make sense for their level of knowledge?
  • are they able to match the gauge with the needles or hooks listed in the pattern?
  • how much yarn was needed for the finished project?
  • is there information missing from the pattern that could help make it clear?

Not all testers will find all the problems. However, the more testers you have at varying levels of proficiency (beginner, intermediate, etc.), the better chance you have of discovering issues with the instructions.

What do testers charge?

Some designers pay testers that they like to use.  Payment can be monetary, or perhaps just a an additional pattern from the designer’s collection. I like to treat my testers if they’ve done exceptional work (helping me through trouble areas, posting beautiful pictures, etc.)

Many testers are willing to test for “free” – with the only payment being a final, clean copy of the pattern.  When I was first learning to knit and crochet, I loved participating in these tests. It was a great way to learn new techniques and try different types of patterns I might not otherwise do!

Where can I find good testers?

There are several free groups on Ravelry that allow you to post patterns that are available for testing.  The Testing Pool (my favorite), Free Pattern Testers and Open for Testing are the most common.  Some have stricter posting rules than other, but are a great way to find people willing to test. 

The only drawback to these free test groups is that sometimes you get people that “flake”: they sign up for a test and may even start it, but they don’t finish in the required time frame – or at all!  It’s completely up to the designer to manage who is testing and keep track of who finishes and who doesn’t.

You could also set up your own group or area to run a test, whether on Ravelry or some other website, or through email.

On the flip side, if you want to test patterns and have a favorite knit/crochet designer – check to see if they have a group on Ravelry or a newsletter. Direct contact from the designers is a great way find out about tests being run, new releases, discount codes, etc.

You might also be able to find test knitters by reaching out to your local yarn shop (LYS). This especially works if the store carries a yarn suitable for the test.

A low-cost solution to help manage testing is Yarnpond.  It’s free for testers to sign up and only $5 per test (or less) for designers.  Testers can be rated by the designers so others can see if they finished or were helpful to the process.  Testers can rate the patterns and fill out feedback forms.  A chat room exists for each test so others can see questions and issues with the pattern.

There seem to be other sites popping up that also offer vetted testers and other tools. One such site is Fiberly. I’m currently checking them out to see what I think. If you know of others, let me know and I’ll add them to this list!

What are other reasons I want testers?

In addition to finding problems in the pattern, another advantage to using testers is that you can make it a requirement that they upload pictures of their finished projects to Ravelry.  This gives knitters and crocheters a chance to see how the pattern turned out for others.  Some people don’t like making a pattern unless they’ve seen that someone besides the designer has created it.  And it can even help create a “buzz” about your new design if they post on social media!

I’ve also made some good friends through running the tests.  Some might even call them fans :-).

Do I need both a tech editor and testers?

So do you need both a tech editor and testers? The answer is: Yes! Using both a tech editor and testers to check your instructions will help improve the quality of your pattern!

As mentioned above, tech editing is crucial to a good design.  They are the ones that will be looking at the whole pattern – not just one size (as your testers would be) or skipping over explanation sections if they already know a technique.  My tech editor also edits my patterns to make sure they follow my Style Sheet (see below) – a document that lists how I want to describe instructions, so they are consistent across all my patterns.

A tech editor will also compare pictures of your finished object and any charts against the written instructions to make sure they match.  When I was preparing my Trinity Cabled Pillows, my tech editor spotted that my cables were “backwards” – because I had taken the pictures of the pillows upside down!

Sometimes testers will automatically “fix” a problem in a pattern by determining what needs to be done and doing it even though the instructions say something different.  I’ve seen that happen when I have two testers complete a project with no comments and a third will find an error.  The error was there all along but either the other two didn’t want to mention it or they figured out how to make it work.

Even the best tech editors can miss issues – where an instruction isn’t clear, where gauge is hard to match (even though the designer and yarn company matched), or especially how the finished project fits on “real” people.

Which comes first ?

It’s really a designer preference if the pattern goes to the tech editor or tester(s) first.  Some like to have a pattern as close to the release status as possible before they send to testers, so they will tech edit first.  Others might like to save a bit of money and see if the testers will find problems before a tech editor takes over.  It’s really a personal decision if the tech editor or tester works with your pattern first.

Normally I send to my tech editor first. On rare occasion I will reverse the process if I think the testers might find more issues than the editor.

More Information

Want to learn more about tech editing or have specific questions? Reach out to me using the contact form on the Tech Editing page

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