Article

A Testing Issue

I wanted to start out by saying that the purpose of this blog post is not to throw shade, target individuals or be nasty, it’s simply my own take and my own views on this topic. Debates like what follows are always valid, and sharing ideas and viewpoints on different asects of our craft community is educational and useful. I’ve also included some opinions expressed by my friends in the craft community – both testers and designers – sharing their opinions. I am also aware that there is a barbarity of RPDR .gifs here and I am so not sorry about it… You have been warned!

What is a knitting/crochet pattern tester?

A pattern tester is not a Tech Editor. Firstly, pattern testers can come from a range of ability levels (tech editors are expert knitters/crocheters) who give feedback on more general aspects of the design and are not necessarily required to give feedback on technical errors. They are certainly not required to rewrite, rephrase, correct or amend. In short, a tester is there to give feedback on how the item was to knit, if the pattern was easy to follow, if their measurements were more-or-less like yours, if the typeface used was clear (no Comic Sans or Chiller, please) and to get a free copy of the pattern as a thanks from the designer. Some amazing designers also give testers another free pattern to say express their gratitude, some do not, but the agreement is accepted by both designer and tester, and it’s common. And, althought this doesn’t sit well with some people, designers benefit from the exposure that other people sharing their testing process gives them.

So what’s happened? Here’s the T.

Recently there has been some talk about whether using pattern testers to check knitting and crochet patterns is unethical, exploitative and unfair. Because of this, last night I took the decision to stop using pattern testers myself in order to avoid conflict and give the benefit of the doubt. That’s the way it has to be sometimes on social media, especially if you run a small business. I’m not happy knowing that there are some people who might think what I do to ‘quality control’ my work is somehow exploiting others, so from now on I will test my own work and improve my editing skills.

That being said… Do I agree with the above? Do I think using volunteers to test my work is somehow harmful? No. Here’s why.

I couldn’t have completed my first pattern without the help of my testers. They really spurred me on!

– M

What we need to worry about in the creative industry – and especially in undervalued areas of it like knitting and crochet design – are things like racial discrimination, elevating BIPOC voices, homophobia, pattern theft, copying, big clothing brands underpaying workers who are crocheting bags for €2 an hour… Not, I repeat, not small businesses who, once and a while, ask their friends if they’d like to try out their pattern for free and check it for them. People can – and do – say no. It’s a choice. People are not being forced to test patterns in dark, grotty rooms like some kind of mafia situation. Let’s be real.

TEST MY PATTERN OR I’LL HUNT YOU DOWN YOU SCUM

So, can you afford to pay testers? I am super happy for anyone who is selling a lot of patterns, killing it, slaying in their game and making a career out of what they love. It’s hard out here for a creative bitch and those of us getting a regular income from pattern sales are in a fantastic position. Some, the majority, are not. I have friends who pay Tech Editors themselves before they release patterns because they have the money to do so. I have friends – myself included – who cannot afford it and don’t sell enough to be able to cover that cost and make a profit. Are we running the risk of shaming those who cannot afford this tool? Let’s hope not.

Let’s put a different spin on this. I’ve heard from a lot of people who have been confident enough to say that they are from low-income backgrounds or have a low salary and would be unable to have access to paid patterns without pattern testing for people. It works both ways.

I’d have never had the courage to release patterns if it hadn’t been for willing testers. I thank them by giving them another free pattern from my collection, but most say that it’s not necessary and are just happy to help out and take part.

– C

Yeah, but people who use pattern testers are just interested in getting exposure for their work. Gosh darn right we are, lady. This is out work and income, and if a friend wants to test our patterns willingly and share it on their platform we will be happy for the publicity. That doesn’t make us exploitative. How?

There’s a difference between pattern testing for a designer and pattern testing for a person who is knitting and crocheting for a hobby. Try again. Both are making an income from selling patterns and both have need for testers. Also, being a designer doesn’t automatically mean that you are raking it in.

Is asking people to test your patterns in exchange for a free pattern exploitative? Given the massive (and I mean, massive) amount of work that goes into creating a pattern, no. If you are a designer, how much do you charge for your patterns? I’m guessing not enough and this is an issue that I’ll maybe deal with in the future. Just because you see a designer offering a pattern that will be sold for €3 as insulting to the tester, think beyond the price tag. All designers undersell their work. The pattern that is recieved is worth far, far more than the amount you see on Etsy.

Are your fellow makers being forced into testing patterns? This is what I don’t get. I almost gave myself a brain injury last night trying to work out how doing a call out for people to test for you – that is, asking for volunteers, giving a choice, not forcing people into a sweatshop at gunpoint – could be construed as unfair. Here’s a little illustration:

Designer: Hi! I’m looking for a few people to test this item for me. You’ll need Xg of chunky-weight yarn and the deadline is in a month’s time. Interested? Drop me a DM!
Lovely maker: I’d love to test, thanks for the opportunity. I have that yarn in my stash.
Designer: Awesome! Thank you so much. I’ll send you the pattern tomorrow.

That person is clearly being coerced. Am I missing something? I could be thick. Please educate me if so, because I’m having a hard time understanding this part. As are plenty of people who slid into my DMs last night, all of us rolling our eyes so far back that we got a good look at our spines.

An accurate representation of the other night.

Is it exploitative for them to use yarn that they already have? Are they out of pocket? No. It’s arguably not fair if the designer is asking the tester to buy yarn specifically for that pattern, but the tester has a choice. From experience I have had testers ask if they need to buy anything and my answer has always been a firm NO WAY. Use your stash, have fun, destash that pesky yarn, us designers are flexible, plus it’s exciting and amazing to see what makers can do with our patterns when using different yarn types.

I have done pattern testing before, and it was my choice and has only been a positive experience!

– K

Are most brands and companies in the position to pay for testing? Yes. This is a different point altogther. Big brands, magazines, yarn companies will be in a position to Tech Edit patterns for you. Not test. That is part of the deal. If you submit a pattern to a magazine there will be a team there to edit it. Independent designers are not in that position, unless they are very well-known and making a good income. If you are assuming that the majority of designers are in that category then you need a reality check.

People pattern test to get a pattern that they might not be able to afford for free and to help each other out. People do it enthusiastically because they want to. I will continue to do it and help my Insta-friends out as much as I do my friends’ businesses in the ‘normal’ world.

– M

So, what’s the deal? Every single person I spoke to about this had a positive view of pattern testing, mainly because they’d done it themselves at one point. I know people who live for pattern testing. People who are spending their retirement knitting up beautiful work and helping designers (who are often their friends) make sure their work looks good before it is published and goes on sale. People who simply want access to fab patterns without having to pay, but as an exchange. People who have become next-level crocheters because they spent their early crocheting years testing for people.

Fierce.

On the converse, I have heard from people just starting out on their creative journey as a designer who are now worried about using their friends and followers for pattern testing purposes because they are scared that ‘bigger names’ might cause a revolt and look down on those who do it. There’s that snobbery thing again…

Pattern testing is a two-way street that benefits both designer and tester. If a designer is willing t trust me with their hard work then that’s enough payment for me!

– P

I’m on a low income and can’t to afford to buy patterns. Pattern testing for me is a way of getting a pattern for free in exchange for offering feedback, help and I can learn new stitches.

– G

So, what can we do? Carry on doing what we’re doing. Some designers have a small pool of regular testers who love doing it (like the other 99.9% of testers) and rely on them to try out their patterns. Some people do call outs. Some people, like me from now on, will test their patterns themselves. Some can afford to pay their testers. Some cannot. Some find the whole thing exploitative (I must have typed that word 465 times today) and don’t do it. That’s great. We will do our own stuff. Also, we can put our energy into solving and exposing real, problematic issues in our community instead and let people continue quality controlling their patterns how they like. Let’s not forget that we are all part of the same community and we have all been a beginner once, no matter where we are at the moment. To quote Sister Sledge – always a good idea – We Are Family.

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