How to be a Pattern Tester!
Posted on October 1, 2021
Have you ever seen a pattern test call for your favorite crochet or knit designer and wondered “how do I become a pattern tester?” or “do I have what it takes to be a pattern tester?”. Or even “WHAT is a pattern tester?”
Today I am going to walk you through what a pattern tester is/does, what’s usually expected of a crochet or knit pattern tester, and how you can be one! I am covering a lot of details in this post, but you may also want to check out my video version of this topic too!
Please note, while I am speaking about testing, I am drawing on my own experience as a pattern tester as well as a designer who has worked with many testers over the years. There is no one specific way designers run pattern tests, but this will give you an idea of the basics and how I, Bella of Fiber & Fox, run my tests!
First, what even is a pattern tester?
There’s a lot of terms thrown around in the fiber arts community and I don’t like to ever assume anyone knows what I am talking about with jargon. So. Pattern testers:
A pattern tester is typically someone who volunteers to work through a specific crochet/knit pattern to the exact instructions and specification laid out in the draft form of the pattern in exchange for a free copy of that pattern. All designers handle this a little different, but typically testers are unpaid volunteers. Payment usually comes in the form of receiving the finalized version of the pattern upon completion of the test. Some designers offer other perks, like perhaps a coupon code or the like, but for the most part, pattern testers work for free. While you are essentially “working” for that designer for that period of time, it is also a fantastic way to try out new skills and pattern techniques, explore other designers, as well as help to support and interact with the fiber arts community we all so love. If you are interested in pattern design yourself, pattern testing is also a great way to learn some basics on how to write and lay out a pattern (but never copy!!).
In return for the free pattern you the tester are getting, the designer is getting valuable feedback, such as any mathematical or grammatical errors, helpful critique on fit and sizing, and information such as how much yarn is needed to complete the project. Pattern testers also serve as part of the marketing for the pattern, in that they usually provide quality photos of the object/garment and typically post about it on platforms such as Instagram or Ravelry to help the design gain traction and reach a larger audience than just that of the designer.
There is no one size fits all method for running a pattern test, but let me give you a few ideas on what you can expect and what will be expected of you. I will also be covering how you can find and apply for pattern tests for your favorite designers.
How to be a crochet (or knit) pattern tester:
This varies a lot designer to designer! Personally, I create a google form application for each pattern design and then post about it/put it on my stories on Instagram when I do a “pattern tester call.” Usually there will be a post about the new design with some detail, leading you over to the application link which will include all the info about the pattern test, such as deadlines, yarns, sizing, etc. I will also send out this same info and application link to my email list. Some designers do first come first serve, but I personally go through each application and decide which applicants would be the best fit, both in sizing and in skill, as well as other possible factors, for that particular pattern test. I also try to select a combination of testers I’ve worked with before and new-to-me testers.
All that being said, if you aren’t following me on Instagram or subscribed to my mailing list, now might be a good time to do so! I often give sneak peeks of designs leading up to tester calls on my YouTube podcast as well. If you’re interested in being part of any of my pattern tests (which happen completely on no schedule at all), those are the places to be watching!
Some designers have a private mailing list of people who have already applied to be testers in the past. The test call goes out to only this mailing list and people apply from there, often first come first serve, since they already know that group to be reliable. Some designers do something similar with a private tester Facebook group each time a new design comes up. There are also Facebook groups dedicated to finding testers for patterns. I have had mixed experiences on these groups, as far as people being reliable and following through in a professional way (both from testers & designers) but if you’re just getting started searching out tester groups on FB might be a good beginning point!
Like me, a lot of designers do calls off Instagram though. You can follow hashtags such as #patterntesterswanted #crochetpatterntest #patterntest or #patterntestersneeded to see upcoming pattern test opportunities as well. And if ever you are curious about a particular designer and being part of THEIR tester specifically, I would say check their Instagram bio or their website for applications and tester info. If that comes up blank, send a polite email inquiring how they run their pattern tests!
What’s expected of a pattern tester:
Again, this will vary test to test, designer to designer, but here’s a few things you can expect to be expected of you as a crochet or knit pattern tester!
You will need to be able to read and *exactly follow* the pattern at the called for skill level.
So if you’ve just learned to knit, it is not a great idea for anyone involved for you to offer to test an oversized cabled sweater. Or if you are new to crochet, and have never followed a pattern ever, be sure you have the skills necessary to complete that particular pattern.
Now, I am not saying new knitters and crocheters cannot pattern test. You absolutely can and everyone starts somewhere! BUT you need to be sure you can #1 read a pattern and #2 that the pattern is at/near your skill level. Often designers gladly take someone who is willing to challenge themselves and do the work, I am just saying if you’ve never followed a pattern and you just picked up your first crochet hook last Thursday, pattern testing probably isn’t for you yet!
It is of no help to the designer if you cannot actually follow and critique the pattern or if they have to help you through step by step (not to say that questions aren’t allowed and that asking for help if something seems off with the pattern draft). Basically, if a pattern is labeled as “Intermediate” and you’ve only ever made a granny square, you will either have to work quite hard, or perhaps reevaluate participating in that test. Please don’t use pattern testing as a way to get a free pattern for your collection and then ghost the designer and group. Make sure you can and will make the pattern.
However, the exception here is if the pattern is something aimed at NEW makers, such as a “my first crochet sweater” or a “newbie knitters basic sock” or something. Those designers are probably looking for someone new to the craft/that skill so that they know that their target customer will actually be able to follow the pattern too. Typically skill level and skills required are listed along with the pattern test information- check them!
Note, this also means no making modifications willy nilly or winging parts you maybe didn’t understand fully. You must make the pattern exactly as it is on paper, unless the designer has granted permission otherwise! More often than not, it needs to be EXACT!
You will need to use required/recommended yarns.
Some designers ask that you purchase and use a SPECIFIC yarn brand or color for the test, especially if it is a collaboration with a yarn company/dyer or for a publication. Sometimes I work with an indie dyer on a design and while using their yarn isn’t typically a requirement, I suggest it as a great option, an often they offer a discount code to testers.
Or sometimes we designers let you go wild in your stash or yarn store and pick a yarn that will work best for your style and budget. On some tests, there is leeway on colors, or amounts of color you can use too. Even yarn fiber content can have wiggle room. Go with what the design asks, always!
Typically along with yarn, providing information on how much (and what yarn) you used. So having the yarn labels, knowing how to read them, as well as how to weigh your yarn for yardage will be important. If you are unfamiliar with how to calculate yardage used on a project (like I was my first pattern test!), I have a blog post to walk you through it!
What IS definitely a requirement is using the recommended yarn WEIGHT. If the pattern is designed for a fingering weight yarn, no you cannot use that worsted weight you’ve been holding onto for a special project. Which leads us to…
You will need to pay attention to swatching, checking gauge, and blocking properly.
Again, varies, but typically any decent fiber arts pattern will include a GAUGE. This is how many stitches per inch and how many rows per inch that designer achieved in creating that pattern. I know a lot of us wildly creative types skip over the gauge swatching part when making on our own, but this is absolutely CRUCIAL in testing. We all knit and crochet differently and at different tensions. Even using the exact yarn and exact hook the designer used may not give you the exact same results. We aren’t machines!
You will need to achieve the same gauge as the designer in order for the fit to come out as the designer intended, as well as to achieve similar yardage/yarn usage to what the designer recommends. Often this takes several swatches, maybe different hooks or needle sizes and perhaps a change of yarn. I myself require testers to usually wet block and allow the swatch to dry as they will their finished item before measuring for gauge.. It’s not very fun, especially when you’re excited about getting started. But if you skip over this step, there is really no point in testing. Your finished item will not be the same as the pattern intends, so you won’t be able to give fit feedback, and your yardage will be completely different. Please, please, please, always create a swatch and measure carefully if the designer asks that of you. It’s a MUST!
You will need to work within the required deadlines.
This changes from test to test too. Obviously the test period for an bulky infant hat crochet hat will be very different than an adult sized colorwork knit sweater in fingering weight. I tend to run garment tests at least 8 weeks, if it’s an adult size inclusive pattern in a lighter weight yarn. Whatever dates and deadlines are given, check that they work with your schedule and other commitments so you will be able to follow through on the pattern test. Most designers are extremely understanding of unexpected life circumstances that pop up (if at all possible, let them know ASAP if something changes on your end), but if you KNOW you’re having a baby in 3 days or moving next weekend, it’s probably not the best time to commit to a long pattern test.
Also worth noting, some designers give deadlines within the pattern test timeline, such as by week one complete your gauge swatch and by week 3 have the body panels of the sweater finished or whatever. Always pay attention and honor these too.
You will need to pay attention to other specific requirements.
Not usually the case for my designs, but some designers need you to keep the pattern test a secret, like in the case of a publication, or they just want it that way. Always honor these too. If a designer asks you not to post about it until X date, make sure you don’t!
I can’t think of any other examples on this topic, but basically if the designers asks it of you, you do just that!!
You will need to provide quality photos.
Specifics on photo requirements vary, but I typically ask that testers submit at least 2 photos of a finished pattern test, one of which must be the item being worn (if wearable). And you don’t have to be a professional photographer with fancy gear, or have a camera man to make good photos happen! I would say near all of us have a half decent phone with photo capabilities at this point and likely have access to natural light. That’s really all you need.
It’s definitely helpful if you have an Instagram husband or a friend willing to help you out on modeled shots, but just FYI I currently take ALL of my own photos by my lonesome with my phone using a handheld remote (similar to what I use here, only $7 and an absolute game changer so you don’t have to run back and forth on a timer!). I also recommend using Snapseed or another quality free photo editor to improve already good photos after the fact!
Photos are a HUGE part of pattern testing, as you will be representing that design and that designer with your photos. A blurry shot of a *something* made out of yarn covered with cat hair in a dimly lit room at 11:45 PM does NOT sell patterns! Photographing during the day, outside or facing a window is the BEST! Clear clutter out of the background and try and make that project/finished item look SELLABLE. Whether the designer is reposting testers on social media, using photos on Ravelry, or putting them up on the blog and YouTube for pattern inspiration, it is your job to make that handmade thing look as good as you possibly can.
Here’s some examples of what I LOVE to receive as tester photos:
^The Hope & a Future Wrap from Dana of Blue Daffodil Crafts
^Anouk Pullover from Melanie of First Coffee Then Crochet
^Fandeco Vest from Jessica of JBK Crochet
^Forgotten Lore Shawl from Stacie of BaaHumble
^Dandelion Drops Wall Hanging from Haley of Haley Hand Crafted
Gorgeous right? Great lighting, good styling, looking happy and fabulous. Not all necessarily my photo or brand style, but something I can definitely post/share and know that my name and my pattern will be represented WELL! I go crazy for testers who take crisp, beautifully styled photos. Those are usually the testers I take for my designs over and over again. Photos are almost as important as feedback for me.
Not only does it make me and my pattern look good, but it helps customers see themselves IN (or with) that item. As someone who creates size inclusive patterns to make people of many shapes, sizes and ages look and feel fabulous, I intentionally seek out testers who will represent that. I want anyone looking at my pattern listings or scrolling through my insta to be like “OH! That will look amazing on my body!” or “I know that color yarn she chose will look stunning on my cause that tester has my skin tone!” or even “Okay, SHE is my age and rocking it!!”. I want makers to see themselves in my patterns before even purchasing. And someone who doesn’t (yet?) hire models, testers REALLY help in that regard. People have a hard time imagining themselves when they only seen stuff on my 120lb, 30 year old brunette self so THANK YOU, TESTERS! Another perk is seeing the design in different yarn colors or different yarn budgets. I can’t make 18 samples myself, but seeing different colors and yarns testers chose can also really draw people to the design!
Worth mentioning here, it’s not required by everyone, but a lot of designers ask that testers have a PUBLIC instagram account (meaning everyone can see it/no request to follow). If you’re Instagram is set to private, other makers not following you won’t see your makes show up in the pattern hashtags when they are searching for inspiration and it’s not much help in promoting a pattern if your audience is only your aunts and high school friends. Personally, I don’t care if your account is exclusively fiber arts specific or if its a mishmash of your life. I do care very much though that fiber arts has had SOME presence on your account previously. If it’s all food, the beach, and pictures of your cute dog, I know hey, your life looks fun, but chances are no one interested in actually buying a crochet pattern is following you. And I’m looking to expand the audience reach of my design! Having crochet/knit regularly featured helps me know that other makers will see your posts! Bonus points if I see that you’ve participated in other pattern tests and posted great photos!
Similarly, having a Ravelry account to create a project page with is often also a requirement. I know Ravelry is not always the best option for everyone, but lots of designers ask that testers post a project page that will show up with the Ravelry listing of that pattern.
You will need to provide notes, edits and feedback.
I have a specific feedback guide I send along to pattern testers with the initial pattern draft, but generally you will need to provide info on your size and the item’s fit, what yarn and how much you used, any modifications (if allowed) that you made, any errors that you found and any other suggestions that you might have had along the way. Designers may ask for this via email or on another form, and may include various questions about the test and process, but know that you will need to provide some info and carefully take notes along the way! Some designers also work the pattern test over a shared google drive-type document so testers can add edits/comments. For me this has been more glitchy than helpful, so I stick with emailing me all your feedback.
I don’t need you to be a math genius (all my patterns go through tech editing with my math-whiz Ambassador Crochet after the testing process!)– but if you happen to BE a math whiz I will gladly take you. I can think of one particular tester who has had such a fine-tuned attention to my math and has helped me out so many times. It is so appreciated. I also can think of a few testers who have caught the tiniest grammatical errors, and that too is crucial for a good pattern. But overall, just an attention to detail is super important when testing!
I also usually have an Instagram chat going along with each of my tests where testers can ask questions or provide corrections that they think will apply to everyone involved in the test. But I have also tested for some designers where there isn’t much dialogue at all during the test, and you just send feedback at the very end, unless something major comes up. Like everything else mentioned, it varies, but know that you WILL need to give info to the designer at the end of the test, if not during as well.
And that, my friends, is pattern testing. I hope this has given you a peek into what you might be in for if you apply to be a tester either for me or any other designer you might love. I know I laid out a lot of info, but don’t be intimidated! Mostly, if you know your craft, have attention to detail and are willing to put in the work YOU’LL MAKE A GREAT TESTER! And don’t be discouraged if you don’t get picked your first (or couple first) tries too! Often, there are LOTS of applicants and maybe you weren’t the best fit for that test, but you might be for the next one. Stick your neck out there and keep trying!
Hope to see you in one of MY pattern tests soon! Happy making- and pattern testing, my friends!