Today, I should be blogging about my skills progress over the last year. Once again, I had to think about this one, because I couldn’t see where my knitting or crochet had improved – I think I’ve been at the same level of ‘mastering’ these 2 crafts for a long time now.
So I thought about it and it was at the back of my mind when I was working on my latest pattern editing projects… Wait a minute? Pattern editing, you said? Why yes, I do that now and I’m also paid for it. I wasn’t doing that a year ago and it’s definitely a new skill for me.
I haven’t much experience in it yet – I’ve only been a test knitter for the last 6 months. Now, test knitting, sample knitting and pattern editing are all different things.
- Sample knitting: Generally for a magazine, booklet or for a designer whose pattern is going to be published in a magazine, booklet or even self published, I guess. There, you can expect that the pattern has been checked and that all numbers are adding up and everything is fine with the pattern. You are the first person knitting the pattern, so it can be challenging to visualise what the instructions refer to, but it’s just a case of following the pattern to the letter. The ‘to the letter’ part is crucial: gauge needs to be spot on, or if like me you are a slipper (you slip the first stitch of every row) and the pattern doesn’t say you should, then you don’t slip the first stitch (even if it feels so unnatural to you). Easy and the perfect kind of knitting for the process knitter that I am: I’m all about the knitting and really doesn’t mind sending the project away. Especially if I’m going to see it in print in a magazine!
- Test knitting: Quite similar to sample knitting in that you are generally one of the first knitter to knit the pattern and your project might be used for publication. In my mind it’s different to sample knitting as the pattern is sometimes not quite as polished as in sample knitting and it is very likely that there might be some errors in the pattern. It is then the role of the test knitter to inform the designer that the pattern is incorrect, that some instructions could be made clearer, etc etc. When I test a pattern, I also try to provide options to the designer on how the mistakes could be solved and more generally how the pattern could be improved. It requires being able to speak your mind in a polite way, and also have a good knowledge and experience of knitting.
- Pattern editing: Similar to test knitting in that you are checking the pattern, but you are NOT knitting the item. This one is a toughie because it relies solely on your ability to knit a pattern in your brain. Now, you generally have the finished item to check tension, measures, etc. So you need to be able to check that the instructions and numbers are coherent with the item you are looking at. You also need to be able to spot that if you have say, 50 stitches before shoulders cast-offs, then 20 stitches for each shoulders plus 20 stitches for the neck cast-off, then it is not right. Without knitting the item. And once you are done with checking that everything is right with the pattern, correcting errors and improving wording here and there, you might also have to grade the pattern. Grading is adding the different sizes. It can be as simple as adding or removing stitches and rows here and there, but as soon as you have shaping, lace, cables or textured patterns, colourwork, etc., all bets are off. And you might find yourself (like I did recently), sitting on the floor with metres of graph paper around you, drawing a pattern to make it work.
I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to learn these skills. It gives me a sense of accomplishment for all those years I have been knitting and modifying patterns to fit myself. Somehow, being short and skint has given me the keys to what I’m doing now: if I had been of a ‘normal’ size, I might have never learned the mechanics of sizing issues. And if I hadn’t been so cheap buying yarns and substituting all the time, I might have never learned how gauge affects a pattern. There’s a silver lining in everything! ;)