Have you heard the terms sample knitter, and test knitter, and wondered what the difference is?

Some folks may define those two terms a bit differently, but here’s how I look at it.

A sample knitter:

  • Knits the pattern precisely as written
  • Uses the yarn supplied
  • Returns the sample to the designer/yarn company/ etc — whoever contracted them to do the work; they do not get the sample back
  • Work to a specific deadline
  • Paid, usually at an amount per yard

A test knitter:

  • Knits the pattern precisely as written* (see my comments below!)
  • Either uses their own yarn or supplied yarn
  • Keeps their sample
  • Work to a deadline (that can often be a bit more flexible)
  • Usually not paid, but can be

I use both sample knitters and test knitters, but for very different reasons.

I hire sample knitters to make, um, my samples, when I don’t have time to make them myself. My sample knitters are awesome: not only do they make beautiful samples in a timely manner, they give me feedback on the pattern and take great pictures before returning the sample to me. I use that sample for my photography, and often loan it to the yarn company who supplied yarn support for their use in trunk shows etc.

I know a lot of designers use test knitters instead of tech editors. I rely on a tech editor to catch problems in the pattern (and have started having patterns edited by two different tech editors: no one is perfect! as a tech editor myself, I know this).  My testers are fabulous in finding errors, but that’s not why I have testers!

I use test knitters primarily to have multiple finished projects visible on Ravelry, to show customers what the pattern looks like in different yarns, etc. I also hope it gives something back to my fans: they get a chance to knit the pattern before anyone else. I am also flexible in modifications: I figure if one of my testers is interested in modifying a pattern, customers may be, and it’s nice for them to be able to see that. I give testers their choice of any of my other Ravelry patterns as a thank you. I have a set of policies regarding testing here, which I made in response to questions from test knitters.