The very first pattern test I did, the designer was very hands off. There were no specific details of what information she was looking for, not tester chat, no communication at all really. Since I wasn’t designing yet and hadn’t done a pattern test before, I was totally at a loss of what might be helpful feedback for the designer. Honestly, for my perfectionist personality, it was stressful.
Whether you’re brand new to testing or you’ve been testing for a while, I don’t want you to feel worried or stressed about pattern testing. I want you to be an amazing pattern tester so that designers want you on every test they have. I want you to enjoy testing so much that you keep testing for years!
Where to start
Once you’ve been accepted to test a design, the designer will most likely send you an email. Read this email carefully. It should include all the important information about what the designer is looking for as far as feedback and also what their expectations are for communication and sharing your work. If you have any questions about expectation, respond to this email and ask.
After I’ve read the testing email, the first thing I do is to print the pattern. You need to know yourself here and either print or download the pattern based on what’s most comfortable for you. I do my best editing when I have a printed copy in front of me so I always print the pattern. Also, I like to mark up the pattern, checking off rows and making corrections as I go.
Next, I always read through the entire pattern from top to bottom. I always try to do this when it’s quiet at my house and I can really concentrate. During this first read through I’m looking for grammatical and formatting errors for the most part. I’m not an english teacher so for grammatical errors I’m mostly looking for misspelled words and sentences that are unclear or don’t make sense. For formatting I’m looking to make sure that font size and style are consistent, that the types and styles of headings are uniform, is everything visually uniform – no pictures or page number covered up, those kinds of things.
Once I’m to the crochet instructions, I’m creating a picture in my head of how that project is constructed and making notes of anything that doesn’t make sense to me and any questions I have. I also look through and double check that all the abbreviations used in the pattern are listed in the abbreviations list on the notes page. Keep in mind any abbreviations used in descriptions or tutorials should be listed in the abbreviations list too, even if they don’t appear in the actual crochet instructions. Depending on the pattern, I may also do a quick look over stitch counts and work the counts in my head to see if they’re correct.
***Pro tip*** Get out a highlighter and highlight all the instructions related to your size. This makes it easy to find your numbers and follow all the instructions you need.
Unless you have access to the exact same yarn the designer used, the first thing you need to do before you start working is make a yarn substitution. This can be challenging. I have a video and a blog post that both go more in depth on this topic that you can read and watch. Generally speaking, you’ll have the most successful substitution if you stay as close to the designer’s original yarn as possible.
Keep in mind that yarn weights can vary even within the same weight category. Compare the yarn weight and yardage to what you’re planning on using. More information about the equations you can use to compare this are in my yarn substitution post. While there are lots of things that factor into making a good yarn substitution, the second most important thing to look at is fiber content. Keeping the fiber content of the yarn you’re substituting as close to the yarn used by the designer will help you meet gauge more easily and end up with a project most like what the designer intended.
I will confess, I often don’t check gauge on smaller projects I make just for fun. But when I’m working on a pattern test I always gauge swatch, no matter the size of the project. Not meeting gauge when you’re testing can affect size and yardage of the yarn you used. Both of these things are important information for the designer so it’s important to make sure you’ve met gauge.
Gauge swatching is another deceptively challenging part of yarn craft. I have a whole series of videos and blog posts about gauge swatching that I recommend to get a really deep understanding of gauge and how to make the best gauge swatch possible. This knowledge will save you a lot of time.
Generally speaking the two big mistakes I see people make when gauge swatching are size and thinking once they’ve met gauge they’re done checking on gauge. First, you should always make your gauge swatch larger than the stitches and rows listed in the gauge of the pattern. To get the most accurate measurements, you need to measure your gauge in the center of a large swatch. Once you’ve met gauge you’ll need to check back in once you’re making your project. Often, especially when working on large projects, your gauge can change a little bit. Always better to make adjustments than to end up with a finished project that’s too big or too small!
Remember if you have too many stitches when you measure your gauge swatch, go up a hook size. Since more stitches fit within the measurement it means that your stitches are too small. Using a larger hook will make each stitch bigger, getting you closer to the pattern’s gauge. Of course the opposite is true too! If you have too few stitches when you measure your gauge swatch, go down a hook size. Since fewer stitches fit within the measurement it means that your stitches are too big. Using a smaller hook will make each stitch smaller, getting you closer to the pattern’s gauge.
Many designers want to know how much yarn you use so they can give the most accurate estimates in the pattern. If you’re working in multiple colors the process of estimating your yardage starts before you start working on your project.
Since you can’t weigh your final project if it’s worked in multiple colors, you’ll need to weigh your yarn before you start and after you’re done. First, remove the yarn labels for each ball of yarn and weigh it. Even if you are working with brand new balls of yarn, you’ll want to weigh them. I’ve almost never weighed yarn that was exactly spot on to what it says on the label. Once you’re done, you’ll weigh each ball of yarn again. Then subtract the final number from the first number to get the total grams or ounces of yarn you used. Check out the graphic and pin it for later to help you remember the formulas!
If your project is worked in one color, you don’t need to weigh your balls of yarn before you start. You can weigh your final project to figure out how much yarn you used! Use the graphic below and pin it for later!
Working the Pattern
Now you’re ready to dive into working up the pattern! Yay! As you work the pattern be sure to read each instruction carefully. Never make any assumptions about what a designer means. If you have questions, be sure to ask. One of the most important purposes of pattern testing is checking for complete and clear instructions. If it doesn’t make sense to you, it may need to be changed.
You’ll also want to double check all stitch counts as you work. While you could recheck stitch counts once you’re done, I find it’s much easier to count as I go! If you notice a discrepancy in stitch count as you’re working, be sure to let the designer right away since this could affect other stitch counts in the pattern.
Often during tests the question of modifications come up. This is something that lots of people have different perspectives on, including designers. Because of this I think there’s no amount of modification testers should be doing without asking the designer. NONE. This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think it’s super important to respect the designers wishes when working on a pattern test. If you’re interested in making a minor modification – especially if it will improve the fit – it’s totally ok to ask the designer. Many will be totally onboard. But, if you see a pattern and think you’d like to make major modifications to it, it’s probably best to wait until the pattern is published and buy the pattern. Once you’ve purchased a pattern, modify away!
Other posts you might like
What to do if I can’t meet gauge?
How to Track Your Yarn Projects