Yes, I know. Hiring a tech editor is an investment. It’s an investment for an independent knitwear designer and even more so for someone who is just taking first steps and trying to get some patterns out there. So, do indie designers really need to hire a tech editor and is tech editing worth the investment?
Let’s start from the basics. What is the purpose of technical or tech editing of a knitting pattern? To my mind, the ultimate goal is to support designers in producing patterns that are well written, easy to follow, consistent, and error-free – simply a pleasure to knitters. A tech editor is a friendly helper that goes through the pattern, ensures that everything is fine, and gives the designer useful tips and support when needed. A tech edited pattern is a service and friendly gesture from a designer to the customer. It may also help to reduce the time spent on pattern support after the release of the pattern.
Have you ever caught yourself making similar mistakes? I know I have and do all the time in my own writing.
But what about test knitters? Aren’t there plenty of eager testers out there who are happy to help you for the sheer joy of knitting and maybe getting a small compensation in the form of a free pattern or discounts on your other patterns? In the ideal case it may be that there are no big issues in the pattern and that everything goes smoothly during the test knit. But what if there is a major problem? What if the testers get frustrated while waiting for you to sort out the mess and you’ll get a reputation as an unexperienced or nonreliable designer? Or, what if there are no actual mistakes, just something odd with the wording, but the testers are too polite to say anything or too accustomed to your style of expressing things in a bit funny way? But after the launch you start to get these emails from puzzled knitters and need to spend a lot of time answering questions and giving pattern support…
Some experienced designers and tech editors have looked into the reasoning behind tech editing of indie patterns and have some excellent points.
Carol Feller has written about the difference between a tech editor and a test knitter and has a view on what to expect from one or the other:
“Typically they [test knitters] are not paid, although sometimes patterns, yarn and discounts are given in exchange. There are no binding contracts as it is not a professional relationship. This means that if they run out of time or change their mind there isn’t much you can do about it as they are knitting it for pleasure rather than obligation. When you hire an editor however you’re paying for professional services which means that doing the job right is as important to them as to you as their reputation is also on the line from the work they produce.”
TricotEdit has reviewed the evolution of knitting patterns since the 90’s. She has listed the elements that a good knitting pattern often includes nowadays. These expectations seem to set high standards for an independent pattern designer.
“Since the advent of the Internet and Ravelry, knitting patterns have become a consumable product that is easily purchased with a few clicks and then downloaded to devices. There is competition for the knitter’s dollar and cast-on fever. So how do you make your patterns stand out and shine? You give your knitter everything they need to know to make your design with their own hands.”
Sister Mountain has written a comprehensive blog post called A Beginners Guide to Working with Tech Editors. She analyzes tech editing in general, the difference between tech editing and test knitting, and has a say on tech editing one’s own patterns, too:
“You should never attempt to tech edit your own patterns. Even tech editors who design don’t do that! You are too close to the pattern and won’t spot all of the errors or clarity issues. It is worth getting a second pair of eyes on it.”
And finally, Joeli Kelly, the queen of tech editing, who has taught so many of us tech editors. She gives us a practical example:
“Take a look at the following “patterns”:
Version 1: Cast on 100 stitches. Rnd 1: K2, p2 to end. Round 2: Knit. Continue this way until work measures 60 inches. CO all sts.
Version 2: Cast on 100 stitches. Join to work in the round, being careful not to twist stitches. Rnd 1: *K2, p2; repeat from * to end. Rnd 2: Knit. Repeat Rnds 1 & 2 until work measures 60″ / 152.5 cm from cast on or until desired length for scarf. Cast off all stitches.
The first could have very well made it through test knitting, but no good tech editor would let it go like that. They would guide a designer to something much more like the second which is clearer, more consistent in style, and least likely to cause problems for the knitter. That’s why a designer hires a tech editor.”
Do you see the differences? Which one is clearer?
It is of course always up to the designer to decide whether to hire a tech editor or not. However, I hope I’ve given you some useful points of views for your decision making.
Thank you for reading!