I’ve had some opportunity to do some test knitting and some sample knitting lately. It’s great fun getting a sneak peek upcoming patterns. They are both different services that designers need, and they both have advantages to the knitters. Below is my understanding of the differences based on my experience.
Test knitters are asked to knit a pattern before it is released. The knitter generally provides their own yarn and they get to keep the finished product. They get compensated by getting a free copy of the pattern, and getting it before everyone else. For the sweater that I test knit, I also received another pattern from the designer. The designer gets a final set of eyes on the pattern, and gets some added publicity by having a number of people already with projects started on Ravelry when it is released. I found out about this opportunity by following the designer on Twitter. Through this experience, I also learned that there is a group on Ravelry, called The Testing Pool, where designers post when they need test knitters.
Here is the sweater that I test knit called Kanti Mama by Kristen TenDyke.
Sample knitting, is knitting up a newly written pattern for the designer. I was given the yarn to use, and I sent the finished products back to the designer to use in photographs and trunk shows. I was paid for my knitting time by the yard. In this case, the book of patterns that I was knitting for hasn’t been released yet, so I can’t show you any pictures of my knits.
In both situations, the knitter should provide feedback on any issues that are found in the pattern. However, these services don’t replace the use of a technical editor. A professional technical editor throughly checks the math in the pattern, makes sure the design technically works, and makes sure that it follows a specific style sheet, if the designer has requested that. A designer should be working with a technical editor to reduce the number of errors that can crop into a design and reduce (or eliminate) the erratas that need to be issued.