Call it pattern testing. Call it tech editing. Whatever you call it, having an extra set of eyes on your patterns before you release them into the world is just a good idea. Remember how you used to ask someone to read over a paper before you submitted it? Think of it that way. Remember that old saying: Two heads are better than one! And this couldn't be more true when it comes to designing your own patterns for Etsy or Ravelry.
To date, I've designed and published just shy of 20 patterns in the 3 years TL Yarn Crafts has been around. And each time, I have a different team of seasoned AND novice crocheters test out my work to make sure it makes sense to someone aside from me. In that time, I've picked up some best practices to make the journey helpful for me and worthwhile for my testers.
Tip #1: Be Prepared
Before you even consider putting out the call for testers, have a timeline for your pattern launch. Some steps I consider are how long it will take me to complete the project a few times on my own, how long it will take me to write up the pattern, and the ultimate date I plan to publish it on my platforms. Add at least one full week for your testers to play with the pattern, and decide the deadline for when you would like their notes to be submitted. Don't skip this step! Unless you just really like being stressed out.
Tip #2: Be Clear
Let's assume that you've put out your call to testers, you've picked a nice bunch of makers with varying levels of experience, and you're ready to send that email with your draft pattern so they can get to work. Carefully consider what you want to put in that email. I like to start out with a heartfelt thank you, seeing as these folks are basically volunteers. My first paragraph is a short list of what I'm looking for from them: the date I would like to get their notes, any materials they should be prepared to use, what I need from their responses (specifically grammar and readability), and a photo or two of their process and finished product. Next, I list what testers can expect from me: Ongoing communication throughout the process, avenues for communication and help, and any incentive I plan to offer (more on that later). I finish up with another note of thanks and make sure I actually attach the pattern (learn from my mistakes!).
Tip #3: Be Open
When you offer up your work for criticism, expect some! Pattern testers are there to help you, so be open to changes and feedback. For one of my earlier patterns, I had a tester tell me that the format of my crochet abbreviations was confusing and that I should change them. Instead of getting defensive of my process, I thought of my ultimate customer. How would a truly beginner crocheter read my pattern? Would they have the same challenges? With that in mind, I updated the pattern, and learned from the experience. In the tech editing phase, take off your Designer hat and put on your Maker hat. Adjust your perspective and assume positive intent from your testers.
Tip #4: Be Grateful
Remember how I said pattern testers are basically volunteers? While volunteers don't expect to be paid, they do like to receive a little something in return for their time, skills, energy, and supplies. Consider when might be a good gift for those who took the time to provide thoughtful feedback. My go-to incentive is a clean copy of the updated pattern once it is done. Some other options might be reposting their photos on your social media or blog, sending a virtual gift card (Starbucks, anyone?), or credit to your store so they can pick out an item of their choice. Whatever you choose, announce that in your introductory email, and follow through promptly after your pattern launch, along with a great big THANK YOU!
The most recent pattern I had tested was my Cypress Beanie crochet pattern, a super squishy earflap hat with a pom pom and tassels. I'd like to give a special thanks to my pattern testers, all of which you can find on Instagram: Kaelyn @iiirdwind; Courtney @mccourtster; Rachel @evelynandpeter; and Courtney @ginger.knots.
Do you design your own patterns? What are your favorite ways to edit and polish them before you publish? Share your own tips in the comments.