I recently spent some time giving my opinion on a Ravelry forum and though it would make for a good blog post.
I came up with an analogy for the valued Test Knitter and Tech Editor. My analogy is related to engineering since I used to be a manufacturing engineer. I think of the designer as the engineer who designs the factory process to manufacture a product. The test knitter is like the lead operator on the factory floor who tells the engineer if the process is going to be operational for all the factory workers, and the tech editor is the technician who makes sure all the process set points make sense for all the operating speeds. A high quality functional product cannot be produced without all three. I might add that icing on the cake is a layout editor, and since I have had a hard time finding a good factory analogy they might not be as necessary as the first two.
My best test knitters make sure my pattern actually produces a wearable garment, find the errors, and make recommendations for pattern flow. My best tech editors will even test knit a swatch if they change something significantly, but their main function is checking for knitting nomenclature errors, checking grading, and making sure you’re sticking to your style sheet (if you have one).
If you are good at grading and editing your own patterns a tech editor won’t cost much. I could almost tech edit, so I haven’t really paid much…..but I ALWAYS get an editor. I spend more time interacting with the test knitter, so I think I find more value there, but that is more of a personality trait on my part.
PAUSE. Several people on the forum disagreed with me that the test knitter is as important. so I said:
A while back I recall reading a thread somewhere about what comes first: Tech editing or test knitting? Of course there was no hard and true order, but I remember thinking the same thing I am thinking here. The best way to eliminate errors is to have both, and I stand by my feeling about the test knitter. Without the test knitter you don’t know for sure whether the pattern is workable and will actually make the advertised garment. Nothing irritates me more than errata. It seems every publication and pattern has errata. I always start a pattern by looking for errata on the Internet. It’s not small stuff either, and seems to be worse on major publications churning out a lot of patterns. I agree that it is cost prohibitive to pay a test knitter what they are worth, but in my engineering world it’s the equivalent of slowing down and/or shutting production down. I guess the deference is that knitters are just crafters who do not place a huge financial value on their wasted time compared to a production line which losses money when shut down.