From a Test Knitter’s Journal

December 21, 2020

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  • Wow great job and lovely pattern but I felt pressured just reading your account. I’ve toyed with the idea of volunteering to test knit but the deadline and pressure cooker feeling confirms why I don’t want to do it; its contrary to why I enjoy knitting!

    • I’m started my first test knit last night, accompanied by the Ma Rainey movie. It’s a fast shawl.

      • YEA! can’t wait to see it Lucy!

    • You are so right! Test knitting isn’t for everyone. For me it brings me comfort and focus that I’ve needed. LOL

  • I’m so happy to read this. The insider view of HeySook’s procedure answers so many questions. Thanks for sharing this.

    • happy to help Susan.

  • Thank you for sharing. HyeSook is an inspiration to many of us with her amazing productivity and finished objects. Getting to read about her process is a treat! I can’t imagine knotting 3.5 – 5 hours a day…

    • COVID and teens are two reasons I knit a lot more these days! thanks Jane!

  • I loved this article. I’ve always been curious about what it would be like to be a test knitter. Now I know. I can’t imagine knitting for 5 hours at the end of a long day with a tricky pattern. Amazing! This sweater is beautiful and the knitting is perfect. Lovely job Ms. Chung. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thanks so much Janice.

  • This post doesn’t encourage test-knitting. 5 hours of knitting a day is tricky ergonomics, to say nothing of the challenges of this volume of knitting given a concurrent day job and managing a family. I’m not sure how long the writer had to complete the knit – did she only receive it on the 19th? – but if it was only a week, then I think it was a dubious call to take it on. When designers call for testers, that feedback is required to support the continuation of their business. That’s why, IMO, it’s so important for that process to be well-considered and well-managed by the designer, giving the necessary opportunity for knitters to complete the job without going to unreasonable efforts that may harm their bodies. When accepted, it’s on the knitter to meet the deadline because when testers can’t make the deadline, not only does the knitter miss out, so does the designer. (Side Note: I’ve never done a test knit and I am not a designer – simply an avid knitter who has to stop herself from knitting 5 hours a day due to osteoarthritis in the hands. I absolutely support the compensation of test knitters because it is a necessary, technical function worthy of remuneration. Furthermore, compensation seals the contract between the knitter and designer, clarifying the relevance of the deadline to both parties. I also support giving test knitters a reasonable amount of time to knit the garment in question.)

    • thanks Kristen — We had well over 2 months. I am in constant communication with the designers but each process it’s different. And totally agree that the thoughtfulness counts. And yes — it can be hard on the body and thank goodness I’ve not had issues. I’ve taken a few classes on ergonomics and knitting. All extremely helpful.

    • For many of us serial test knitters, the compensation is in the learning we hope to gain or in supporting a favorite designer. I also really enjoy what is usually a lovely, supportive community of others who are working on their own versions.

  • I think most knitters would classify themselves as a perfectionist! I am absolutely in awe of you and now feel like a slacker!

    • NOOOO Elizabeth — I’m a little on the “nuts” side with so many other test knitters. For me it brings me joy.

  • Very interesting account of test knitting. While I’m not test knitter material, I’ve been curious about the process. (Still wonder if the knitter is reimbursed for cost of yarn.) The sweater is lovely! Good article and knitting Ms. Chung.

    • Mary Ann — yes — often I am reimbursed for knitting or provided significant discounts for the yarn. thanks for reading about the process.

      • It would be really useful to have another article looking into the pricing. Similarly to knitting to sell, it seems to be an area that people feel bad talking about but that just perpetuates the inequities.

        • This question came up before for my last blog — for me doing samples is different than test knitting. I get paid for samples and someone doing this for a living can probably speak this this much more than me. For me — this is a very intense hobby.

  • Wow, what an accomplishment! And I am sure designers need feedback from less experienced knitters as much or more than from experienced ones. After all, most of us aren’t superstar knitters. Just a word, from the voice of experience, listen to your hands when they want to stop. Or you might end up taking a long, unwanted break. 🙂

    • Yes!!!! I’ve had carpel tunnel when I was younger and I’m very careful with my body to ensure I can knit long-term. thanks Lee!

  • Thanks for your article and insights into test knitting!
    I find it helpful that you had to learn new skills during your test knit, as it helps others for whom the skills are new too. I appreciate when designers provide links to some of the techniques in their patterns, and your feedback helps make that happen 🙂

  • Gorgeous sweater and great notes, but whew! You do that for comfort?! 🙂 I’m sure you’ve had projects where the deadlines didn’t creep up on you so badly.

    I’m curious about your comment re: non-superwash vs superwash irritating your hands. Do you mean your skin or do you find the differences in the spring of the yarn are problematic? I don’t knit with a lot of superwash, so I’m curious.

    This does encourage me to take on a test-knit but yes, I’d need to be absolutely sure I could make the deadline first! Thanks for this glimpse into the process.

    • Tamara — YES — if you have interest go for it! ALL designers are different — timeline can be weeks to months. Find what fits.

      Re aching — I’m a really tight knitter [used to be] and find using superwash yarns is much easier for me. BUT I LOVE ALL yarn!

  • HyeSook this was a wonderful article. I was very interested to read about what it’s like to be a test knitter, I have wondered about the process. I wouldn’t enjoy the thought of a deadline, it would be too much pressure for me. I’m glad to read that you get so much joy out of it and it’s a good way to learn new techniques with a designers help.

  • Interesting & inspiring article. I’d like to hear more from this knitter.

  • Thank you for sharing your process, it’s incredibly helpful to see how other people work. I really like the sweater on you and I admire your orderly and methodical approach, I will attempt to emulate it, I am a new knitter and enjoying it so much I didn’t want to stop although I found I couldn’t knit by resting the needle between my thumb and forefinger as I was taught when I was a child over six decades ago. Now I use a knitting belt and relearnt how to hold the needles by watching Hazel Tindall videos and listening to Carson Demers ( both recommended by Andrew and Andrea from Fruity Knitting). I’m gradually improving my speed but better than anything else, I can continue learning and don’t have pain in my hands. It is definitely worth trying, if only to have a good laugh at how awkward we can be when learning something new. Thank you HyeSook.

    • Hyesook, would you please explain what you mean by the notation “PATTERN ALL MARKED UP” in your notes? Thank you.

      • Sorry, Christine, that this appeared under your comment, rather than as a separate comment/question.

        • Not a problem Karen. Cheers

      • Karen — I think it’s just a header / subtitle by the editor for my notes / scribbles. LOL

    • Christine — ohhhhh I’m going to try that. thanks for the tip!

      • In the USA June Hemmons Hiatt of Principles of Knitting fame recommends knitting belts too. Her son makes a really neat version, Good luck HyeSook, and I hope it works well.

  • Loved the cliffhanger aspect of this particular project with an unfamiliar stitch to add to the suspense. I think it takes a certain type of person to enjoy this process, one with a naturally relaxed personality. That would not be me:-). On the other hand, although I have never steeked, the idea of it does not fill me with dread – maybe because as a sewer (sewist) I am used to cutting into nice fabric. And aren’t steeks several stitches wide? A tiny little room for error there and a visible line to cut on. Isn’t that right? I should try a swatch sometime. I will keep the leather pouch idea in mind as well as learning Portuguese knitting (less hand movements) as I do have osteoarthritis. For those few knitters living along the equator a scientific tv show once pointed out that anyone who lived their first 10 years near the equator will probably never get arthritis. Too bad knitting is mainly a cold weather sport. Thank you Hyesook for your inspirational experience.

    • Chloe — thanks for your note and sharing. Do try to steek. If you sew it will be natural and YES — that is one of the beauties of knitting…..there loads of room for creative intentionally “mistakes.”

  • Where is the sweater steeked? Were the instructions for inserting the steek and then finishing the cut included in the pattern? I would like to write patterns for items that require a steek.

    • @Lowsodiumwi the steek was for the pockets. again only my 2nd time and now I want to steek all the time!

  • The end product is beautiful and I couldn’t knit for over 5 hours without being in agony !
    Again, it is truly beautiful

    • LOL — Ann — what I can say….a little obsessive and grateful everyday my body can handle it.

  • Very interesting and thoughtful article. Just curious how one becomes a test knitter. Is this something people do for ‘fun’ and yarn discounts, or can you supplement your income doing this? Thanks for the insights!

    • Chris — sample knitting is often paid while test knitting for me is an intense hobby! Depending on the designer and yarn company — I often buy at discounted prices and on occasion get the yarn to test knit. I personally don’t think I would quit my day job for a career in test knitting.
      thanks for reading!

  • I was so inspired by your article (found myself hanging on every word). The idea of test knitting, journaling results and giving feedback to designers sounds fascinating! I will make this happen in 2021. Thank you SO much for your post!

    • Soj — yes! do it. hope you enjoy the experience.

  • Great job!
    Fascinating Post too! I’d not thought of trying test knitting as challenging myself to new skills. The times I’ve done it, they’ve become: panic, could I finish in time?

    Where do you live? I’m thinking this sweater might be a tad warm for Philadelphia, PA where I live.
    Your opinion please?

    • I live in Baltimore/ DC — it’s warmer here and I am obsessed with sweaters!

  • I did sample knitting for a while, before my daughter was born. I was paid for it (industry rate – something like 20 cents per yard of yarn knitted, calculated by weighing the finished article to determine yardage). It was fun, and the first time I even discovered an issue with the pattern, just before it went to press! It was a lot of pressure, and in the end I’m glad that I don’t do it anymore. Much more fun to get to keep the finished object! (With sample knitting, I had to send the final item back to the yarn company.)

    • Thanks for sharing Kate.