Friday, August 21, 2009

In Praise of Test Knitters

Every business has people who work behind the scenes, largely invisible but vital. In the world of knitting patterns, test knitters and tech editors are just such people. They take my designs, knit them, proof read them, and clean them up so that when the pattern gets to your hands it is easy to understand and free (I hope) from mistakes.

When you were in school, did you ever have to do that exercise where you write instructions to tell a Martian how to tie his shoes or make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I had to do it in tenth grade. Our teacher decided to have each student read another student's instructions for tying a shoe and follow each of the steps in front of the class. My instructions fared pretty well right up to the point that James Flynn got to the line, "draw half of the folded right shoe lace through the ensuing loop in the left shoe lace."

James looked up and stared right at me across the classroom. "Ensuing?" he said. "If I can't tie a shoe lace how the heck am I supposed to know what ensuing means?"

Writing a knitting pattern is a little like writing shoelace instructions. Unlike the hypothetical Martian, most knitters don't need to have the concept of "yarn" and "knitting needles" explained in the directions. On the other hand, each of us brings our own experience and learning style to our craft and so as I up my patterns, I try to use the most standard terms and clearest instructions for the project. Nevertheless, the occasional "Ensuing Error" slips by to be caught by my invaluable test knitters.

Test knitters knit each pattern from the written directions, just as they are written. Sometimes, if I have omitted a key detail, they get some very funny results. Process knitters all, they will spend hours (occasionally days) knitting a pattern checking it line by line. Though their efforts, I remember to specify whether those slipped stitches had the yarn in front or back or help me explain more clearly how to attach a lace edging to a shawl.

So let's raise our glasses to four wonderful ladies: Cyndi and Wendy, Betty and Michelle, soldiers in the trenches of knitting patterns, without whose help Fiber Tree Designs would not exist.

Walking Meditations
It has been unseasonably cool in Iowa this summer. I missed most of July because I was traveling, but have been able to get out more this month. The late August color scheme for the woods along our bike path is gold and green. Fields of all sorts of yellow flowers bloom in the shade of the trees.

One day this week, I went out for my walk especially early while the dew was still on the grass and I caught some local "knitters" at work. All across the fields, the local fairies (or spiders if you prefer) had laid out nature's original circular lace shawls to block and be decorated with dew beads. The delicate craftsmanship gives me something to aspire to.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out Lisa! It's been fun knowing that I'm working on something only a few people have seen the pattern for. Keep up the great work!