Indie June – Technical Editing


As part of Indie June blog post series, I wanted to share some of the other roles that you support when you chose to purchase a pattern from an Independent Designer like myself. One of those roles is my Technical Editor, Heather Muarry:

I see the role of technical editing as there to help the designer to polish their pattern so that it is as accurate and clear as possible. So, first I act as a technical proof reader, checking that there are no typos in the knitting instructions. Then I check through all the numbers, to make sure everything lines up in the way it should and that the sizing will come out as expected. Lastly I check that the pattern is as clear and easy to understand as possible, and ask myself questions like: Are the instructions unambiguous? Does the knitter have all the information they need about all the techniques used? Is there anything else we can add (or take away!) that would make the pattern clearer?

I love discovering the logic of a knitting pattern and getting into the thoughts of the designer, and I feel very privileged to be able to be part of the process of translating the designer’s vision into an enjoyable experience for the knitter.

-Heather Muarry


I hate making mistakes and I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in that! Using a technical editor (tech editor) to review my patterns is one of the best ways of reducing errors. It’s not easy though, as it’s hard having someone pointing out all the things you’ve gotten wrong. It’s one good reason to find an editor you really like and respect so the blow is a little softer.

Editor vs Sample Knitter

I’ve sometimes heard designers argue the merits of tech editors versus test knitters. However, this is really like comparing apples to oranges. A test knitter tests out a single size of the pattern. They will tell you if a pattern is knitable, if they encountered any obvious error in the directions and if the finished object fits well. Typically they are not paid, although sometimes patterns, yarn and discounts are given in exchange.
There are no binding contracts as it is not a professional relationship. This means that if they run out of time or change their mind there isn’t much you can do about it as they are knitting it for pleasure rather than obligation. When you hire an editor however you’re paying for professional services which means that doing the job right is as important to them as to you as their reputation is also on the line from the work they produce.
In an ideal world, you’d use both testers and an editor as both jobs are valuable and contribute to an accurate finished pattern. I do envy designers with smaller knits as it’s definitely an easier job get them test knit!

Also, do remember it’s not possible to edit your own work accurately. While you can catch certain errors you’ll find that other ones you’ll just gloss over particularly in relation to pattern phrasing. It always amazes me the times I’ve written a line that seems completely obvious to me but knitters just read it differently.

How you can Improve Pattern Accuracy

1. Create a pattern Style sheet and pattern template.

These are important as they will keep your style consistent between patterns and you won’t forget any important information. You can start with a pre-made template or use one from a magazine you like but then fine tune to your style and taste. Remember that this is your own personal pattern so should use a template that appeals to you once you have all the necessary information.

2. Excel Spreadsheets.

Excel is your friend. Learn to use some of the macros and you can use Excel to calculate gauge and check your stitch counts.

Before you send your pattern on to an editor you can do a lot to ensure it’s in as good a shape as possible.

Here are a few checks that I do for my patterns:
Check that it matches your style sheet including consistent terminology.
Check that every set of numbers has the correct amount, that they all add up and that you’ve got stitch counts ever where you have a change in the number.

It takes me longer than I will admit to edit my work. I write the pattern, knit the design and rewrite as I go. Now I go back to double check that it matches my style sheet and print it out. From the printout, I will check that abbreviations are all in, that my numbers all add up and that I haven’t written anything too stupid. (This is where test knitters are a huge help, they give you a reality check on the pattern!)

What can I Expect from an Editor?

Remember that they can’t work magic and the more work you do before sending it in the less it will cost you.
Every editor will work differently but to get the most from the process there are a few things you should have in place.
1. Have a style sheet that they can refer to. This means that they don’t have to guess at they layout you want to use or the terminology that you want.
2. Send a well-reviewed pattern with good photos and a schematic. If you’ve got a tidy, easy to follow spreadsheet that would be great as well. Mine tends to be far too messy for anyone to follow but me so I don’t usually send them on!

Once your editor has all this they can get to work. The first job is checking numbers. Most editors will put your gauge and stitch counts into a spreadsheet and check that they all match up with the sizes you’ve shown in the schematic. Then they’ll check that each set of stitch counts along the way add up correctly. Now it’s time to fine tune the pattern; checking the style sheet, abbreviations, pattern language and any omissions or obvious errors in the pattern. Sometimes editors will check your sizing if you request it, using standard sizing charts to compare with your pattern sizes.

As you can see I really do consider tech editors an invaluable part of the design process and I’m eternally grateful for their work!