Thursday, March 25, 2010

Confessions of a Test Knitter...

Now, as many of you know, I am a great lover of hats. If you look in my Ravelry projects I'd hazard a guess that over 75% of them are hats, and most notably designs by the most venerable Millinery genius, WoollyWormhead

I stumbled across Woolly on the interwebz about 4 years ago, just after she published her Jester Hat as a free pattern, and met her for the first time at an event called
SkipNorth in 2007. We instantly clicked, having a similar outlook on life and creativity. That was the beginning of a friendship that has resulted in me becoming one of her regular test knitters, on Wee Woolly Toppers to begin with, and then most recently, on Twisted Woolly Toppers , her new book of Cabled, Twisted and Bias hats that's just been published.

This blog post is part of the "Blog Tour" for TWT, so I suppose I'd better stop sounding like a crazed stalker totally biased (no pun intended) fan girl and more like a book reviewer ;)

Chevron Beanie



I test knitted three of the ten designs in the book (pictured above) and that is what I'd like to talk about, if I may: the whole process a design goes through before it can be released for publication. I am a designers dream as a test knitter. I am a really literal when it comes to following a pattern, don't ever ask me to "Use my imagination" in my knitting. If things aren’t laid out in a really simple and easy to understand way, I am stumped, and you just try and get me to follow a pattern without a picture to refer to!!! This book has both written and charted instruction though, if you prefer charts. Me, I don’t do charts…no way. Give me written instruction every time!!

Woolly has a dedicated band of test knitters for her designs, and when a pattern idea is first written, she puts a shout out to us all. All her patterns are given a certain level of urgency & sizes that need to be tested, so there were always at least three or four hats made for each design in her new book, as the size ranges are so diverse (...that is one of the many things that is so appealing about TWT, there are such a great range of pattern sizes, so you could knit the same pattern a number of times for lots of different sized heads).

Woolly herself will always have made one or two, but other sizes are needed to test the pattern, because, for example, the instructions for the small size will differ from a larger one, and so on. Each hat in Twisted Woolly Toppers has been test knitted at least once in every single size, some sizes and designs more than once.

So along the way, us loyal band of trusty knitters, from all over the globe, will help eliminate various errata such as typos, misplaced commas and spelling mistakes etc and we'll also help out with descriptions. A pattern can go through 4 or 5 revisions until it is ready to go to the next stage, technical editing. Woolly is a very thorough designer, and considers every opinion and suggestion put to her. All of us are made to feel totally valued for our input, in fact it helps her to consider all the angles, so to speak. The final concept of how it is laid out and the whole look and feel to the written instruction always stays with the HatMeister though ;)

Something totally new in this book though is her exploration, in pictures, of her design influences. This, for me, is a real bonus, both as her friend and a fellow artist. It’s helped me understand the creative stimulus surrounding these hats, and what has given them their amazing structural qualities.

Woolly has come such a long way in 4 years…published 3 books, moved from bricks and mortar to living in a converted bus on a commune in Italy, and has had a beautiful baby boy.

I can’t wait to see what’s next!!!

Woolly and I are both going to be at Make, Do and Knit in Liverpool next weekend. I’ll be selling a full range of hand dyed yarns and fibres of course, and Woolly will be launching Twisted Woolly Toppers.

So, if you have a free afternoon, and live nearby…why not come along, browse the myriad of stands and get a signed copy of a lovely hat pattern book while you are at it??

It’d be rude not to ;)

Next week, you can visit Binge Knitter's Blog, for an interesting interview with Woolly :)

Blog Tour Calendar Katya Frankel, 1st April Carol Feller, 8th April Katherine Vaughan, 15th April Faina Goberstein, 22nd April Kate Oates, 29th April Deborah Robson, 6th May Janel Laidman, 13th May Jaala; Spiro, 20th May


Blogger Mildawg said...

What great insight into the test knitting experience. Thank you for sharing!

2:21 AM  
Blogger quinn said...

"if you have a free afternoon, and live nearby…why not come along"? Heck, I live 3000 miles away, and I would LOVE to be there! The photo is your previous post of all the yarn, yarn, and yarn, was staggering. Here's to a very successful event :)

Thanks for the glimpse into the world of test-knitting - always interesting to see what goes on behind the curtain, so to speak.

2:27 AM  
Blogger S & P said...

A brilliantly written review, informative, amusing and heartwarming. The strength of your friendship shines through and I am proud to be one of you fellow test knitters.

Pat (cottonon)

10:17 AM  
Blogger couthyquine said...

Great review, Sarah. Also I love that Floralys, and you look fab in it!

12:31 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I may link this post to new test knitters, so they can read what its all about! I can tell you have great chemistry with Woolly and you look so wonderful in her awesome designs. Thanks for your great review.

3:52 AM  

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