I am not and never will be a professional test-knitter. My hands are sufficiently full with my own designs and a gazillion other projects, to venture into the realm of test-knitting for others.
That said, I know some excellent test-knitters, for whose skill and professionalism I have tremendous respect. Should I ever be lucky enough to design on a grander scale than I do now, I shall be delighted to hire them. And by that I mean literally hire them - as in pay them, with actual money, for their valuable services.
I say this by way of an introduction, because it is my impression that many independent knitting pattern designers today are genuinely unaware there exists such a creature as a Professional Test Knitter. In fairness, this is understandable, considering how many knitters are not only willing, but eager, to test-knit for free. There are multiple groups on ravelry where designers and knitters connect in this manner, and my aim here is not to criticise this. Rather, I want to point out that this type of exchange is not the same as engaging a professional test knitter, and that designers for whom precision and punctuality are crucial do have the option to hire a professional.
Think of it as the difference between asking a talented and enthusiastic friend to photograph your wedding/ make your website as a favour, versus going with an actual wedding photographer/ web developer. The former often works out wonderfully. But the sets of expectations in the two types of exchanges differ. In the same vein, a professional test-knitter differs from a hobby knitter who is happy to test-knit patterns.
Professional test knitters exist. They are employed by yarn manufacturers, editors of knitting publications, pattern designers, sometimes even yarn shops. And they deliver to their clients an impeccable service.
What the client can expect from a professional test knitter:
. fast, skillful knitting
. the ability to meet a deadline
. willingness to knit a pattern in any size/colour requested, or several variations
. a résumé that details their experience, skillset/qualifications, and provides references
. regular progress updates, if requested, once the test-knit is underway
. a final report noting any mistakes in, or difficulties with, the pattern
. submission of the finished sample knit, if requested (i.e. a professional test-knitter does not expect to keep the sample)
What a professional test-knitter can expect from their client:
. monetary compensation for their services, equivalent at the very least to minimum wage
. yarn and tool support for the project’s duration (i.e. the knitter will return the supplies at the end, if requested)
There are instances where mutually agreeable barters/ trades are arranged. Indeed, a designer might find it tempting if a test-knitter is willing to work for yarn, or in exchange for keeping the finished sample. Just be aware that, as you venture further from the paid compensation model, the parameters of your exchange will blur. In the end it is pretty simple: If we want someone to work for us professionally, we better treat them like a professional - i.e. pay them for their work, and test-knitting is no exception.
So where does one find a professional test knitter?
I suggest going on the usual ravelry groups and announcing that you are looking for one. Make it clear that you are offering a fair wage and require a résumé with references. That should limit the responses to those from qualified knitters.
Finally, do you think you might like to become a professional test knitter?
You could, if you...
. are a very fast knitter; ideally a speed knitter - it’s the only way the work makes sense for both you and the client financially
. have wide knowledge of knitting techniques, stitch patterns, etc.
. have vast experience knitting from patterns
. are able to knit with a variety of yarns
. are able to knit without growing emotionally attached to the finished product, which you might not get to keep!
. are responsible, communicative, and able to meet deadlines
. are able to obtain references confirming all the above - the client needs to feel secure, that you will not abscond with their yarn, never to be heard from again!