I've been making heavy use of the Testing Pool on Ravelry lately. Even though I haven't gotten all the testers for the leg warmers booklet that I wanted, I remain very grateful to the testers who have signed up for my patterns. Without testers, we'd never find the niggling errors that somehow creep into the patterns when your proof reading eyes miss typos.
So, this week, I thought I'd return the favor. It's not that I have nothing to knit. I seem to have an ever increasing number of projects in process. However, I recognize that testing is hard work, and that if I don't do it for others every now and then, I'll lose track of the issues that can come up that can make it frustrating.
I've learned (again) how important white space is. If you condense the instructions too much, they get really hard to read. This leads to errors, missed instructions, and general frustration.
I've learned (again) that if you wait until the end of an instruction to make a key point, some knitters wont' read it until they've done all the other stuff first. So... if you want the knitter to increase 8 stitches evenly through out the round -- say that FIRST, and follow with the other things you want them to do. Otherwise, lots of knitters will work the whole round before they discover they should have increased.
I've learned (again) that if you use an ambiguous word, people will interpret it in all of the available ways, and some you hadn't anticipated. In this case, the instructions for a fingerless mitt said that it starts at the top. For a sock, I'd guess that the sock started at the cuff -- up on the leg. But for a mitt, top could mean either the cuff or the edge on the hand. I interpreted it as being on the hand. I couldn't check the picture, because the designer did not include a picture. I worked this section wondering why one wants two whole inches of rib (even lovely cabled rib like this) at the top of a mitt....
It turns out that the designer simply likes what to me is a stingy cuff. (I like long cuffs, what can I say).
I was also reminded that it's really a good idea to identify gauge in stockinette as well as any other relevant stitch pattern. The pattern I'm working on identifies it only in that rib pattern up there. Well, it's hard to measure rib gauge correctly -- do you mean fully retracted? Slightly stretched? FULLY stretched? Who knows! And, since we're working in the round, it's really hard to get a good 4" swatch without making a hat first. (Hmm, there's a thought - except that the hat would take more yarn than the whole mitt project). I was able to get a decent gauge from the next stitch pattern, and from stockinette, but they're way off from this one.
As it turned out, I had the wrong gauge for the main part of the pattern. But I couldn't really tell until I'd finished the main part of the mitt and put it on. I did size check as I went, and the cuff felt perfect. But once I got through the bind off, I discovered that the hand was much too snug. As it turns out, I needed to go up a needle size.
(confession time -- I really liked the cuff the way it was with the smaller needles, so I just ripped back to the end of the cuff, and then worked the rest of the mitt with the larger needles. Given how much looser the rest of the mitt is now, I think I'd have found the cuff to be to floppy in the larger needles).
And finally, when you want your knitters to move some stitches to waste yarn -- be very clear on which stitches you want moved!
This won't be my favorite mitt pattern ever. But it's given me good reminders for how to communicate with testers, and how to write clear instructions so that tests go well. Even though I'll likely finish this mitt tonight, you won't see it again until there's a pair (unless you stalk me on Ravlery).