But, what's the difference and why use one or the other?
Test knitting is just that - a knitter tests the pattern. They knit the pattern as written, and usually use their own yarn. They provide notes to the designer within a deadline and they get to keep the finished item. Test knitters typically are not paid. They receive the pattern for free (and many designers compensate them with additional free patterns). Some designers might use test knitters instead of a tech editor. That's not what I do, though, I personally find a tech editor to be a non-negotiable item when it comes to patterns. A tech editor, in addition to checking all the pattern math, will also edit things like format and grammar. Testers catch a lot of these things, but I don't rely on them for that. So when do I use test knitters? When I'm working on something new - like a new shawl shape or something that I haven't designed before. For example, when I designed Bandwagon, I had a group of test knitters for that shawl. It was a new shape for me, and I wanted to make sure that the pattern made sense to everyone!
Sample knitting is a little bit different. Sample knitters are paid (most designers pay by the yard knit) and use yarn provided by the designer. They also knit the sample exactly as written. They do not get to keep the finished item (although, in a few cases, I have returned samples to my sample knitters after a while - there are a lot of shawls around here). For me, I'm using sample knitters most often for the pieces in my books. There's no way I can knit all those things. I try to give my sample knitters projects that are pretty straight-forward and are the easier knits. It doesn't always work out that way though. There was the great sample knitting disaster of Sock-Yarn Shawls II, where my friend, Jenni, had to re-knit the edge of the Harvest shawl three times because I could not get the math right for how much yarn was going to be used. She does still speak to me. :)
From Sock-Yarn Shawls II, Martingale & Company, 2015. Photo by Brent Kane
Lots of knitters enjoy doing test and/or sample knitting. You can search groups on Ravelry to learn more on how to get in on the test/sample knitting game. And, if you're interested in doing any sample or test knitting for me, be sure to join my Ravelry group. When I need a new sample knitter or I'm doing a test knit on a new design, that's where I post!