Love Knitting? Earn Cash or Free Yarn as a Test Knitter
As a preteen, I discovered knitting and devoted hours each day to improving my hobby. My babysitting money was quickly spent issues of Interweave Knits and Family Circle Easy Knitting, where I drooled over the latest patterns. I became a frequent customer at the yarn shop in a neighboring town where I bought materials to create my 4-H fair projects.
As my skills improved and my passion for my hobby increased, I was thrilled when the owner of a yarn shop asked me if I'd test knit a men's sweater. Besides knitting a sweater that would be used for photographs or on display, I had to check for errors in the pattern and clarify the instructions. I spent about a month working on it each evening, and my time and effort as a test knitter earned me a $75 check.
That was 15 years ago, and test knitting is still a decent way to earn extra money. It's certainly not going to put food on your table (I made less than minimum wage), but getting paid for doing something you’d do anyway is generally a win in anyone's book. And, for me, it certainly beat babysitting!
Test Knitting in the 21st Century
The knitting scene has changed since the late 90s. It's no longer a hobby dominated by grandmothers churning out Christmas sweaters for the whole family; knitting is cool again and many young people are picking up the needles.
Knitting designers have taken their businesses online, where they can connect with thousands of customers around the country and the world, including aspiring test knitters. These knitters gladly test patterns in exchange for some swag -- often a finished copy of the pattern, additional patterns from the designer, credit as a test knitter in the finished pattern or free yarn to complete the project.
Lee Meredith of Leethalknits says that she finds most of her test knitters in her group on Ravelry, a site for connecting with fellow knitters and crocheters. Knitters can sign up for her master list of testers and be contacted when she has a new project. She gives her knitters the exact project requirements: the pattern, the size of knitting needles, yarn weight and amount, and any embellishments. As the testers knit, they leave her feedback in a shared Google document.
Knitters who complete the project by the deadline and provide feedback and corrections on the pattern instructions get a finished copy of the pattern plus around $20 credit to her virtual store. Large or complex projects, or those with unusually tight deadlines, earn the knitter additional credit. Other designers give their testers high-value kits that include the pattern and enough yarn to complete the project. Lee says that her test knitters are happy with the arrangement, since they get credit and free craft supplies while knitting something that they like.
Not all designers go the gifts-or-credit route. Writer and knitter Stephanie Pearl-McPhee of the Yarn Harlot feels strongly that knitters be compensated for their work with cold hard cash. She explains that test knitters provide a valuable service which enables designers to maintain a good reputation and sell high-quality, easy-to-understand patterns.
Knitwear designer Holly Priestley says that she pays between $75 and $200 for knitters who create samples of her designs. The Stitch Diva Studios website accepts applications for paid test knitters and crocheters.
How to Find Test Knitting Jobs
The easiest way to find test knitting jobs is to get a free membership to Ravelry and head to the Testing Pool forum. That's where the designers post projects they need tested, though not all will be paid.
As with any freelancing job, you'll need to market yourself well and make connections in the niche. To set yourself up as a good candidate for test knitting jobs, especially paid ones, here’s what to do:
Get to Know the Owner of Your Local Yarn Shop
I got my test knitting gig through my relationship with the owner of my favorite yarn shop. Being loyal to local stores and building relationships with the staff is always a win-win.
Doreen Marquart, owner of Needles 'n Pins Yarn Shoppe, sometimes asks her regular customers to knit a sweater, hat, socks or afghan that will be on display in the store to showcase a new pattern or yarn.
Create an Online Portfolio of Your Work
Just as freelance writers, designers and artists showcase their work on their websites, you should do the same with your knitting. Not only will you have your own digital brag book to share your projects with others, you can link to it when contacting designers about test knitting opportunities.
Set up a simple Pinterest profile with different boards for different types of projects (sweaters, hats, socks, etc.) or add a portfolio page to your website.
Connect with Knitting Companies
Mary Kay McDermott test knit an intricate Japanese shawl for Cheryl Oberle's Folk Shawls book. She got to know the designer through a knitting camp and their working relationship evolved from there. Mary Kay says that networking and befriending other designers and test knitters may lead to test knitting gigs.
Follow knitting designers as well as yarn and pattern companies on social media and get to know owners and designers at local events, craft fairs and other meetups. These personal connections may help you find opportunities.
The Bottom Line
While there isn't an industry-wide agreement on the standard for payment, the opportunities to earn money for your time and efforts are out there if you're willing to do a bit of searching and self promotion. Test knitting would be a great opportunity for stay-at-home parents who need a creative outlet, busy professionals who want to relax or retired people who want to keep busy.
Your Turn: Do you knit? Would you work as a test knitter?
Charlotte Edwards is a freelance personal finance and parenting writer whose work has appeared in Incomes Abroad, We the Savers, and My Kids’ Adventures. She’s the wife of a great penny-pinching guy, and mom of two kiddos who are learning about saving and wise spending by earning commission for housework.