I had been knitting for a few years before I first heard of tech editors. As an English major, I had experience with proofreading students’ papers, so it made sense to me that anything that is written needs to be checked for errors. When I acquired Kate Atherley’s book The Beginner’s Guide to Writing Knitting Patterns, it really resonated with me. After reading it, I found myself critiquing the patterns I was knitting from.
Joeli Kelly has a free webinar for designers where she explains what a tech editor is, why you need one, how to find one, and how to relate to your editor. One thing that stuck with me from the webinar was that even tech editors who design should hire someone else to edit their pattern. Even if you are skilled at finding mistakes, it is always more difficult to find mistakes in your own work. Because you know inside your own mind what you mean, your own pattern is going to make perfect sense to you, but it might not make sense to other knitters.
Everyone needs a tech editor. A lot of small designers just use test knitters for their patterns, but that can be insufficient for two reasons. 1) A test knitter is less likely to catch issues of style consistency, formatting, and other more technical things. 2) Most test knitters are receiving little compensation for their time, and it is frustrating to them to work from a pattern that is full of errors. The best practice is to send your pattern to a tech editor before you pass it on to test knitters.
If you are going to charge money for your pattern, then you want to make sure your customers are purchasing a quality product that will be easy for them to use. Even if it is going to be a free pattern, still consider using a tech editor. The purpose of having free patterns is to attract more customers to your shop, and you want that free pattern to make a good impression.
Since tech editing helps to build a solid reputation for your designs, it is well worth the cost. However, there are things you can do to save money on the editing process. Before you submit your pattern to the editor, look it over to check for obvious errors (spelling, punctuation, RS & WS labeled, gauge included, nothing missing from abbreviations list). Also make sure your formatting is consistent. Joeli Kelly has an article that explains this more in depth. If all these smaller details are in order, then your editor can focus on checking the instructions and numbers. If the edit takes less time, it will cost you less.