My humble publishing advice, re: tech editors.

Have you ever been working from a pattern and encountered a mistake? Frustrating as all hell right? Imagine being the person who MADE that mistake! It’s frustrating and upsetting. Luckily, in the world of knitting, there are these wonderful people called “tech editors” who know their math, can look at your pattern with a fresh set of eyes and not only correct basic math mistakes, but help make your pattern more readable as well.

Of course, like with any profession, there are people who try to take shortcuts and skip the tech editor. Now, if someone is offering a free pattern, don’t expect it to be tech edited. That’s the trade off for free. You can’t reasonably expect a designer to not only offer up their time and techniques in giving out a free pattern, but also pay someone else to edit it. Sure it’s nice if it happens, but be prepared for a non edited pattern! If, however, you’re shelling out money, you should expect that the pattern has been passed over by a tech editor.

Does that mean the pattern will be guaranteed error free? Nope. It SHOULD be, but I’ve got a copy of a book by a famous writer that mentions one of the characters covering her hand with her mouth. Things get past editors. It happens. Email the publisher or designer and let them know, they should update with the errata.

Now what if you’re not a consumer, but a designer? You’re sharing your patterns with the world! Are you charging for them? Get a tech editor! Are you being published? Ask your acquisitions editor if you can have some say in the tech editor! In my early years, I took whatever tech editor the book or pattern publisher handed me and didn’t ask questions! I mean, if they’re hiring someone they’re automatically going to be the best tech editor on the planet right?

Not necessarily…

I’m not going to name names and trash talk editors. They’re human. But there are definitely some I’ve liked better than others. I’ve had some make “corrections” to my pattern that I didn’t double check. I just trusted that they were the expert and they were… wrong. Very wrong.

So lesson one. Don’t just assume they know more than you. Double check their work.

I had one editor that was handed to me that put me in tears more than once. I knew things were going poorly when they asked me to FAX my pattern over. They didn’t have any sort of word program and wanted the patterns in fax, then they would make corrections and fax them back to me. That is an impossible way to work, at least for me! Blurry faxes with parts inked out, having to find the previous fax and make sure it WAS the previous fax, and not a fax from three weeks back, it was overwhelming and confusing. Of course, being a fairly new designer at the time it never occurred to me that I could put my foot down and fire someone. And what happened? Patterns were changed, sent to print and some of them had mistakes. Pretty obvious mistakes, that made me look incompetent as a designer, and frustrated people working from the pattern. (I found out afterwards that this person had never actually tech edited garments. Just scarves and cowls!!!!)

Lesson two. It’s your reputation as a designer. Don’t just “be nice”, put your foot down if you have to.

I’ve had many experiences where I had to hire my own tech editor. Sure, it’s scary to shell out your own money vs. a publishers money, but having complete control over who is hired is the absolute best! It’s rough not having a barrier if you do need to fire someone, but the ability to do so, and work with someone you trust is invaluable.

Lesson three: Be a control freak. If the publisher offers to hire a tech editor, ask if you can choose one, or at the very least insist on having input on who is hired. Find out what patterns they’ve done before. Don’t be afraid to email a few designers and ask how their experience was.

Of course, if you’re spending your own money, you want the tech editor to do as little as possible! I know I’ve talked about it before, but this book by one of my favorite tech editors, Kate Atherley, is an absolute must for designers.


Don’t be scared off by the word “beginner” in the title. It is not just for beginners. Sure, there’s some pretty basic stuff in there, but sometimes it helps to go back to basics in your craft. There’s also just some really sensible, obvious advice that might not have occurred to you! Plus, the longer you write patterns, and the longer you knit or crochet, the more you forget the things that seem really obvious and basic to you, but might not be for a less experienced knitter picking up your pattern!

Which means that lesson four is: Humble yourself and study!

There you have it! I hope that this helps you!