Up to this point, we've covered the idea, converting the idea into a chart, and swatching. All that remained on this particular pattern was to knit it to make sure that it worked as a whole.
Because I was intending to offer this pattern on Ravelry, it was important to me to have someone else review the pattern and knit from it to make sure that the instructions were clear and that, combined with the charts, they would result in a mitten that looked like the one in my head. Because I had designed this mitten and knew what should be done from one step to another, my knitting of the sample from the pattern was not going to cut it (not to mention that I was too close to the pattern to see any errors).
Luckily, one of the many wonderful resources on Ravelry is the free pattern testing groups. There are two that I know of, the Testing Pool and the Free Pattern Testers. Of the two, the latter is definitely the more stringent, with very specific requirements and steps to take and very active moderators who ensure that both testers and designers stay on top of things. I know that some designers don't care for FPT because the rules are so strict, but because I am busy and don't always have time to chase people down, I chose it for my test because I knew it would ensure that I had a positive experience (i.e., no testers disappearing on me or not completing the test on time). Testers in this group are only allowed to sign up for a certain number of projects at once and they're required to check in with the designer weekly on their progress.
I had three test knitters for my design, each one knitting one of the three sizes. Because both mittens are identical, I only required them to knit one mitten, though one person is doing both at the same time. I am still waiting to hear from that last tester (she was on vacation for about a week and a half), but the other two have finished and have given me great feedback. They were able to catch a minor typo in the numbering of the chart rows and also suggest a change in a direction that was a little unclear.
If you're designing something and want to have some test knitting done, I highly recommend going to one or both of these Ravelry groups. On the flip side, if you're interested in knitting not-yet-available patterns, consider signing up to be a tester. You'll not only get a sneak peek at a new pattern, but you'll get the final pattern from the designer at the end as a thank-you.
I am hoping to pull together the final pattern for my mittens this weekend (a proper photo shoot of the sample is needed), so watch this space for the announcement of the pattern release! In the meantime, here's a little preview.