At this point, I now have a beautiful layout with all the pieces of my pattern in it. What happens next?
Aside from the actual creation of the pattern, the most important part of the process is tech editing. Once I have a first layout of my pattern done, I send it to my technical editor. A good tech editor is an invaluable partner in the design process. A tech editor checks through the pattern for the usual things you'd expect (typos, grammatical errors, missing or incorrect punctuation, etc.) but also checks all the math, confirms that written instructions match the chart, and makes suggestions about wording. A tech editor will also make sure that your pattern is complete (i.e., it has all the necessary information that a knitter will need to make the item in question) and that it's consistent throughout (for example, making sure you don't have ssk in one place and SSK in another). Tech editors charge by the hour for their time, so it's well worth it to make sure a pattern is as complete and as correct as possible before they receive it. More complex designs and designs that are graded to multiple sizes generally take more time; I've had tech editing bills that have ranged from $10 to close to $100.
I've worked with several tech editors over the years and primarily work with one who I really click with. She's fast, she knows my writing style, and she makes great suggestions. She's also really good at what she does, so sometimes I'll use another editor if she's backed up with work from other designers and I have something simple.
Once I receive technical edits back, I make any necessary changes to the layout. Then the pattern is ready for test knitting.
There are a number of testing groups (both knit and crochet) on Ravelry, and I have used them in the past, but now I run all my tests in my own Ravelry group. Many of the members of the group have tested for me before and are eager to test again, but I also will sometimes post about a test in other groups to get some new testers.
Designers have many reasons why they have their patterns test knit. Some, for instance, will use test knitters in place of a tech editor; I don't do this. When I put a pattern up for testing, I have already had the pattern tech edited and sometimes read through by someone else. I'm not looking for test knitters to catch mistakes (though there have been a couple of times when someone has caught a typo). Instead, having other people knit the pattern before it's available to the general public gives me an idea of how the average knitter on the street will approach and use my pattern. Sometimes something will be worded in a way that is technically correct but perhaps not as clear as it could be, for example, and my testers will make suggestions about how to make that instruction more clear. Using test knitters also gives me a good check of my yarn estimates for those patterns that are graded (because the sample is knit in only one size and I use math to estimate how much yarn will be used for the other sizes). An additional benefit of test knitting is that when the pattern is published, prospective buyers can see other completed projects on Ravelry and can get an idea of what the pattern might look like in yarns and colors other than what I used for my sample.
Once the test is complete and any necessary adjustments to the pattern have been made, it's ready to be released to the world! I publish on Ravelry, Patternfish, and LoveKnitting, and then I go about publicizing the new release: I blog about the design, I post on Twitter and Instagram, and I post about it in the pertinent new releases threads on Ravelry.
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If you've made it through all four posts, thank you for reading! I hope you now have a better understanding of the process of self-publishing a knitting pattern (and, I hope, an appreciation for the time and effort involved). It's not an easy or a fast process, but it is a process I love and one that I hope to continue to be able to do for years to come.