As hookers, we all can appreciate a well written pattern with few or no mistakes. As pattern creators, we know that the way we do things might need a little more explanation to make sense to someone who is new to crocheting, or just thinks differently than you.
Sure, it seems like a great deal. Make a pattern in a set amount of time, take pictures, give feedback, get a free pattern, easy as pie, right?
Pattern testing is quite serious, and as I've been learning recently, designers often try to both advertise and work out any bugs, misspellings, measurements problems, etc, by sending their new pattern to a select few hookers(though this applies to any type of pattern). Relationships are developed over time, and while you're not being paid, it is still work. The designers are counting on the testers to get the pattern done, submit pictures, and let them know if there are any problems or flaws with the pattern. They will(most likely) be selling this pattern to people, it is how many designers supplement their household budget.
There is basic ettiquette that must be followed, however, to keep any testing/design relationship in a good status, and while most are common sense, sometimes people just don't think about it.
~ Accept a testing assignment if you don't have the materials on hand. If you accept a test that needs to be completed in 24 hours, and wait 5 hours to go to the store only to find that what you need is out of stock, then come home, and send a message to the designer, then that give them 18 hours to find someone else on an even tighter time limit, if they even see the message before the next morning.
~ Change the pattern without the designer's express permission!! This is a pet peeve of many a designer. The point of testing is to produce a product as directed. If you are having problems, contact the designer and work through it.
~ Forget to keep in contact with the designer as you work! This is not quite as important on short term assignments, but for larger items that can take a week or two to work through, telling a designer that you have a problem and then dropping off the face of the earth does nothing but make you look bad and get you banned from testing for them in the future, and usually from their designer friends as well. There are no stupid questions, and the designers like the chance to practice coaching people who have problems through them so they can do it with future customers.
~Take a test when you won't have time to finish it. If you know it takes you three days to make a hat, especially one with a lot of small pieces or shaping, do NOT accept a test for a hat that is due back tommorrow. Seriously. I know you adore the pattern, but each day of the testing phase is money out of their pocket when they could be selling it to people.
~ DO NOT FEEL FREE TO SHARE THE PATTERN! I cannot emphasize this enough. Even if your best friend begs and pleads and says that's all she wants for her birthday is a copy of that pattern, DO NOT DO IT! If she needs her own copy, purchase it for her. Many designers would love to send gift patterns and might even give you a slight discount for your honesty and knowing they can trust you.
~ Test if you do not have internet, or a camera to take pictures. You will have to PROVE that you are actually doing the work.
~ DO NOT BADMOUTH the designer! This makes you look like an ass. If you truly cannot figure out the way to complete the pattern, even with special coaching, and half a dozen other people do figure it out, then you just look like a spiteful idiot. Sometimes a testing relationship can become strained because the designer is unable to explain it to the tester. This does not mean the pattern is flawed, merely more difficult than anticipated. This does not make you, or the designer, an idiot because you cannot complete the pattern. It's how you conduct yourself in the community as a whole.
~ Keep in contact. If you're running behind on your test, or ran out of yarn because your cat dragged your WIP into the bathroom and left it in the toilet, let them know! Most will understand that life happens, and see if there's something they can do virtually to help you speed up. Once. If it becomes apparent that you're just trying to gather as many free patterns as possible, you will not be invited to test again and potentially blackballed by the online community as a whole.
~ Tag the designer and/or tell everyone where the pattern comes from- this helps the sales of your designer. Those sales are what allows them to continue designing fun and wonderful patterns for people. Shamelessly advertise that you were able to make it because of this pattern. Word of mouth is the best reference there is.
~Ask Questions! Sometimes you'll ask what may seem to be a silly question and work out the solution while waiting for an answer, but those "silly" questions are what alerts the designer to potential problems.
~ Be willing to FROG/RIP IT! Occasionally, you'll be working on a pattern when it becomes apparent that the particular stitch is too airy for the intended use, and the designer will have to make MAJOR changes to the pattern. When you commit to test, you are commiting to producing a final product as designed. So if the design gets changed halfway through, you must change your product. Of course, you can always start over with more yarn if you have it on hand and recycle the mistake later on, but don't stubbornly stick to the first version pattern and then get upset when you're not invited to test again.
Pattern testing is a fun experience, but requires trust on both sides. Trust the designer to know what s/he is writing and what the finished product should look like. They are trusting you to follow through, do what you promised, and NOT give away their livlihood to all your friends. Common sense and good ettiquette is mutually beneficial, all around!
Happy Hookin' Ya'll!