What your tech editor wants to tell you

This is a guest post from Kristina McGrath. She's a consultant, tech editing expert, and author. Kristina is also both one of the most supportive people I know, and also one of the most relentless (and that is about the highest praise I give out 😂). I hope you enjoy soaking in her wisdom as much as I do!

Dear Designer,

I wish I knew exactly what you were thinking, what you wish I knew. I think I have a pretty good idea of what you want from me, and from my work, but what if there were more I didn’t know? I’d love to know, even if it feels wrong to say it out loud.

I want to tell you what I wish you knew, that perhaps you already know, but maybe like me, you don’t. If I tell you what would help me, maybe it would help you.

My perspective is that creating designs and writing patterns is a huge job. You’re working so hard and you want to make sure your patterns are done well, for the knitter, for your business, and for the entire industry really.

I want to help you feel confident that your patterns are the best they can be, that they are free of errors, clear, and an accurate representation of you. I am here for you. I want to be a resource for you and your biggest cheerleader.

We can be a force, a supportive partnership in making something great. It can feel really good. And to have that, we have to be open with each other. You are my client and I work in service to you, and I don’t forget that. I’m here to help, but it’s your ship.

A big dose of being clear and being prepared

  • Relax and be yourself. If something doesn’t jive between us or in our values, it’s best to know right off! Your pattern is sort of an extension of the best parts of you, so who you are and what you think have a big impact. Let me in on your decision processes as we work. That way I know the best way to check your style and make suggestions to you.

  • Let me know what you expect from me if I have not made it clear what I provide, or if I have left something out that you require. This is important because there may be something you need that I do not offer!

  • Let me know how you like to work – communication, schedule, document format, all of it. We’ll be way better off if we know all this ahead of time and are on the same page.

  • Tell me anything specific you need me to know about your project, or what you particularly want me to focus on (or not).

  • Do not be afraid to ask me for help if you don’t know something, or don’t know where to find answers, or can’t figure something out. If I can’t answer your questions, I will get you a resource that can. We’ll work it out.

  • Send me the references I need related to your pattern (a good way to guess if it will help me, is if it helped you), such as: a style sheet or completed pattern; sizing standards used; reference books, patterns, or websites used; what helped you?

  • Do send me detailed photos, (I love a laid flat photo!), photos that show what I need to check and how things like fit and shaping and patterning work. I use photos to guide me in editing and understanding your design and written pattern. No fancy backgrounds necessary, messy living rooms are not a problem here!

  • Understand that even if you send me the spreadsheet you used to work from, I am going to create my own spreadsheet for working through your pattern and do everything from scratch. This is the best way for me not to miss anything or make mistakes and is no offense to you! I bet you a million dollars your spreadsheet is way nicer than mine.

  • PS: Please don’t ask to see my spreadsheet unless you realllly think you need to see it.

Working together in loving kindness

  • Respect my policies and boundaries, just as I respect yours. This is key to our partnership being incredibly productive. When colleagues cannot relax and feel respected, the work is just crap. This includes being respectful of my time and my fees. Let’s support each other in this way! If we don’t like each other’s policies and boundaries, there’s no need to get upset, we just won’t work together, and that’s okay. If that happens, I will give you any help I can to find a better fit.

  • Please get the pattern to me well in advance of when it is due to you. I need time to plan my work and go over the pattern to figure out how I will attack it. Not getting the pattern early enough to plan makes me stressed and keeps me on hold for everything I am doing that week. That’s not fair.

  • Please don’t haggle me about my rush fee if you want a pattern back that you got to me later than my policy requires it. If you don’t want to pay a rush fee that is totally okay, but you will need to reschedule. If I am not able to do it in a rush when you get it to me too late, please don’t get grumpy about it. I am not bailing and will work with you to get it done as soon as I can. I completely understand life gets in the way and things can be late, but sometimes that just means we have to wait. Conversely, I will let you know ahead of time if I can’t make a deadline, barring something unforeseen. It is rare that this happens, but like I said, life sometimes has other plans, and that can happen to me too. Let’s be understanding of each other, but not take advantage.

  • Carefully look over your pattern before you send it. Sleep on it. Check it again. Go through a checklist or check it against a previous pattern to make sure you’ve done your bit. If you don’t have time before it is due to me to take your time in this way, weigh the costs of rescheduling vs. higher tech editing fees for a pattern that wasn’t ready, then choose which you can afford.

  • Realize that the editing process will take longer than you expect it to. I promise. In most cases, there are several drafts back and forth before a pattern is ready to publish or give to test knitters. Not one, not two. This takes time, especially if schedules conflict. Remember that if our process got delayed for any reason, the entire rest of your production schedule will be delayed. Build time into your process for the unexpected. Otherwise, we both feel unfair pressure and that sucks.

Writing and editing is what it is

  • Please do not send a draft back to me hastily. I get you’re excited and want it off your desk (and are watching that production schedule as well as real life demands), but making corrections quickly, and sending it right off… I guarantee you introduced error. Take a minute and look things over.

  • Don’t feel you have to defer to my notes, even corrections. Check them and see if they make sense to you. It might be something we need to work out, or you can stet it. It’s a partnership, but it is your pattern and you call the shots.

  • If you make a change, send it to me to check before you hit publish. Even if you think it’s done. Any change. Every time a change is made to a document, it needs to be checked again. There are so many inadvertent ways to introduce error, it isn’t even funny, even if you think you have safeguarded against it. I can honestly tell you that when a client tells me they have highlighted all of their changes in red for me, I find changes that were not highlighted every single time.

  • If we work in drafts and not in final layout, please send it to me to check once it’s in final layout. I get you might not think that’s necessary if nothing was changed, but pasting information into a new layout is a fantastic way to create new mistakes.

  • Regarding drafts and checks and edited versions, we will find things wrong that we didn’t see the first time. Don’t let this worry you. This is human nature, and to be expected. It doesn’t mean either of us are doing a poor job. This is why we go until we get it all. Hang in there. The only other option is a pattern that isn’t ready and that would be bad.

From me to you

I want you to know, I know you are wicked nervous to send me this pattern and to pay this money.

  • I know you think the pattern might end up a little differently than you imagined.

  • I know you are concerned there will still be mistakes, or that something will be missed.

  • I know you feel like you will never be done making changes to it, even if you’re happy with it.

  • I know you are gritting your teeth when you publish it worrying that you are going to get an email from a disgruntled knitter, and your shoulders will slump.

I get it. The truth is that probably all of these things will happen. Not every time, but a lot of the time. I am just as much of a perfectionist as you are, and I got my books and checklists too, but we are beautifully imperfect. The only way to make something this wonderful to share with others, to create something unique that improves lives (and wardrobes), is to risk all of this.

I want you to know that if I miss something (and I might), I am here for you to help you make it right until it’s all right, at my expense and I will not make you wait. I promise you that if any of these things happen, or even if all of them happen, going through this editing process with me will make your pattern better than you ever knew it could be, and you’ll be proud of it, and really excited to share it. And you’ll be an even more amazing designer every time you do it.

That is what I am hoping you know

That, and big thanks. Thanks so much for your bravery and vulnerability in this process. Being edited isn’t easy or for the faint of heart. You’re the best.

Lots of love,
Your tech editor


Thank you Kristina!!

Designers and editors, if you'd like to book some time with Kristina you can do that here!

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What your tech editor wants to tell you
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