It started innocently enough, it was May, 2010, and I had just joined Ravelry, an amazing social networking site for knitters. I was totally overwhelmed by the 167,487 knitting patterns available there (over 59,000 of them FREE) and had no idea where to start. Then I saw the Free Test Knitters group. It is a place where designers can post a new pattern and ask for volunteers to test knit it. Patterns would randomly appear, meh ones, gorgeous ones. Would I like to knit that? Should I say yes or keep waiting to see what would come next?
Test knitting had several advantages:
First, instead of being asked to choose between thousand of potential project, I only had a small number of them available at any given time. And I had only 2 choices: yes or no, no adding it to favorites or deciding which position it should be in in the queue of planned projects.
Second, the test knit provides a deadline with a built in sense of urgency. This means that if I agree to knit a cowl in two weeks, I will. No sitting on the needles for months making me feel guilty (pipe down, Bob's sweater, I said I'd finish you by the time the snow flies but I did NOT specify in which hemisphere or year), no agonizing over yarn choices, and no modifying, just knitting.
Third, I love the idea of trying something new and the idea of making something better. I hate when I find errors in patterns or typos or awkward instructions, and this allowed me to help a designer avoid all three. It also meant that I could be free to try something new, because the designer was asking me to help improve the clarity of the pattern instructions, it was actually an advantage for them to have me doing it for the first time.
My first test was an afghan, my first, which I completed in a shocking 12 days. Twelve days? Twelve months is more typical for any other project I've done! That was it, I was hooked.
I started haunting the forum, logging in several times a day in the hope of seeing a little gold star that would indicate a new possible "hit". And each test brought with it new techniques and new challenges that just increased the adrenaline high. First afghan, first lace shawl (Time Turner Shawl Link), first complicated sock (Unicurve Sock Link), first magic loop, first time doing a whole bunch of different cable patterns (Braided Cables Cowl Link), almost first (okay, second) colorwork... then first time convincing a designer to design an accessory product to match her original test (Beware of Dragons Link), where would it end?
By Fall, I was out of control. I had some natural limits on my addiction: I had to be able to afford the yarn requirements and time demands. That eliminated several lovely sweaters that tempted me, but still left lots of small project choices.
I started bargaining with myself: I can only do a test that can be used as a Christmas gift. This worked ... almost. How did you all like your cowls?
Pattern: cabled calescent in Misti Alpaca chunky for Bob and Joseph
Nice, huh! Yeah, thank the designers who decided that quick cowls made great November and December tests...
Finally, just as 2011 was starting, I surrendered completely, and signed up for the most complicated thing I had yet attempted, fair isle mittens on teeny tiny little toothpicks. True works of art.
Pattern: fair-isle-fox-mitten Link
Thousands of minute stitches all made while attempting to maintain correct, even tension on two different strands of yarn. Oh yeah. For the first time in my life, I understand the endorphine high that marathon runners describe.
Right now, the test is on hold while the designer addresses some potential issues we noticed, but it is still there and gorgeous and just the thought of it feeds the addiction.
And how am I passing my time in the meanwhile? Say "Hi!" to my first finished test of 2011, knit in three days while the fair isle mittens were on hold.
C2C Fingerless Mitts by Kendra Hope knit on Cascade 220 Heathers
I'm sorry, did you just say that you want to assign me a sponsor to help me overcome my addiction? Oops, I must be in the wrong room. I'm going to leave now, but I'm heading over to the yarn shop, if anyone wants to come with ;D