A lesson learned from our (amazing) beta-testers

(Before we get into the heart of this post, I just want to give a shout out to Lisa of Indie Untangled and the Rhinebeck Trunk Show she’s hosting in Kingston that weekend! We’re happy to be sponsoring the event this year, and as part of the event Lisa asks all the sponsors thoughtful questions about what they do & and how they do it. Last week Lisa posted her interview with Amy, and if you’ve ever wondered where Amy comes up with her ideas, you might want to check it out!)

As we begin beta-testing for some new CustomFit features (stay tuned this fall because we are so excited!), Amy and I have been having flashbacks reminded of the very first round of CustomFit beta-testing, two years back.


(The original CustomFit sweaters. We’ve come so far!)

When we put the call out for beta-testers, we were hoping for 10 extremely experienced sweater knitters to answer the call. A couple of hundred knitters responded instead – we were thrilled. We asked 100 of those knitters to join us to see how CustomFit worked (and give us their feedback on which parts could be improved).

Our beta testers were of every skill level from “I’ve knit countless beautiful sweaters for myself, my spouse, my adult children” to “Sweater? I’d like to try to knit one someday, but I have no idea where to start.”

We had no idea how it would go.

But what we learned — closely watching lots of knitters at so many experience levels  — is that you only need two skills to knit a sweater:

  1. Courage;
  2. The ability to produce a consistent tension with the same yarn & needles, over time

That’s it, to produce some of your best clothing ever. And the first isn’t even a knitting skill… it’s a life skill. But knitting is a great place to practice it, because hey, you can always rip out your knitting and try again.

Which means the second is the only true knitting skill that a knitter needs before he or she is ready to dive in.

That’s because if you can’t produce a consistent tension with the same yarn & needles, over time, your sweater won’t match what a pattern (even a custom one!) was designed to produce. It might be too big, or too small, or both. (Interestingly, we learned during the beta testing process that we couldn’t predict from a knitter’s experience level whether their gauge would be consistent.)

The cool thing is, as long as you can produce an even tension, over time, it doesn’t matter if you’ve never knit a sweater before, or seamed before, or if you’ve never picked up a neckline.

During beta testing, we watched maybe a dozen “I’ve never done this before, but I’d like to give it a try” knitters use CustomFit to knit their first sweaters, and saw them feel like rock stars when their sweaters came out so well.


It was probably our favorite part of the whole beta-testing process. And now, thousands of sweaters later, it still bears repeating. Because we build sweaters up to be a super scary thing in our minds, sometimes – and they really don’t have to be.

4 thoughts on “A lesson learned from our (amazing) beta-testers

  1. I remember knitting my 1st sweater & how thrilling & scary it was. My 1st customfit sweater was even better, especially since it fit amazingly.

    Some of the knitters from my meetup group are particularly daunted by sweater knitting & I always recommend customfit as the best place to start. I also recommend it for anyone who hasn’t been happy with their previous sweaters.

  2. I remember when I just learned how to cast on, I wanted to make a sweater immediately! I didn’t try my skills on scarves/mittens/hats, no I wanted a sweater 🙂 Looking back I would recommend myself to start with something more simple 🙂 But at the same time the first sweater that turned out awful, but wearable, gave me so much confidence that I could never stop knitting!

  3. A very wise LYS owner told me, when I asked if they had a class to learn how to knit sweaters, “Just start one. If you need help, we will help you, but you will do better than you think you will.”

  4. I have such a different experience than so many others — I harangued my mother to teach to knit for a couple years before she finally told me I could learn when I was five — I’d be old enough. So on my birthday, I picked up some yarn and needles and presented them to her — now, I said, teach me. So, what did she start me out on? A sweater. I worked on it for several years, because she would only tell me what to do next, and by the time I finished that part, she had mislaid the instructions, so more time would pass while she looked for them (we weren’t a very organized family, I guess!) I remember being fairly intimidated when I knit my first pair of slippers, because I had the directions and I had to figure it all out myself.

    The funniest part of that sweater (it never was quite finished, by the way) was that I found it when I was in college, and tried it on. It fit! I don’t know what my mother was thinking, starting a five-year-old on an adult sweater, but she did. I did teach myself to knit backwards, because every time I turned the needle around at the end of a row, I’d drop some stitches. It seemed more reasonable to not turn the needles around, so I knit right-handed and then left-handed. It worked!

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