I have been quiet about this situation that's been discussed quite a bit in the sewing blogosphere, primarily because I felt like my opinions are my own. However, I recently received an email from someone asking why no one asks me to pattern test.
The honest answer is that I've been approached several times, I've just recused myself. I've said yes only three times...once to test a pattern for Lolita Patterns that I had to bow out of because of work deadlines, the second time by Jenny at Cashmerette Patterns because I really believe in the pattern line she's developing.
If I may stop here and say that I've had several conversations with Jenny about her new pattern line, what she wants to accomplish and the style of patterns she wants to sell...so I wholeheartedly endorse her pattern line. I have even tested a pattern for her. To me she is filling a gap that's missing in patterns for the full busted, curvy sized woman sewist. She is also trying hard to reach out to every type of full figured sewist willing to work with her!
The last pattern I've agreed to test is still in the beginning phases and there is nothing out about it on the internet so I'm leaving it that way.
However, there are a few things I need to address here ~
The first one is that I believe most designers do attempt to have a minority outreach to test their patterns. However, if you don't participate in a lot of social media - Instagram, Twitter, Facebook you may miss the calls. Or if you participate in mostly similar type people sewing circles - this applies to everyone - again you will miss the announcements. Also I think that even we as a sewing blogosphere can be cliquish - yes, I said it. I believe this because it's human nature - we hang with who we're comfortable with - very few of us move between all of the circles in the sewing blogosphere. Which btw, does not necessarily make you racist - it makes you unwilling to step outside your comfort zone.
Second - I don't test a lot because I HATE PDF patterns! Yeap, I said it! I understand the appeal of them but personally I hate paying $12, $15, $20 for a link that I then have to supply the paper and ink to print the pattern out. Tape the pieces together, trace out new pattern pieces and then make alterations to them, before I can start sewing. Makes me a lousy candidate to pattern test!
Third - I've been sewing so long I rarely follow the instructions. I think when you pattern test and one of the things the designers I've worked with are looking for - is that the instructions make sense to home sewists, that the instructions and wording is clear and that the pattern pieces fit together the way they are suppose to even in the printing out process. If I don't follow instructions again I'm a lousy candidate to pattern test!
Until earlier this year, I did not lead the kind of lifestyle to wear a lot of the patterns that were being sold to the sewing blogosphere by indie pattern designers. The styles were simplistic and did not fit into the very corporate world I inhibited. Now that things have changed, please refer to reason #2!
I've kept my piece about this because I've seen indie designers come and go - some went on to become designers for the Big 4 - Sandra Betzina, Marcy & Katherine Tilton and Connie Crawford - and some are still designing - Dana Marie Design Company (aka Purrfection Patterns), Sewing Workshop, Christine Jonson and Kathleen Cheetham (Petite Plus Patterns) on their own. I've used some of those patterns and others that are no longer in existence...again I've been sewing a long time!
I say this because commerce and the consumer has a way of shaking out or losing the indie pattern companies that don't present a great pattern or great customer service. You as the home sewist has more power than you realize - because your dollars either cause a product to succeed or fail. If you don't like them, can't use them or think their designs are whack, don't buy them! Sales are the true benchmark of what will succeed and continue or what will die and fade away!
Finally there are some interesting discussions on this on the web, one presently on Bunny's blog and Michelle does a great pattern review weekly. My personal preference is to sew the Big 4 which I do on the regular especially since Club BMV has such great sales. Simplicity/New Look/Burda could take some marketing lessons from them in my humble opinion because not everyone has access to a Hancocks or Joann's store to purchase patterns.
Also if you are a minority sewist OR any other sewist and want to pattern test contact the new indie pattern designers and let them know you'd like to test. I would say that the majority of the designers want a variety of people to pattern test and they do NOT know every sewist out there. Sometimes we have to step up and participate and not just wait for someone to come to us...but also be prepared to accept their conditions to test (conditions that don't always make sense to us the sewist) and/or the fact that they might not want you to test. Everything is a two way street!
So these are my opinions on pattern testing. I'm sure that there are some that will disagree with me and whether you do or don't feel free to leave your opinions in the comments section. This is a discussion with many points of view...but to anyone wondering why I don't pattern test, you no longer have to wonder or ask...my reasons are stated above!
...as always more later!