Sunday, October 18, 2015

My views on Pattern Testing

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!






35 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this post so much. Like you, I've often thought about this. But it has at times been a contentious subject, and I like a peaceful and joyful life. Pattern testing is not, IMHO, worth fighting over :-) Pattern designers will or will not make it on their merits and efforts. And frankly, I no longer read the blog posts that get all wound up on the subject.

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  3. Great post and I love your view. As I stated in my post - I felt like I was being asked to sit at the popular table. I agreed to test for Jenny because - Like you - I believe in her mission. However - with select exceptions, I most likely won't do much more pattern testing because I don't really like sewing within the time frames. My sewing time is so limited and I like making what I want - when I want - not on someone else's schedule. g

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    1. Exactly GMarie! I was trying to say just that when we last discussed this topic. I ended up sounded condescending, but I really have such limited time and resources to sew. I don't want to take a risk on a pattern with my time and my fabric and my money for supplies not knowing if it will be a quality make or be a total waste. I have tested off and on for a few years but had to stop saying yes. It can be a fun experience, for sure, but it takes a lot of work and resources I don't necessarily want to give to someone else. =)

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  4. I've done a little more pattern testing than you, but not much more. I've tested two patterns for Jenny for the reasons that you and gMarie stated. Plus, TBH, when I heard what she was doing, I was basically salivating for the chance to try a pattern with actual large cup sizes.

    I don't test just to test. The patterns that I've tested I've done so because it was a design that I would likely be interested in buying, anyway, and also I'm interested in the pattern development process. To me, it's really interesting to see the way a pattern evolves based on customer fit and feedback. I've never been asked to blog my test pattern or participate in a blog tour or other marketing blitz for a pattern release.

    There's also my own nosy, selfish drive to know what patterns are coming out before they're released. Back in the day, I was the young adult trying to hunt down unreleased bootlegs on Napster for bands that I liked. Pattern testing provides some of the same thrill to me.

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  5. Or what about when you agree to test a pattern and they send it to you and it's not your style. You're committed, you feel obliged to make it, then blog positively about it. Nothing worse than wasting precious sewing time to make something that you'll never wear. I don't test often and even then I'm not good at sticking to feedback timelines.

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    1. This is why I won't test a pattern unless I've either seen at least a line drawing, a sample, or been given some sort of description of the pattern. My time is too precious to make something that there's no way I'll wear.

      That said, I've made a few unwearable things as test garments....although I do consider those muslins and not wadders. I don't blog about those when they happen...at least not until I've made a "good" version of the pattern.

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    2. I enjoy testing, I see it as a part of the business. My input is all about the instructions and techniques; I'm a lousy fashion model, I'm not influential enough to sell patterns, and I like it that way. Frankly, most actual testing can be done on a scale model, thus not eating up a lot of yardage. And sometimes real life (aka:kids) flares up and there isn't time.

      It's not a contract, unless you signed one and you're getting paid. There's no actual obligations.

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  6. I don't know a thing about testing patterns, I do know I often skip those posts because they frequently say something along the lines of they didn't follow the directions, also because, frankly, I'm curvy, but not big busted, so I don't fit the norm for the majority of what I see. I also see a lot of them that are basic patterns. I already have those and see no need to repeat them. Finally, I see a lot of patterns that are simply one size too small to fit, or that I will have to alter, alter, alter in order to get them to fit. B cup it is and I don't enjoy doing a full bust adjustment, but I really hate bringing it down a notch. It bugs me no end to go to a blog of larger sized women and see them testing a pattern 2-4-6 sizes too small. Why would I be interested in an indi pattern that, for me, is essentially no different from the big 4 in the amount of work I will have to do to make it fit?

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  7. Well said! I have done pattern testing only a handful of times. I hate PDF patterns for all the same reasons you do. It is so much work just to get to the good part of actually sewing a garment.

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  8. I hear you on the PDF pattern taping & not following directions! :)

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  9. Beautifully and clearly expressed.

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  10. a very interesting to hear your thoughts on this and some great points. I get asked to test or promote indie patterns fairly often, which I find slightly funny as I mostly sew Vogue/Big4/Burda envelope patterns. Usually I am seeking new patterns that have interesting details (read complicated) so a lot of the indies are not in my style. Lately I am amazed by the number of patterns for things that are exactly the same as multiple others on the market. Doesn't seem like a way to build a distinctive niche but maybe certainly I am looking at it with a different experience than someone new to sewing.

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  11. Well said! Sewing is precious time, fabric, & personal to me, pattern testing is just not a thing I can fit into MY sewing time! With my luck I would be asked to test a pattern for pants. I hate pants & I don't wear pants.....(I wear skirts & dresses) not wearing pants sounded funny!

    Bonnie @sewplus.blogspot.com

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  12. Most of the tests I've seen of indie patterns aren't very impressive. The testers often rave about the fit and what's front and center is terrible fit. Debbie Cook was critical of a pattern she tested . The owner designer was very antagonistic in her responses. Who needs this kind of crap? The designs aren't very impressive either. I look for interesting details and sophisticated design, something few indies have. I sew Vogue and Burda and like you, design variations on my tnt patterns.
    This post is why I read you regularly; a well written, interesting, thought provoking piece. That and the great sewing.

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    1. Ditto to everything you said, Nancy! Karen

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    2. Just to set the record straight, I wasn't testing that pattern. I had purchased it with my own funds.

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  13. I loathe PDF's. They are worse then laundry. Great post!!

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    1. LOL!! Cosigning 'worse than laundry'

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    2. Carol, I agree, and thank you for making me laugh out loud today. In doing so, unfortunately, I woke up my napping baby!!!!;)

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  14. I think Sherry from Pattern Scissors Cloth said as a pattern maker/designer she does the testing, that's what that is all about. I don't see Vogue, Burda etc ask for testers ... they test them themselves and then release a pattern and there is no marketing of the process. The process is a business expense and probably one the 'designer' can't afford. I think it is more a marketing exercise for "Indie" pattern makers and getting the "buzz" happening, then the sheeple all follow. It may be a good pattern, I'm not saying there aren't any, but again I don't want to do the work of a pdf and then pay a premium for the privilege as well. There is very little new out there.

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  15. Great post! Your reasonings seems spot on.

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  16. It doesn't really seem to me that "pattern testing" is what is actually going on when people try out indie patterns before they are released. I may be being pedandtic, but pattern testing, to me, really consists of checking if the pattern has appropriately matching seam lines, has all the correct notches and other markings, and correct and understandable instructions. And does is sew up true to size? For example, does a size 12 sew up properly to be a size 12, with all the corresponding measurements, following the pattern instructions? If someone outside the company is doing this for the company, they should get paid for their time and all materials.
    I think of what is commonly referred to as "pattern testing" more as product acceptance evaluation of some sort. The pattern isn't being tested for functionality as much as it is being sent out for a trial run to see how the design will be received. In this case, if the product really has been fully and thoroughly tested prior, it makes sense for the 2nd stage "testers" to provide their own materials, sew to fit themselves, and choose to follow the instructions or not.
    I could easily be wrong about this all, but it is the way that it looks from my perspective.

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  17. Thank you for this interesting post! As a pattern designer I would just like to add a few small things. I'm pretty new, and of course don't have a lot of followers or a "fan -club" and that makes it a bit hard to get my patterns tested. (As you say: if you come across a designer creating stuff you like, send an email and ask if you can help. IF you have the time!)

    As I personally find the testing very important this feels limiting.... I'm ready to send out a pattern now, and I have so far only two testers. As we all know, in the end this will mean ONE test of the pattern, if I'm very lucky! So when I release it, what if there are problems with it? I certainly want to fix that BEFORE the release. So testing is invaluable and very necessary. So this massive dislike of pattern testing is a little bit depressing to read.

    As Elizabeth K says, pattern testing could very well be paid for, but how much? You can hire a professional pattern tester, for one pattern you'd pay less than the cost of two average PDF patterns. And thats exactly what most pattern testers get....And you still wouldn't know what the average home sewist thinks. What I can do is of course to help the process by copying the pattern myself in the desired size, put it in an envelope and mail it all prepared to one or two testers. Plus in a proper test, no alterations should be done, to get an honest feedback on the original fit and proportions.
    Anyway, if you live in U.S and love the big 4 patterns, I can totally see that there is no need for independent pattern companies, but the rest of the world have no way of getting these patterns without paying a fortune in postage and sometimes customs plus wait for 3 weeks. For us the cheap and quick pdf patterns are a gift from heaven.
    So for all the people in this situation, if no one ever wants to take the time to help with testing, there might be no fun and interesting patterns released!
    Finally, I agree that some pattern companies confuse testing with marketing, but that's for another discussion. Thanks again for posting on this interesting topic !

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  18. I prefer to NOT to use PDF patterns too. What a hassle. I have made exceptions for a couple of InHouse patterns. Go Cashmerette!

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  19. I agree with you in many ways. I have never tested patterns but I do not like PDF patterns and like to think outside the box. It is sad to see when people will stay with the “in gang" within a guild or group just because.

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  20. I hate PDF patterns. I really do. And, now that I need readers, I can hardly stand to trace a Burda pattern. I've been asked a few times. But, I don't like to sew under pressure. And, the one pattern I tested was where I saw a hole in the market -- menswear. And, like you said, so many of the things I was asked to test didn't fit my lifestyle.

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  21. I really enjoyed your article too! Brilliantly written and I LOVED what you said about PDF patterns! I completely agree and absolutely hate the thought of them - paying not much less money to spend half a day printing, taping or gluing a pattern together! Really? Not for me. It's bad enough you have to cut out your pieces and size them to fit. In the "old" days patterns came in individual sizes. You opened the package of your size, MAYBE had to do some minor adjustments, pin it on, cut it out and be ready to go within an hr easily. With multiple sizes in one pattern and frankly how few patterns really work this way to provide a decent fit - it's amazing what sewists put up with today!

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  22. I've never volunteered to test a pattern because I just can't commit to the quick turnaround time often required. Also, I like to decide on construction details based on my fabric or what I think will work best for the project rather than following the instructions. I have preferred methods for inserting zippers, doing buttonholes, sewing pockets, etc, that just work better for me. So, I'd hate to give that sort of thing up in order to get a free preview of a pattern (which, frankly, I could afford to buy if I liked it anyway).

    (Sorry if this posts twice.)

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  23. I stick with the Big 4 too...I've been sewing them so long, I know what to expect. I hate spending a lot of time fiddling around with fit (although I really should spend more time on it.) I know how certain patterns will fit and so I can make my adjustments and go.

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  24. Although I do like many points that were brought up, I am a bit disappointed to read this type of posts. It seems very discouraging to me, mainly because of the comment section. A while ago I read a post on a similar topic written by Lauren Dahl at Baste + Gather, but it had noticeably more positive outlook on things. Before I finished reading here, I jumped to Bunny's post that Carolyn referenced above. What I have trouble understanding is when did the sewing community stopped being supportive? If one of us wants to design a pattern and attach a certain price tag to it, then why not? If you are not a fan of the style or don't like the format, shipping cost or whatnot associated with it, don't buy. Same goes for testing. If they ask you to test, that means that they think highly enough of your expertise and skill to be interested in your opinion. If you feel like you deserve to be reimbursed for the effort, I am pretty sure that a simple No would suffice. Anyways, this is just my two cents. Life is busy, most of the starting designers have day jobs and families and some of them have a dream of maybe one day being able to do this for living. Some of those designers won't make it, some will decide that the work that goes into it is too much for the outcome, and then there will be some who will learn and evolve and become more advanced. It is a process, no one is born to be an expert right away. What also seems unfair is that a lot of negative comments come from the expert sewers, the ones who have been in this for decades, and they point at someone who is just starting out and bring them down for not having the same expertise. Quite frankly, that is not fair. Do they need to practice some place no one can see, after working their day job and taking care of their families, so maybe by the time they are 60 they can say they have the knowledge to finally try their hand at it? I look at it as the process, they design and they reach out, and they find their audience and their crowd. They may never make it to the big league, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't try. I also understand that everyone here just states their honest opinion, but I wanted to point out that it can be very discouraging to read.

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  25. I've tested quite a few patterns, including clothing and bags. I have mostly tested clothing patterns by Sewaholic patterns. They do not give any compensation for testing. The testing involves sewing the pattern to ensure that everything lines up, notches match up, and instructions are understandable and correct. I occasionally post on my blog about them, but don't do a total review on the pattern as that isn't what I normally do. They had a sign up a while back for testers and then they send out emails for each one and I'm not sure how they select who will test, but it is not just an "ooh, this person would be good to promote our pattern" kind of thing.
    Testing can be quite a pain when life gets busy or someone is sick. I am not a fan of deadlines. I haven't tested a pattern that was a total flop yet, but it helps that between my daughters and myself we have a range of styles and most of the patterns will work for one of us.

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  26. What an interesting discussion!
    I really enjoy pattern testing - it's a cheap way for me to try new patterns (I'm not American so big 4 aren't a cheap option here), I only say yes to projects I'll want to wear, and I prefer PDF patterns!

    Contrary to what some people seem to think here in the comments, I really don't think Indie pattern testing is just a grab for publicity. I've always given significant constructive feedback on instructions, fit, pattern markings, and all that jazz, and designers have always been receptive. I think what complicated things is that those emails back and forth with the designer are private - but then, if the blogger chooses to blog about what they've made because they like it, that's all the blogosphere sees. Sometimes I just throw together a quick muslin never to see the light of day - sometimes I make a wearable version in cheap fabric, which may or may not get blogged. (I wouldn't blog tested patterns that didn't work out, because it's not a finished product and I think the designer deserves a chance to take on feedback and improve it.) I've tested for about 5 companies, maybe a total of 8-10 patterns? I disliked one pattern, felt "meh" about one, and all the others have gone on to be patterns I've used again and again. For me, that makes participating in the process worthwhile!

    I think you are so right though, Carolyn, that if the blog world is not representing you, you've got to step up and offer your services. I think the Curvy Sewing Collective has been good about that - I loved the post tis week on fitting an older body, for example, and I know Jenny from Cashmerette is looking for an older model for her next photo shoot based on feedback from older sewists!

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