Oct 14, 2013

How to Test a PDF Sewing Pattern for a Designer





If you follow many PDF sewing pattern designers on social media you've probably seen the frenzy after a 'call for testers' goes up. The designer says "I need some testers for my new xyz pattern" and within 30 minutes they have dozens (sometimes hundreds) of commenters vying for the chance to be chosen.

The testing process is extremely important for pattern designers and there are some definite Do's and Don'ts. I've recently released two new patterns, The Ultimate Apron, and the Halloween Treat Bag. I learned a lot about what makes a good tester through the process of creating these patterns...and want to share the secrets with you.

You'll also see some thoughts from a few of my favorite PDF sewing pattern designers here. If you have ever wanted to test a pattern for one them...pay attention!

I love each of these amazing designers and own many of their patterns (MANY!). Allow me to introduce you to our Q&A panel:

Jess from Five and Ten Designs is also the creative force behind The Sewing Rabbit. She always has a new and fun tutorial on her blog and the first pattern by Five and Ten Designs is just amazing! The Volume One eBook features one basic block pattern with TEN different alterations to make completely different looks. I have made two different looks from the book and love them both. (see the Belle dress I made here and the wrap top here)


Amy from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop is simply amazing. She has oodles of fantastic patterns and I admit to owning most of them! Peek-a-boo patterns are always professionally written and the result is always fantastic. I've shared a number of the things I've made from Amy's patterns like the Bubble Shorts, Sporty Girl Skort, Santa Monica Swimsuit, and more. (I did a round-up of them here.)

Beth from LilyGiggle has written some really unique and amazing patterns. Her shop was one of the first I discovered as I learned about the world of PDF patterns and I just love her style! I have made her Petunia Petal Pants (several times like in this outfit), the Lorelei dress (my daughter still wears this dress at least once a week), and the Secret Garden Dress (my, oh my I love this dress too).






Oh, and then there's me. I'll be answering these questions as well. I've learned a lot since releasing my first two patterns. PS...it's not too late to get the Halloween Treat Bag pattern in time for Halloween. Use the coupon code REVOLUTION to receive the pattern for only $5 through Halloween! (see Pattern Revolution's review of the pattern and enter to win a copy too)



What do pattern testers do?

First let's discuss what 'testing a pattern' actually means. Designers rely on testers to sew a pattern and pay attention to every detail...then give feedback and ask constructive questions that will make the pattern better. Testers are also usually required to take pictures of their finished item and those images are sometimes used in the final sales and promotion of the pattern. Each designer has their own set of feedback questions and guidelines. Typically a tester will have anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks to complete a test and submit their comments back to the designer. Sometimes testers are even paid or given incentives from the designers when they do a great job. And all testers are 'paid' in that they receive a free copy of the pattern they are testing.

The tester's 'job' is to look at the fit of the garment and comment on any adjustments needed. They also will review the tutorial and suggest improvements to the instructions, images, or even catch spelling and grammar errors. They also will review things like the yardage chart to ensure it is accurate, and make sure all the pattern pieces print correctly.

Now let's get to some Q&A with a panel of designers:

How do you find and choose testers?


Jess from Five and Ten Designs says:
I like to put a call out on Facebook. I always look for fresh eyeballs with each pattern as I hate it when people get stuck in a rut. Keeping it fresh and new means there will always be new eyes on my latest pattern! And the response is always immediately overwhelming, there are so many people out there wiling to lend a hand! 

Beth from LilyGiggle says:
I used to put a tester's call out on my Facebook page but that has become more difficult as the number of followers grows. I receive too many requests and it's difficult to sort through them all. Most of my testers I have been using since the early Facebook testing calls or are regular customers that I've gotten to "know" over time.

Amy from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop says:
I do open testing calls and pick some new people every time to keep things fresh and exciting. With over 100 volunteers for most testing calls a lot of it comes down to luck :) I choose one tester for each size and try to include a mix of tried and true testers and newbies. I love it when people link to work they've done so I know what to expect from them. 
Elisa from CharmingDoodle says:
I put a call out on Facebook as well as on my blog. Now that I've found some testers who have delivered great feedback, and met the timeframe deadlines, I also put a call out to them and will select them if they want to test again for me. I look for a variety of levels of sewing skills in my testers, and it always helps when someone links to their shop, blog, or shows pictures of something they've sewn in the past so I can see what their strengths are.

In your experience, what makes a good tester?

Beth from LilyGiggle says:
First and foremost, good communication...very important. Also, I love a friendly tester. If we "connect" you will probably be used again even if your photography isn't the greatest or you can't always make the deadlines. I do consider many of my testers friends even though I've never met them. Testing requires a level of trust. I also find it very important that the testers carefully read the tutorial. Sometimes, they are such experienced seamstresses that they really don't NEED the tutorial but I still need them to make sure the steps are clear and to find mistakes. It's also important that they save their creative license for the next time they make the pattern. I need to know if it works the way I have designed it. Finally, great photography of the samples makes me want to hunt down a tester and give her a big ol' hug around the neck...bonus points, for sure!
Amy from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop says:
I expect them to submit their feedback within the time frame (generally 1 week) and provide photos. My favorite testers provide lots of feedback and creative suggestions for improving the sewing process. I also love testers who provide high quality photographs and I use tester photos in almost all of my listings. 
 
Jess from Five and Ten Designs says:
A good tester is someone who provides on-time feedback and meets the deadlines set. It is always nice when someone helps me proofread, as I am terrible at that - LOL. But someone who is honest, up front, yet KIND is the perfect combo. And good photography skills always help :), because when they show off a fabulous photo of your product - it makes you want to shout it out and share it with the world!  
Elisa from CharmingDoodle says:
A good tester is one who gives detailed feedback, especially the kind of constructive critique that isn't what I 'want' to hear. I love when testers compliment the patterns or say they didn't find any faults with it...but the most valuable feedback I get is when someone honestly tells me about a step they had trouble with and suggests I add a different image or rewrite the wording to clear it up. That is what makes the pattern better! Great photography of the end result is also a huge plus because it shows the pattern sewn in an appealing way with different fabric combinations or styles, which is really important to me. 
 

What are the 'deal-breakers' that cause you to take someone off of your tester list?


Elisa from CharmingDoodle says:
I will be very honest and open here and say that I was shocked when I first sent The Ultimate Apron pattern out for testing! It was my first pattern and I was very excited. I sent the pattern to 8 people after doing an open call on my facebook page. NONE of those first 8 actually tested the pattern! Zero. Only one of them emailed me to tell me she had something come up and she wouldn't be able to complete the pattern test. I completely understood with the one that had something come up, but I wish the others would have reached out to me too. It makes me sad to think anyone would just take a free pattern and never complete the test. But that was one bad experience and the next round of testers I found did a fantastic job! I really value their time and am so thankful for the testers who want to help make the pattern better and follow through on their word.
Beth from LilyGiggle says:
I rarely do this, honestly. But if someone agrees to test and I send them the test version and then never hear from them again the deal has most assuredly been broken. I'm a mom of 5 kids with a crazy life so I try to extend grace when there are unexpected circumstances that prevent completion but if your great-great-uncle on your mama's side dies 3 times in a row you won't be hearing from me again, either. I also appreciate feedback on why the design works or doesn't work but I don't really want to have it re-designed by the tester. By the time I have a pattern/tutorial ready for testing I have poured so many weeks (months even) into it and don't want to change it too much unless it truly needs to be. I'm happy to change mistakes, make it more clear or fit better, but the designing is done.


What is an example of a change you've made to a pattern based on tester feedback?


 




Amy from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop says:
Every pattern I've released goes through at least a few minor changes based on tester feedback. I always tweak a little here and a little there to get the fit just perfect in every size. I just released the Sierra this fall and based on an idea from a tester I added in an option for color blocking.






Beth from LilyGiggle says:
I added a tutorial for an extra neckline option on the Zinnia Dress pattern. I'm grateful for that recommendation. Many patterns are that much better because of good tester's feedback. I love my testers.





I want to say a HUGE thank you to Jess, Beth, and Amy for giving us all an insight into the world of pattern testing. Do you have any other questions? Let me know and I'll be happy to answer what I can.

Interested in pattern testing? Be sure you follow your favorite designer on facebook, and be ready with all the great information you heard here so you can be known as a great tester and have the chance to work with designers again and again!

19 comments:

  1. Great information for potential pattern testers! I've linked to your post over at Craft Gossip:
    http://sewing.craftgossip.com/pattern-testing-qa-panel-with-4-independent-designers/2013/10/14/
    --Anne

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  2. That's great info to hear! I've seen some shout outs for testing but hesitate, not because of these reasons though, only because I don't feel I am good enough... Perhaps next time I will try to answer a shout out! I would love to be a tester!

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  3. Jessi, you should NOT hesitate next time. Just jump in and go for it! Designers always like people with a variety of sewing experience to test the patterns and I'm sure you would do great!

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  4. Great tips, Elisa! It's great to have tips and feedback from the designers themselves. -Jen

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  5. Thank you to talk about this, honesty is the most important quality fro a tester. My pattern is on testing right now, half of the testers could finish for the due date. Many reasons evolved: accident, no cable to download picture on their computer, sickness...Some are real, others....I am not sure.

    I stay respectful with them, but sometimes, I feel like sad because I think they just want a free pattern...

    Reading the comments makes me happier, I am not alone in that process...And when I got good testers I keep them in a top list.

    Mélanie

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  6. Thanks for setting this post up Elisa! I'm about to send my first pattern out to testers and I'm a bit nervous - now I know what to expect!

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  7. Sherri, that is SO exciting! Woohoo!

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  8. I see a lot of disappointed people wanting to test patterns and while it's understandable, I wonder if they realise what a big responsibility testing is.

    I test regularly for a designer and you literally have to drop all your other jobs to get that test done in time. You need to be really thorough in reading the pattern and following the instructions.

    I make sure I always have a good stash of fabric on hand so I don't have to order specially for the project. I also try and compete the project in one or two days after receiving the pattern so there is time to photograph, fit, comment etc...

    So think about how much time you have before signing up for testing. It's a big responsibility. A fun one too :-)

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  9. Wow - I'm really shocked that none of your first 8 testers completed the pattern. Makes it harder for the rest of us who would love the opportunity.

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  10. I have a pattern I'd like tested out. You can view the information on my blog http://www.mycreativechaoticlife.com/2013/12/29/looking-for-some-help/ Thanks!

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  11. Thank you for putting together so many helpful tips in one place. My first pattern testing experience sounds a bit like Elisa's. I had only 1 person complete the testing on time and provide helpful feedback. I'm about to start testing on a second and third pattern, so I am hoping to get better participation this time!

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    Replies
    1. Sara I'm so sad to hear only one person completed testing on your first pattern. My testing process started out rough as shared in this post, but has gotten better each time. Good luck with your two upcoming patterns! I'm sure they'll be great!

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    2. Thank you! I have had better luck this time and the feedback has really made the pattern much better!

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  12. Hello, Thanks so much for the great information! I am about to release my first pdf pattern but need testers, are there any places apart from facebook where I can find them? Any help would be appreciated. My facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/sonnyember/posts/684989561563681

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  13. So I just got chosen to test a pattern for the first time! I'm so excited and nervous at the same time. Thank you so much for posting this so I have an idea of what's expected from me.

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  14. Thank you! I've been curious as to what pattern designers look for in testers and will be definitely be able to apply with more confidence at my very basic level. :)

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  15. I thought about your posts and I think I figured out what needed tweaking in this tutorial. Thanks for your posts about it or I don't think I would have thought of it as quickly. Thanks!how to use an embroidery machine step by step

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  16. Any suggestions on how to find a group of fellow sewists for a niche market that may not be organized into a community yet? Isn't advertising for pattern-testers on a semi-related designer's Facebook page incredibly rude?

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