PDF Patterns: Tested?….or just “Reviewed”

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(completely random photos from my studio: this precious little ceramic pot was hand-made by my daughter’s dear friend , artist Olivia Shea)

In my last post about pdf pattern REVIEWS ,  I mentioned that tester reviews are in a special category, since the testers represent the designer.   This time the subject is pdf pattern TESTING.  This post is mostly questions, (LOTS of questions) because I’m not a tester, I’m a consumer.  Like you. Trying to spend my money wisely.  (But if you are also a beta pattern tester, I’d love to hear your insights. Really truly.)  Whenever  you buy anything, you want to be assured that it was  tested before it went into production and was released for sale. Nobody wants to be a “guinea pig”.   There are 2 kinds of product testing: Alpha and Beta.

 Alpha testing is performed by engineers and asks “Can you make this work?” 

 Beta-testing is performed by consumers and asks “Does this work for you?” 

 In the case of sewing patterns, alpha testing is done by pattern engineers, beta testing is done by home-sewers. (A more detailed explanation of alpha-versus-beta: http:///blog/2011/01/alpha-vs-beta-testing/)

Alpha testing is done during product development, either “in house”, or sent out to professional testing services. The purpose of Alpha testing  is to work out the kinks in a product through back and forth communication between the testers and the product manager, in a technical manner. Alpha testers have a background in not only how to use the product, but also in how it is made, so that they can suggest fixes,  involving the product itself, the directions to use the product, and possibly access to obtaining the product (packaging, downloads).

Beta testing is done after product development and alpha is complete.  It is performed by “average consumers”, who try the product and report back their findings in a non-technical manner.  The purpose of beta testing is to see if you and I can use the product  without problems. Beta testing does not require a background in knowing how the product was made, and the beta tester is not expected to suggest fixes, only to report problems.  In fact, it would be counter-productive to have beta testers with too much technical knowledge, because they might be tempted to overlook issues as “no big deal, I can work around that”,  leading the manufacturer to believe that everything’s fine when it isn’t.

Today I’ll discuss beta testing of pdf patterns; next time I’ll go into alpha testing. I know way more about alpha testing because I’ve worked in the garment business forever, and alpha tested thousands of patterns.

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Social media has changed the way that consumers  are aware of beta testing.   In high school, I earned spending money by working at a beta-testing lab, trying out new cosmetics, sampling soft-drinks, or watching potential tv ads.  I don’t remember ever telling anybody what products I tested that day, except maybe at the dinner table. These days beta testing is very vocal, very visible, blasted all over the twitter-sphere, tumbler, FB, and  blog-land.  Beta testers love to  report about the latest cosmetic, videogame, or kitchen gadget they were “honored to test”: it has morphed into “product reviewing”.     Has it become a game of attracting “likes” online,  fulfilling a desire for attention?  Does this cloud objectivity?  More than ever, the customer, if she absorbs this promotional activity, needs to consider the source, and take everything with a grain of salt.

How does beta-testing plus social-media affect pdf pattern sales?  Have you ever been enticed to purchase a pdf pattern by  seeing the preview “sneak peek” photos, and then reading the gushing tester reviews at launch?  I have.  Many times. And most of the time, those patterns are wonderful.   I LOVE sewing patterns the same  way my friend Elisa loves recipes, and for the same reason: they help you take raw ingredients and turn them into masterpieces.  But….. have you ever been disappointed  when you download the pdf?  If not, count yourself lucky. I have bought so many duds.  Sometimes there are errors in drafting and grading that immediately jump out at me straight from the printer.   (That’s my own personal issue because I’m in the apparel production industry: as a Technical Designer it’s in my DNA to spot pattern and sample problems…and fix them..)

Other times there are problems that don’t become evident until sewing. These come from patterns that haven’t been measured, walked, or trued (to be explained in another post on alpha testing).  Sometimes the problems are in  the instructions. I don’t pay all that much attention to the instructions, but I know many other people do because I read FB posts talking about missing steps, the number of pieces to cut is wrong, layouts have pieces that should have been cut on fold but weren’t indicated that way, references to waist and chest are mixed up, elastic measurements don’t make sense, etc …so I know there are instruction errors that were never caught.  And it always makes me wonder: Why weren’t these things caught by the testers, the same ones who raved about the pattern on social media?

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Beta testers  aren’t expected to recognize or fix drafting or grading  errors, that’s not their job.   Testers are home-sewers, that’s the whole PURPOSE of beta testing, to see if the average sewer (with no pattern engineering background) will be able to put together the project smoothly.  In a FB pattern review group, we were discussing how to review patterns, and a member posted this:

”I’ve tested in the past and wonder if I’m ever qualified as I don’t know proper pattern drafting technique. I know I’ve been chosen based on past photos I’ve done as designers also want “pretty pictures” but there’s no way I’d ever be able to critique on drafting and what’s supposed to line up where .”

 She is actually a perfectly qualified to be beta-tester.   (I would be the worst beta-tester: I’ve never met a pattern I didn’t want to tweak.)  She represents the consumer who does not have technical background. What the beta testers should be reporting are the instruction typos, any sewing problems, and fit issues.  The problems could indeed stem from drafting errors, but she is only expected to  report the OUTCOME of the errors, not the CAUSE.  This is where I’m perplexed with patterns that have serious flaws. Didn’t anybody have a problem setting in that sleeve with the armscye an inch bigger than the sleeve-cap?  Wasn’t there an issue with that tiny bodice side-seam, only an inch high, that had to encompass 16 layers of fabric (front/back  X left/right X bodice/skirt X body/seam-allowance)? Didn’t that non-graded strap, same length in 12 months and girls 12 bother anybody?  Okay, I can understand why the grading issues (that bother the heck out of me) go by unnoticed by the beta tester if she is making one piece, in one size.  I make multiples to sell; I NEED perfectly proportioned grading.  Still, some of the outcomes in the tester photos are obvious: straps than can  barely be tied in a bow on size girls 12, and are dragging below the hemline on the bubs. Nobody noticed this?

Now, this shouldn’t bother me personally: I can fix any pattern.  But what about the many sewers I’ve heard from who blame themselves if  their project doesn’t turn out well?  This breaks my heart because when a sewing project goes wrong, 9 times out of 10 it’s because of the pattern, not the stitcher. So I wonder: How could so many testers sew up  a pattern that still has errors, yet those errors never got fixed? There are only 2 possibilities as I see it (please let me know if there’s some other reason that I’m missing):

  1. Beta testers didn’t report the problems they encountered, or
  2. Beta testers did report them, but nothing was fixed

 Do most beta testers report most problems?

Probably  most of the time. Many beta testers  in pattern review FB groups do say they always fill in the questionnaires that are required for beta testing, they do bring up problems, they do communicate with the designer.    However I’ve also read anecdotal evidence that this doesn’t always happen.  What would stop a tester from fulfilling that part of the agreement?

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If they don’t always report errors, why not?  Let’s start by asking why do beta testers  volunteer anyway?

At face value, beta testing is a swap : free product in exchange for testing it.  But with sewing, there’s a lot more expected of the tester than there is for, let’s say, nail polish.  It can be MORE expensive to participate in the test, than the product you’re getting  in exchange is worth . Even if your fabric was from the thrift shop, your model works for free, and you are using the camera in the phone you already use, your time has enormous value. So there must be more benefit to it, right? In a FB pattern review group, a member put out an honest inquiry last week, asking  Can someone please tell me some of the reasons testing is so incredibly appealing to so many? What are the benefits to you as a tester? I mean, what is the payoff? “  The replies were  very informative.:

Love the process, liked having input, created better pdfs: 7

Liked having a deadline ,  pushed me to sew,  forced me to finish: 7

Likes showing off photos,  especially if chosen to be published with the pdf: 5

Fun,  social,  made friendships: 4

Free pattern (although some admitted this was financially illogical): 4

Last week I discovered that some testers do actually get paid, so I put out an inquiry to find out how common this is, and the replies were:

Received  payment upon test completion OR received credit to spend on fabric at a sponsor of the designer’s blog (average amount: $20 to $30): 4

Had to pay deposit to test but received refund: 4

Testers were entered in  a raffle or drawing for cash, gift card, or fabric: 3

Earned cash from affiliated link: 4

Received discount on all future patterns OR from entire pattern shop: 3

Received final version of tested pattern plus an additional pattern: 14

Received only the final version of the tested pattern: 14

So it’s more of a social benefit, than a financial one, but it’s not a financial sacrifice either: many  justify the time by saying “I would have sewn it anyway” and “I need pictures of my kids anyway”, and many appreciated the nudge to get these things  done. There is a big social/emotional element going on here, which makes sense, due to the relationships developed between indie designers and their home-sewing testers. Blog posts abound on “how to be chosen for testing” and “how to recruit and manage your testers.”  As with beta-testing in many product categories, there is sometimes a popularity contest  at stake, a longing for recognition and acceptance, with some testers who get called on again and again, and others who never get “picked”. It’s a point of pride to have your photo chosen for publicity on the designer’s website or pdf file. But is this an objective rational way to finalize product approval?  Is the beta testing process overly influenced by emotion? Is it possible that there are goals at odds with each other, which  compromise “best practices”? (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Best_practice)

When you read reviews at release,  do you wonder if pdf beta testers are  being overly  complimentary?  This makes sense: we  learn in kindergarten that it is wrong to hurt anybody’s feelings .  Do beta testers know how important their feedback  is to us, as consumers?   Not “Do I like it?” (emotional.) but rather “Does it work?” (rational).

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Have you noticed that emotions run high at launch time?   Who doesn’t want to see the much anticipated and hyped next design?  It’s so fun to look at the gorgeous photos, and read about the new patterns.  I totally get caught up in it, buying way more pdfs than I can use.  But what happens when all is not dandy, and as a customer  you purchase a pattern  that turns out to have mistakes, and then you ask a question about it online? You risk angry push-back by (some) testers, who insist that everything is perfect with the pattern, nothing is wrong, just follow the instructions, you’re probably not a very good sewer.  Even if you show them obvious pattern errors, charts that are wrong,  incorrect grading, they still defend the pattern.  Can they not see the problems in the pattern? Or did they notice the problem,  but not want to advise the designer? I applaud their loyalty, but how about thinking of the consumers who are paying for the pattern? Is it possible that beta-testers are worried about:

  1. Fear of push-back from fellow beta-testers ? (the same ones who attack paying customers if they ask a question)
  2. Fear of hurting the designers feelings? (as if this weren’t a business, but rather a social group)
  3. Fear of not being invited to test again?

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So the other question is, do some pdf designers NOT WANT feedback?  The designer doesn’t need feedback on her design; just as in the garment industry where the designer doesn’t  (usually) want to hear the fashion opinion of the fit model.  In her blog Elisalex de Castro Peake explained :

“What we aren’t really looking for feedback on is the design. Mostly because that’s a very subjective issue, and one that remains our call (and of course, too late to change once it’s in the testing stage! “

http://byhandlondon.com/blogs/by-hand-london

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But what about reporting back on the quality of the pattern?  Is it also possible that  beta testers feel reporting THAT isn’t wanted?  Maybe beta testers have reported  errors before, and discovered that nothing was changed or corrected (ie:  they’ve  learned  to NOT report).  Maybe they tested for a designer who  told them, upon hearing that an outfit sewed up way too big, to just safety-pin or clip the back tighter and take the photo anyway. Maybe they’ve been to this rodeo before, and seen that it’s not so much about testing but rather product promotion.  In the Cashmerette blog,   Jenny Rushmore wrote:

“Theoretically testing and reviewing are separate, but in fact they’re not in practice. In the majority of cases (it seems to me, anyway), testing leads to a finished object, which leads to a review post pretty soon after a pattern comes out. “

http://www.cashmerette.com/2014/06/on-pattern-testing-indie-reviews-and.html

The comments that Jenny received were eye-opening:

“i think this is likely even more the case where bloggers aren’t actually testing, but just given a final pattern for free in exchange for being part of a blog hop promo for a new pattern or bundle. “

“The cynical part of me thinks it also has to do with some of those bloggers’ desires to continue to be asked to pattern test/blog tour.

“It seems some things which are called testing are really receiving an advanced copy of the production pattern just before release. Yes, this does require sewing up a version, but is this testing or just reviewing? “

“how much of testing is truly testing and how much is really just the marketing rollout? Why would a dozen testers of relatively similar build and sewing ability be required to catch typos and missed notches? When they’re all popular bloggers it makes sense.

“It makes perfect sense to me that bloggers are given promo patterns ahead of a launch, I don’t mind that, but why call them testers?  … I don’t think anyone wants to call themselves a promoter but in some cases tester is just a euphemism for that “

 

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 So SOMETIMES feedback is requested, but sometimes  it’s avoided, possibly because  it’s not always wanted.  Like a wife asking her husband “Do I look fat in this dress?”  Better to say nothing than to appear “mean”.  Better not tell the truth, even if she would look better in the other outfit.  Don’t rock the boat.  Leave well enough alone. Don’t stir the pot.

 Let me ask you a question: wouldn’t you tell a friend if she had spinach in her teeth?

Shouldn’t testers  feel free to report? Shouldn’t designers  listen?

Shouldn’t Beta testers be looking out for their sisters who are going  to be using that same pattern?

But ultimately doesn’t the responsibility lies with the designer: who she selects for beta-testing, how  she processes feedback, what  she does to make sure the pattern  meets her standards?

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 And then we come to the other question which was:

 If beta testers DO report problems, why aren’t errors always corrected?  I can think of 2 reasons:

  1. Is there not enough time?

Beta testing is typically done one week prior to launch.  Is that even enough time to gather all of the responses and correct errors? If the pattern  engineering is done in-house, it could be.  If drafting and grading is sent out, or done overseas, that  could add to the schedule. But the schedule is self-imposed, after all.  This is not testing for a mass-manufacturing business who must work within the fashion calendar.  Indie businesses can release any product at any time they desire.  Why not allow more time for sufficient testing?  What if big problems arise, causing the need for another round of samples? Does the designer care enough  about getting out a quality product, to give the testing process the time it requires? Or, is this not really beta ”testing” but more for “product review” and publicity?

2. Is there too much focus  on short-term gain, to  get those photos done and rush that release?  The problem with that is, just as social media can boost sales,  social media also spreads information about problems in products. Like wildfire.  So if designers don’t want to hear the problems to their face, the issues could surface behind their backs.

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The bottom line is, as a consumer, do you trust that  the patterns you purchase have really been tested?

It’s your money, your investment in not only the pattern, but more importantly your time.  When shopping for patterns on the launch day (discount!), the only information you have is the listing, the reputation of the designer, and the beta-tester photos & reviews.  Do you trust that  the testers were objective and non-biased, able  to catch errors  and willing to report them back, and interested in you receiving a quality product?  Are you confident that the designer cared enough to make corrections, and really wanted to hear about what a consumer, like you, would experience with her product?

 

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30 Responses to PDF Patterns: Tested?….or just “Reviewed”

  1. I have been on both sides of the testing process as a tester (and I still continue to test for other designers) and as a designer.

    As a tester, I took my “job” very seriously. I make notes as I go through the tutorial, walk the pattern pieces for my size, and inspect my sample closely to make sure the fit is correct. I enjoyed the sense of community and helping to hopefully put a good product into the market. I have worked with a few designers that pay a small amount for testing.

    As a designer, I listen to the people who have volunteered to test with me. I may not take every single suggestion, but I discuss it in the Facebook group I host and give my reasoning if I decide against it. I try very hard to be respectful of tester’s time and materials by having the tutorial in a mostly finished state and the pattern tested several times either by myself or myself and a couple of pre-testers. I’m blessed with two children who are very proportional to ASTM standard sizing and they make great fit models. They are unfortunately converging on size so I now only get one size tested with them alone. I also feel that my tests are well organized with expectations clearly described – both what they can expect from me and what I expect of them. I wish I were in a position to pay, but I do have an affiliate program and offer a free pattern in addition to the final version of the one they’re working on. I really like the idea of a raffle or something similar to get some form of additional compensation, even if only to one or two testers.

  2. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Hi Jennifer! Thanks for all of this feedback. You are in a unique position, having experienced both sides. It seems that financial compensation isn’t what many testers are most interested in…they care most about the sense of community, and are most frustrated whenever there is lack of communication or their suggestions are not incorporated. My gut tells me there is a huge range of product-development already finished through alpha-testing; yours sounds to be far more thorough. I’m planning another post, focusing on the point of view of the designers in the testing process. I will pm you!

  3. I don’t know if to post here or on the review post, but I’ll drop my thoughts here. I started signing up for testing because I had just finished a pattern drafting course and was interested in how the patterns get from design to sale. I also only sign up for tests of women’s patterns that are my style or represent a deficit in my wardrobe, which allows me to tinker with a pattern that I would have very likely otherwise purchased and still tinker with anyway.

    I’ve tested for six different designers in the past seven months and each one had a completely different testing style, from application to test to selection of testers to testing process and duration and don’t get me started on the final feedback. I will say, however, that each designer was very open to any of the fit changes that the majority experienced, especially those testers on the upper and lower sizes offered, and the patterns were modified accordingly. Whenever the group had a fit problem as a whole, the designer would check the pattern and redraft the problematic pieces/ area or even in some cases, redesign the pattern, if most of the testers suggested or agreed that a functional change to the design might be more effective. I’ve been involved in tests that had a fit check after 1 week and then final pics required the following week. I’ve even been in a group that had to postpone testing because everyone had numerous fitting challenges, which allowed the designer to recognize that there was a fundamental calculation error in her initial draft, even before grading made the error worse.

    As Jennifer said, I take testing seriously and write notes about everything – pattern pieces, printing, instructions, diagrams/ photos, designer changes, etc. When I discuss the test on my blog, I include both the positives and negatives that occurred during the process, as well as indicate what I’d change if I was to make it again. I’d want to read about these things, so I mention them in my posts. My personal bias comes from the fact that the garment is often specifically in a style that I love and so there will be some gushing when the finished product meets my initial expectations. I don’t want to purchase a pattern with errors, so I make sure I pass on all my comments/ concerns/ queries to the designer throughout the testing phase and also repeat them on the feedback form. Just as the designer should be committed to producing a quality product, so should each and every tester.

    My concern as a tester, is that the average 1 week testing process, does not always allow you as the tester to wear the garment for a few hours or more than once, to really check the fit. Some fit issues are more noticeable after you’ve been moving around and wearing the garment, than when you just pull it off your machine and try it on. For this reason alone, I think the designers should give themselves at least 2-3 weeks before their proposed release date to ensure that they get the best possible feedback from their testing group. Just sewing up the garment and checkign fit at that moment can’t be the only thing the designer is interested in, and they should also be open to hearing how the garment fits when it has been worn.

  4. Bunny says:

    Very provocative and informative post! With the weight of your experience behind the questions you pose, this should garner some serious consideration. I would love to link to this series on my blog is that is OK with you? Thanks, Bunny P.

  5. Stitch Wench says:

    This is a great post! I don’t have answers for your questions, but I can give you my perspective.

    I’ve done contract pattern testing for companies in the past (not bloggers-turned-pattern-designers so I can’t comment on those). I tested patterns for women’s clothing. In every case, I signed a non-disclosure agreement, because the product was not released. I was given a size to test, muslin to use, and trim to apply if that was part of the design. I tested the pattern straight without any modifications. I marked up the muslin with all the notches and markings from the pattern, sewed it together and tested it on a Wolf dress form to make sure it looked as it should according to the tech line drawings. I also checked each step of the instructions to make sure they were clear. It took a LOT of time, and I was paid pretty well to do it. One company incorporated the changes that I suggested and fixed the mistakes (there weren’t many) before the pattern was released to the general public.

    Another company released the product without any of the changes I noted – notches not matching up, spelling errors and more. I don’t think I was the only tester, and I’m sure I was not the only one who saw the errors. I have no idea why they even bothered to engage me to test, if they weren’t going to use my suggestions. Maybe they needed to get rid of some revenue for tax purposes. Whatever.

    I did pattern testing for about a year, but it sucked all the joy out of sewing for me so I gave it up. Now I just sew for myself.

  6. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    So even though this was alpha-testing, serious professional testing done before the “average consumer” beta testing, and yet the experience was so different between two companies. Interesting….that’s a shame that it wasn’t fulfilling, since I think a lot of designers truly need good alpha-testers.

  7. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Definitely OK! Thanks for asking, Bunny

  8. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    I agree, the 1 week test is not nearly intensive enough. But I don’t think the beta-testing, the 1-week-before-launch test, is necessarily truly “testing”…..it seems that in many cases, it’s just a call for photos and publicity.

  9. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    I also read a post recently on FB, that 2 or 3 revisions AFTER release can be expected. That’s a sure sign of not being tested! What a waste of fabric and time. I do hope that consumers wake up and start demanding more professionalism.

  10. You are right. I have the hardest time finding alpha testers. I did a round of testing recently that had a major fit issues on all sizes. Not a single alpha tester mentioned it to me. And the issue was major enough that redraft was needed and a second round of beta testing had to be scheduled. As you say, indie designers set their own deadlines, so I simply delayed the release. The real irritation for me was that this should have been caught by the alpha testers.

    I do think that a lot of testers simply either think they did something wrong, or they don’t want to hurt my feelings. I try to stress to people to bring any issue they find to me, but not everyone does. I also notice that the relationship between the tester and the designer tends to change over time. Some testers start out super critical (which I love!), and then, as they get to know me, don’t give me such great critiques anymore because they are afraid it may damage the relationship. What they are forgetting is that the reason why I loved them as a tester to begin with is because they brought every issue to my attention.

  11. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    I’ve started writing up a whole post just on alpha-testing. I only know how it’s done in industry, not in the home-sewing business. I wonder if it’s different? In industry, the patternmaker is responsible for measure/walk/trueing the pattern, but the actual work can also be done by the samplehand or the technical designer. Do you have alpha testers who know how to do this?

  12. Sharon says:

    I have beta tested quite a few times now (6), and I will only volunteer to test for designers that I feel are concerned with producing a quality pattern, as well as patterns I like myself. There are some patterns that have had fit issues which were adjusted during testing, and feedback was always given, and adjustments made accordingly. There was only one test where I initially felt the designer was rushing the test and only concerned about pictures for promotion, but eventually decided to delay release and fix the fit issues first. Your assessment of feedback not taken is accurate in some cases (as there are definitely unusable patterns out there), but I have been fortunate to work with designers that value feedback and extend testing if needed, to adjust fit. I am doing my best to be discerning when buying patterns, having been burnt before by patterns that are either unusable or require significant adjustments to make them fit properly. I too used to be sucked in by every new release and own more patterns than I have time to sew ;).

  13. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Sharon, you’ve been one of the luckier ones! Sounds like you’ve chosen well, in who you will test for. I’ve heard many testers have a far worse experience, with rushed testing and no reaction to feedback. Mostly I hear about the unusable patterns, or as you said the ones that require significant alterations to make them fit properly. These are the ones I just don’t understand: HOW did they get through testing, or was there any true testing at all? (I’m right there with you: used to get sucked in by every new release!)

  14. Jenni says:

    Excellent and very thought-provoking article! Thank you for shedding light on the beta side of testing for this home-sewing novice.

  15. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Thank you Jenni! It’s still a mystery to me, and I’ve been researching the subject a lot, out of sheer curiosity….and because I don’t like spending time re-drafting patterns that should have been corrected BEFORE release.

  16. Debbie Cook says:

    Love this post (and its companion). Keep them coming. :-)

  17. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Thanks for reading!!!

  18. AnnieG says:

    Interesting discussion. Here is a link to a post about why this individual “tests”. Some will recognise Ang as she is what I call a professional tester.
    https://tinkerandstitcher.wordpress.com/2016/04/11/pattern-testing-why/
    And then a further question can be asked – why do people volunteer in thrift shops, voluntarily work with the homeless , foster children etc.
    Cheers. Ann

  19. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Hi Ann! Thanks for the link to the blog, another to add to my reading list. Yes she sounds like the ideal tester: thoughtful, conscientious, and very aware of the impact she has on the success of the designer. I wish that all testers had that attitude! As for why people volunteer for other activities with more of a “selfless” persuasion than sewing…I think it’s highly personal and as such, people have their own reasons. After a decade of “required volunteering” at my daughter’s charter school (parent-volunteering requirements were written into the charter) I find more satisfaction sewing for charity. Reason? I feel that I am using my talents, not just my time.

  20. Janelle says:

    I found this article (and the comments) interesting to read. Thanks

  21. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Thank you, the post was the result of a lot of soul-searching…..I was happy to get a variety of responses. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion over what is expected of testers….

  22. Ginger says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful blog post. I’ve often wondered about how patterns were really tested. I would love to see a list that called out names of designers that actually cared to make changes and ones that let the typos and bad drafting slide. I’ve sewn many pdf patterns and have seen both types of patterns. I’ve never tested and probably won’t, I don’t have a blog. I really hate when I read a “test” blog post and the person changed so much of the pattern it’s not even the one being reviewed. I think tests should be made in muslin and as the pattern was written. The pull out the good fabric and make something pretty to wear in public. LOL

  23. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Exactly, that’s the way it should be: test in muslin, no changes, and report back honestly. Photos should reflect the actual product being sold, not something the tester revised on her own! Also, it’s one thing if a tester explains her changes in her blog, but what about the photos in the pattern listing? How can the consumer know which ones are from the pattern “as is”, and which were modified? I’ve heard stories from testers who were advised by the designer to pin and clip test samples in the back, to make the photos look as if they fit better….how is that fair?

  24. Amy C says:

    I beta tested a pattern once. I’ll never do it again. From the start, the designer didn’t care about the issues. The lines didn’t match up when I printed the PDF. She told me not to worry, just take a marker to connect the lines and it will be fine.

    No, that’s not fine. Similar issues continued to happen with construction. Missing steps, steps that didn’t make sense, pieces that didn’t fit together properly. Every time, the designer’s reply was to just “fudge it” to make everything fit. I would never buy a pattern from her. Ever.

  25. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Sadly you are not alone. While I’m hopeful that most testing is a mutually positive experience, I’ve heard your story too often. It sounds like the pattern you were beta-testing simply wasn’t ready. That’s due to technical errors, which can be fixed. But far worse is the “just fudge it” attitude: that is a character problem. Thankfully there are new designers breaking into the business all the time…maybe you’ll find a new one who is a pleasure to test for, and appreciated your feedback!

  26. Sheena says:

    Coming in somewhat late here – I found your blog a few days ago via GOMI, where it is – quite rightly IMO! – being lavishly praised and highly recommended.

    This excellent post about pattern testing really rings a bell with me. A few years ago, I was solicited to pattern-test through my active membership of a sewing forum; I thought oh ok, lets give it a go – but when I got the list of requirements I told the person soliciting free use of my time, equipment, talent, skill, paper, ink, haberdashery and fabric *and demanding near-pro-standard photography of the finished garments, no less!* that a viable business should be ashamed to expect anyone to pay through the nose to work for them. I got a very snotty response.

    I would happily offer to work for free – for work it is! – if I had a younger friend or relative who was trying to get a leg up on the design/sewing pro ladder, and had decent skills and a realistic business plan, but otherwise if anything other than a charity asks me to work for free, I give them a link to a wonderful flow chart -http://shouldiworkforfree.com/ – and let them work it out for themselves!

  27. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Really, GOMI? Did not know that! I haven’t figured out how to maneuver that site (I’m pretty much computer-clueless). Yes that’s so true about testing, it’s not only the cost of paper, ink, fabric….and your time but also your SKILL, which we generally under-estimate, as far as value (actually my husband reminds me all of the time that I’m under-utilizing my sewing skills…oh well!). And possibly what they truly were after was your photography talent, to promote their business. So why do so many testers say they were “honored to test”? I imagine they think of the designer as their friend (maybe they expect to be owed a kidney in exchange? That chart is priceless!!!)

  28. Sheena says:

    The mention of this blog on GOMI starts in GOMI Forums – Crafting / Sewing / Knitting Bloggers – Patterns That Make You Go Hmmmmm – page 166, about 7 posts down.
    I could put the link to the GOMI posts here, or email it to you, if you can’t find it.

  29. 7pinedesign@comcast.net says:

    Oh wow, Sheena, thank you, I never would have seen that!!! I’m super-flattered!!!

  30. Tibeca says:

    Not sure how I missed the initial release of this blog post. It is all the things I personally battle with on my blog.

    There is a fine line between testing and giving an honest opinion and full on burning bridges. I still carefully walk that line and mostly have given up testing (or at least reviewing immediately after a test).

    As a beta tester, I mostly do the job of an alpha tester, because so many of the designers I work with don’t have an alpha tester. Everyone could save SO much time if they had a decent alpha tester.

    That said, I’m no sewing/drafting professional. I have no sewing education, only the school of hard knocks.

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