Friday, February 28, 2014

A letter to the testers of PDF pattern land

I've been stewing on this post for a while now, and trying to find a way to word things, so that people reading it aren't offended, but I think it's better to just be blunt about it.   Plus, tact has never been my strong point.


Say hi to my models: Inara and Connor.  Invariably one of them is not looking at the camera.  But the thing to focus on here?  See that strange contraption on Inara's head?  It's a ruffle.  It is in fact the original ruffle collar from the shirt she is wearing.

The shirt is the Soda Pop Polo from Candy Castle Patterns.  It may not look like much, but the designer took 1/2" of the width because when I got done and posted in the tester group, we chit-chatted about it and all decided it was a little wide.

Why do you care?  Because, I had a couple options when I posted this.
Option one:  This pattern is amazing! I love everything about it!
Option two:  I love this pattern, but I think the ruffle is a little wide.

What's the difference? 1/2".  But oh so much more than that.

I love testing.  For me, its a lot of work, and I feel like testers should understand that going in. If you want a free pattern, enter a giveaway.  This isn't how you should get them.

So here is my advice if you want to test.
1.  Be prepared to be in it for the long haul - some patterns take a week, and are ready to go.  Some take a little more love.  When I start a test, I know that that window is flexible and I understand that I may be making more than one of the pattern.

2. If it is a fitted pattern, or something different than the designer usually puts out - MAKE A MUSLIN!  I feel like this step is lost a lot amongst seamstresses now.  You don't actually have to use muslin.  You can grab clearance stuff from Walmart for $1.50, and then if it turns out to fit, you've got a cute print (win-win), and if it doesn't, oh well.  This is a great step to use when you're making a new pattern by an unfamiliar designer as well.

3.  Be a proofreader.  When I get a new pattern to test, the first thing I do is sit and read through it with a cup of coffee.  (The coffee is important for me lol)  I go through page by page and read carefully for typos, grammar, syntax, and general understandability.   I keep a little pad and pen next to my laptop to write down my notes as I go.  Depending on the designer, I either start a thread in the test group and post my findings, or just wait until feedback time and fill it out in the form.  If there is anything glaring that will affect testers' ability to construct the garment, I let the designer know right away.  Just think, if you were there to proofread, would Rachel Ray look just a little less crazy??




5.  Measure the test square.   Minor detail, completely important.  If your square is wrong and everyone else has it right, then reprint.  If you measure and it's wrong, and everyone else goes to check and it's wrong.... think of what would happen when the pattern is released.  People will buy it and everyone will either resize to make it correct, which will make the fit of the garment wrong, or they will think poorly of the designer. 


This box needed a cupcake, he was a little thin.


4. Follow the directions.  Sounds silly, right?  Look at it this way.  How long have you been sewing?  When you sew pants, they generally go the same basic way, so you just jump in, right?  Don't do this when you are testing.  Follow along each step.  Make notes if a step is confusing, worded weirdly, or if you think there is a better way to do it.   These are all important things to tell a designer.  If I have time, I like to go through a pattern twice: once to follow along the words and once to follow along the pictures.
Chapsters from PetitBebe
This way you can make sure that the directions will be clear to people who are better with written instructions and those who are more visual.  If something is constructed differently than you would normally do it, let the designer know.  Maybe it didn't occur to them that there was another way to do it.

We all like to make embellishments to give that unique touch to our creations... Make sure you ask the designer before you do this! Changing the pattern isn't what testing is about.  Use your fabric and crazy skills to create a gorgeous garment, and if you want to embellish it in any way, ask the designer first. 

If you don't follow the pattern, you aren't testing it, and really, what help is that to the designer?



Panel Pants from Little Kiwi's Closet
5.  Take lots of pictures.  I am by no means a professional photographer.  In fact, even now with my new camera, I'm still pretty meh.  But I do my best.  I get clear shots of the kids.  I make sure you can see the fit, and if there are any problem areas, you should take close ups of those.  And I like to try to get some fun action shots in when the local rainy weather lets me.

Canaan's Incredible Blazer from MLPC


 6.  Verify before making recommendations.  When I sew pieces and they don't line up right, I stop and go grab the actual paper pieces and a ruler.  I measure the difference in my fabric and make sure that the same difference is there in the pattern pieces.  When I post the pic or email the designer I can then say "piece A is 1/4" shorter than Piece B when aligned at the top.  I verified that the pattern piece itself is shorter as well, so it wasn't a cutting error." 

7. Give honest feedback.  This to me is really important.  There is always feedback to be given.  Whether its too short, too tight, too long, has an odd construction method, etc.  Do not be afraid to tell the designer when you have a problem.  I look at it this way.  If I tell a designer where I see any issues, and the designer blows me off, or gets offended, than it probably isn't a good designer-tester relationship, and I would rather not test for a designer who doesn't take feedback.

8.  If you've gotten to the end of the test and you say "no issues" you should go through it again.  I have tested for a couple more experienced designers and a couple newer ones.  And I have not once tested a pattern that didn't have at least a typo or two.  Or maybe a line missing on a pattern piece.  These may seems like small things, but will help the designer and the pattern look more professional in the end.  And don't you want to be part of a GREAT pattern, not just an okay one?

 9.  If you aren't sure if you can finish the test, don't sign up!  No matter what, you end up with a free pattern, even if it is only the tester version.  So if you are short on time, or the pattern is something you aren't sure you can sew, or even if you don't have a model you can get to in time - talk to the designer first, and see if they are still okay with you signing up.  A lot of designers want sewists from different skill groups to test their patterns, that being said, if you just picked up your first sewing machine last week and someone does a tester call for a clearly advanced pattern - you may just want to wait to see if it goes on sale when it's released. Missing a deadline is never okay in the professional world, and that's what this is.  Even if its a hobby for you, it is the designer's profession.  We all understand that things happen, but in all the testing I've done, almost every test has had at least one tester drop out because they are too busy or miss the deadline with no explanation.  Neither of these are good reasons to miss a deadline, and in the long run, you are destroying your credibility with designers, because they all talk. 


Designers, thank you!  I've had some amazingly positive testing experiences.   And sometimes I watch the testing process and feel for ya'll.  There is a leap of faith sending a pattern out to a group of strangers and hoping they do what is needed.  And I see tons and tons of people sign up for tester calls, and I'm not sure everyone understands the work that is involved in being a tester.  A suggestion for you all?  Continue to be receptive - make a tester group and let testers have a place to post questions and issues as they go - and be interactive with them.  Maybe next week I will pen an honest post to you from me of what I'd like to see as a tester. 




32 comments:

  1. Great article Alyssa, I agree with what you've said - I don't think some people realise how much work goes into testing and I like the comment about telling the designer honestly how you found the pattern. To start with I was unsure about how much to say to a designer but I've come to realise that if everyone assumes someone else has told them about a spelling mistake or a line that doesn't match then they won't know.

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    1. Thanks Alison! I felt the same way when I started!

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  2. I totally agree too! I actually overlooked one of these when I first tested recently. It was a lesson learned and something I will definitely be more careful of! :D Great article.

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    1. Well everyone gets better with time! I'm very glad the first couple of designers I tested for let me test! I have definitely gotten better since then!

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  3. This is a really great article! I think its great to remember it shouldn't be thought of as a "free pattern." You are exchanging services and should plan to be working and going the extra mile for the designer and pattern.

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  4. You are awesome! I love having you test for me. I have to say I love the text but your test square "This box needed a cupcake, he was a little thin." is hilarious!!!

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    1. I'm glad, my sense of humor can be an acquire taste :p

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  5. I'm pretty sure you read my mind...awesome post!

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  6. Love this article! Stitchwerx Designs would be honored to have you as a tester!

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  7. What a great post! I wish you were a tester for me. :) When I sent my first pattern to testers I was surprised to see that so many testers never actually delivered and was so disappointed. As a designer I've had to learn along the way and each pattern test has gotten better. I even blogged about the process a bit from the designer's side and would LOVE to hear what you as a tester like to see. Please write more about this! http://www.charmingdoodle.com/2013/10/how-to-test-pdf-sewing-pattern-for.html

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  8. Holy macaroni! You wrote that well! Thank you, thank you, thank you! I might have to post this on my testers group;)

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  9. Very well written. I've tested for quite a few designers and take it very seriously. I'm always frustrated when I buy a pattern that I know has been tested and there are obvious flaws. Testers help designers but also every seamstress that purchases that pattern. I think some "testers" are so eager to please the designer that they don't give honest feedback. Some designers don't appreciate honest feedback too, but they're not designers I want to test for or buy patterns from :)

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  10. This is a great read! I think sometimes people get caught up in the frenzy of the testing calls and forget what is involved.

    I pretty much try to do the same when I test too, although I don't really give feedback in terms of construction of the garment, I don't feel I've been sewing long enough to give that kind of feedback. Testing is a lot of work, but it can be fun. :-)
    Maybe designers should post a link to this every time they post a call. ;-)

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  11. well said! I think these are all important things for 'potential testers' to understand. From the designer side, I get so excited and honored when so many people sign up to be part of the testing process, then I get so disappointed when those eager testers fail to complete or just stop communicating. It is better to keep us in the loop, good or bad, to make the pattern better! Thanks for being such a great tester :)

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    1. Thank you for having me! It was an honor!

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  12. Very well said! These are all important things for a successful test. You are 100% correct in the importance of a test group. When I moved my testing to a Facebook group, my testing process majorly improved. The main things I look for in my testers are reliability and honesty. You can't be afraid to tell me something sucks! :p

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  13. Everything you have said in this post is point on!! These are the exact qualities that make a great tester. Look out, everyone is going to be asking you test for them because you really know what it takes to do it right! I would love to hear the other side!

    Christine

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  14. You opened my eyes on what a tester truly needs to understand and accomplish as well as what a designer wants and or needs

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  15. Awesome post! So many do not realize what is involved in testing. I am going to share if you do not mind :)

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  16. This is awesome. I love having you test for me and you always do a great job if it, and now I see why.

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    1. Well it helps to have such lovely patterns to test! ;)

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  17. AMAZING article!!! I think every pattern designer should have testers read this before they apply for a tester pattern. You did a great job of writing it and explaining it all, and I think sometimes what is required of a tester gets missed.

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  18. I agree 100%! Unfortunately I have tested for someone once who acted like my issues with the pattern were annoying to her. A collar piece didn't fit into the top and she ignored my comments on it. Her loss I guess.

    Other than that all of my resting experiences have been amazing and I love doing it!

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  19. Thank you so much, awesome read. I have only recently started testing for designers and have been very lucky with them as they have been fabulous with feedback. Keep up the great work

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  20. great post... thank you for sharing. I recently caught the pattern testing bug - and I love it! It truly is a lot of work but I find it very rewarding to work with the designers to make her pattern the best it can be! I like the deadlines, the interaction with other testers, and the resulting product. I work as a Software Product Manager in my 'real' life, and I find similarities between the two - except that I ENJOY the sewing work much more :)

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  21. FABULOUS!!!!! I am going to link to this!! I love love love it!

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  22. I'd love to have you in my testers Crew, Alison!
    Please contact me if you're in the market :D
    Hugs from italy,
    Irene
    SergerPepper.com

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  23. I am really really new to testing and without instructions for what to do. This is spot on for how I approach testing and with one more thing in mind; I always think of a "newbie" seamstress (yeah, my language is old school) but I think it helps. Regardless if the pattern is marked advanced or beginner. Somewhere, sometime, a "newbie" will pick up that advanced pattern and try to do it. So appreciate your sharing this with all of us. And thank you to the designers who entrust your visions with us testers to help you be successful.

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