Thursday, October 18, 2012

Musings on Pattern Testing

I recently Read the FIRST edition of Publish Your Patterns by Nancy Restuccia
I found it to be a very well written book and I learn things that I hadn't even thought of. I know I will be rereading it again.
I wish I had know there was a second edition as this 10 year old book could really use some updating. Shame on me for not reading the Amazon listings better!
The book is geared more towards quilt and craft patterns, but garment pattern makers will gain some insights from it as well.

But this post isn't a review of a book, if you want reviews, go to Amazon.

I want to talk about pattern testing.
I have participated in pattern testing for other doll patern makers, and have tried to get some of my earlier patterns tested, so I have already stuck my toes in the water.

Pattern Testing
What is it, and why would you want to?
Pattern testing is when a pattern maker send their patterns out to testers who then make up the pattern. They test the pattern’s accuracy, it’s sizing, the instructions and over all appeal. This is done before the final publishing to get all the “bugs” out.

Why should patterns be tested?
Simple answer, to make sure there isn’t anything wrong with it.
The longer reason is that if a pattern maker doesn’t test a pattern and discovers after it is on the market (often from customers) that there is an issue, the pattern maker then has several bad patterns on their hands and in the hands of customers. It is simply wasted money. Mistakes will happen, pattern pieces may get left out, grading may be done incorrectly leading to seams not lining up, Instructions may be full of grammatical errors. Bad news spreads faster than good news. And a bad pattern can be damaging for a pattern maker’s business.

Can you spot the issue with this pattern? A screen shot of one of mine.

What is a pattern maker looking for in a tester?
A pattern maker will want a variety of people to test their patterns, from beginners to advance sewist, from those who are familiar with the type of pattern to those who are not. In the case of clothing, testers in a wide range of sizes and body type.

What is the role of a pattern tester?
The role of the pattern tester is to provide GOOD, CLEAR, USABLE feedback. A single sentence “the pattern was ___.” Is not what the pattern maker is looking for, nor is the pattern maker looking for the tester to rewrite the pattern.
Pattern testers should finish testing the pattern within the agreed upon timeframe. If an extension is needed, they should inform the pattern maker and request one. If the pattern tester is not able to complete, they should notify the pattern maker as a courtesy.

What should the pattern tester be looking for when testing the pattern?
It would be a good idea to have a notepad handy while testing a pattern. Suggested points to write down include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Where the directions were confusing, even if a second reading cleared up the issue.
  • Was the yardage listed too little, too much, just enough?
  • Where the supplies easy to source, offer up alternatives if appropriate.
  • ANY deviations the pattern tester made from the pattern or instructions. Used a fabric that wasn’t recommended, cut a piece on the bias, used a stripe instead of a solid.
  • Any alterations on a clothing pattern to fit
  • Spelling or grammatical errors
  • Seams that don’t line up
  • Pattern cover appeal: photo, layout, text, price point.
  • Was the list of supplies complete, or did the instructions call for something not listed? Was something listed not used?
  • Was the pattern actually at the recommended level? Did it feel more advanced or more beginning level than it was stated as.
  • Were all the pattern pieces there, did they have all their appropriate markings? Did the seams line up like they were supposed to?
  • Was the garment pattern to size listed? If alterations were made to fit the pattern, what were they and were they common fitting methods to this individual (full bust, etc.)?
  • How long did it take to make? Were there reasons why it took that length of time (embellishments, hand sewn, etc.)

What NOT to do when testing a pattern.
Reply to the pattern maker with a list of spelling and grammatical changes ONLY, having never made the pattern up.
Share the pattern. It is after all a TEST pattern and the final produced pattern may have several changes made to it.
Ignore the instructions all together and just make it up any way they want. The instructions are also part of the pattern to be tested.
Take the pattern and never give any feed back or acknowledgement to the pattern maker. The pattern was sent out to be tested, not taken.

What a pattern tester may expect upon sending their review to the pattern maker.
Possibly more questions, to clarify any issues
Opportunity to test more patterns.
Invitation to share photos of the tested pattern.

The responsibility of the pattern maker after the pattern has been tested.
Follow up with testers should they fall behind the review deadline.
Fix the mistakes.
Be polite to impolite testers.
Explain why the pattern was written the way it was if a different construction method was suggested by a tester.
Thank and reward testers appropriately.
Maintain good, clear, and polite communication.
Test the pattern a second time if needed.

This is just the beginnings of my thoughts on pattern testing ad at this point I am not ready to send any patterns out, but stay tuned.
I currently have a small list of people who will be asked first to test patterns, next group will be those who follow me on Facebook, and the last will be a public call here on this blog.

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