Ruminating

FINAL THOUGHTS ON PATTERN TESTING

WOW. I am still reeling from the staggering response to my post on pattern testing yesterday. It’s funny; I wrote that piece very quickly (after having an internal monologue with myself about the issue for about 2 weeks) and then tried to go to sleep. I did not go to sleep. I lay in bed for hours with a mild anxiety attack, fearful that I had been too honest, and that I would alienate people with said honesty.

I’m a big dummy. You’d think after 3 years of blogging, getting to know so many of you online and in real life, that I would know better than to underestimate the thoughtfulness, intelligence, kindness and general all-around awesome human beingness of this community.

There was some confusion about what “debate” I was referring to. I posted a few links in the comments section if you care to find them, but I don’t want to turn this into more of a thing than it already is. There have been a few posts by different bloggers on the subject over the last 6 months (none regarding my patterns, fyi). I never had issues with any particular blogger’s thoughts on the matter, but was concerned by what I perceived to be some misapprehensions or misinformation in the comments of the posts themselves. I felt compelled to speak up, as this has been a topic among designers in my acquaintance as well, and I think it’s so much better to, you know, talk about stuff, rather than have things remain in some shadowy internet nether region (aka the comments section).

If I’ve learned anything from falling in love for real this year, it’s that you should never stay silent about how you feel when you feel strongly about it, you should listen with respect to what the other person has to say, and you must never go to bed angry. I’ve fallen in love with this community, so I think the same wisdom applies. Let’s never go to bed angry my friends.

I’ve definitely had a few frustrated nights. I’m working harder than I ever have in my life, and I know how diligently my fellow indies are working as well, so it’s difficult not to feel a little defensive when the way we choose to operate our businesses is questioned or criticized. But you know what? Constructive criticism is really healthy, and this has opened up an amazing dialogue that has got all of us talking and thinking.  I’ve thoroughly read everyone’s comments, and responded when I could. The common threads I noticed again and again are as follows:

  1. The same small “clique” of popular bloggers seem to be the ones who repeatedly get asked to pattern test. It feels monotonous for readers to see a deluge of the same patterns appearing over and over again around pattern launch time by the same “select” group of people.
  2. There is some confusion about the nature of testing vs. reviewing, and whether or not the two functions need to be clearly separated. Some people feel pattern tests should not be posted at all as they may not reflect the final product being released. Either way, there needs to be a more refined definition of “reviewing” and “testing”. If someone is gifted a pattern, they should be clear about it.
  3. When bloggers do post their reviews or test makes, they need to be as honest as possible about any difficulties they encountered and modifications they had to make. Folks want to see honest reviews that don’t sugarcoat or cheerlead without cause. They also want to know how to make patterns work for their bodies, so it’s helpful to share information about modifying patterns for different fitting issues.
  4. The overwhelming majority of people seem to think that the testing process should not or need not be paid. Most people seem to feel that a free pattern, the ability to communicate with the designer, participate in the process, and get a sneak peak at a new release is a fair exchange for the testing itself.
  5. Designers need to broaden their test pools so that they can guarantee their patterns work on a diverse group of figures.
  6. People would prefer a more transparent view into the design process in general. I’ve seen many comments over the last 6 months about not knowing who designers are designing “for”. Who is the fit model? Are patterns designed for a specific figure type? How are patterns developed prior to testing? etc.

Here are my thoughts:
In regards to the perceived “clique”: I completely understand why people feel this way. There are around 10-15 blogs who get asked to test for a lot of different companies, and I’ll tell you why; they all have unique, articulate points of view, take great pictures, are knowledgeable about the craft, are active on social media and in the real life blogger meet-up world, and consistently and frequently post great, interesting content. As a result of all these factors, they have large readerships and are obviously very attractive to a new designer who is looking for experienced, talented sewists with great taste (and yes, a prominent following if they choose to share what they’ve made) to give feedback on new designs. It makes perfect sense and I don’t think many people have a problem with this practice in theory.

One of the comments that cropped up a few times is the perceived quantity of test posts all around the same time, but this is not the predominant view. I think the larger issue is that it would be nice to spread the wealth – there are literally thousands of great sewing blogs out there, and many smaller bloggers would love to be able to test patterns as well. Not to mention all the dedicated sewists who don’t blog but wold love to be part of the process, too. I think broadening the range of the tester pool would greatly reduce any reservations people have about the current way things work.

That said, a few companies (Colette, Sewaholic, Grainline, and I’m sure a few others) do mostly private testing. They don’t have to rely as much on blogger tester/promo to get the word out since they have really established blog followings already, and perhaps rely on other marketing avenues.  It’s an admirable model, but isn’t necessarily one that will work for someone new on the scene.

As far as testing vs. reviewing goes, I think it’s important for people to state if they were part of an official tester group or whether or not they were sent a promo pattern to try out. I have no problems whatsoever with people sharing their test makes if they care to do so; that is between the designer and the blogger, 100%. Unless the first run of a pattern was a complete disaster, it’s unlikely that the pattern blocks themselves will change much. The things that I have changed in the testing process were relatively minor, and no one would have been misled by any of the tested Netties that appeared after I launched. This is a preference on the bloggers end, and people’s choices when it comes to this issue need to be respected.

As far as being more critical goes, this is really up to the blogger. Not everyone wants to be a critic; while honesty should be encouraged, we should work to keep it professional and objective. Oona wrote a beautiful post about this last week.

As a reader emailed me today, “Constructive Criticism is essential to doing good work. Without it, we’d all just being putting out mediocre things and patting each other on the back.” Which leads me to a more sensitive topic….

A lot of this stuff is EXTREMELY subjective. While there is a science to pattern making, I’ll go out on a limb and say that what works or what doesn’t, what is flattering or not, even in some cases what fits and what doesn’t, depends on personal preference.

I’ll give you a personal anecdote. While most of the response to my two patterns has been overwhelmingly positive, I once saw a comment on instagram that said most of the Bombshells they saw were “unflattering”. I did a total spit take. If I believe anything in this world, its that almost every single woman I have seen in that swimsuit has looked and felt like a million bucks, feeling good in a swimsuit for maybe the first time in her life. Having my bedrock belief challenged in that way was really hard. But here’s the thing – she’s not wrong. Because that is what she thinks. It’s just subjective. I’m sorry if I’m going overboard italicizing and underlining here, but I just want to stress that so much of what we do, so much of what we make and write and create, is ours. It’s our take, our opinion, our view. At some point, we have to acknowledge that there is not always a right or wrong, but a like or dislike.

That same wise reader I quoted earlier wisely reminded me that you can’t please everyone. It’s actually impossible, as much as my inner control freak perfectionist would like that not to be the case. No matter how hard we work, be it on a garment we’re sewing or a pattern we’ve released, there will always be someone who just doesn’t like it. It’s a hard lesson to learn as someone who puts a product out there in the world. And unfortunately or not, because of whole wide universe of bodies out there, not everything works for everyone. Some patterns will need to be hacked to high hell to fit and that is just the way it goes. It’s not always easy to identify a drafting error, which is why I think it’s smart to not necessarily jump to conclusions if something needs to be modified to fit.

Having said all that, I do really love and appreciate constructive criticism, so keep it coming ladies.

Deep breath. Moving on.

I  think it’s crucial that the testing process include a wide range of figures. I have definitely been guilty of this in the past and it is something I am deeply conscious of moving forward. I did ask a few curvier pals to test for me but they couldn’t due to time constraints – I should have made a better effort to recruit other curvy gals. I think plus-size women feel marginalized enough in the fashion world, and our inclusive community should be a place where their voice is heard and valued. Because it is!

This is such a mammoth topic, I could really talk about it for hours, but I will just say in brief (haha, yeah right Heather) I HEAR YOU. As I said yesterday, I will be doing open tester calls in the future. I will use a mix of bloggers and non-bloggers a like, and I will be choosing people from a variety of skill and figure ranges. I will continue to ask my existing testing pool for help, since they’ve been so gracious and wonderful in the past, and they can choose whether or not a particular pattern is appealing or not, whether they want to share or not.

I highly encourage folks to take a look at yesterday’s comments – it was really enlightening. There were some impassioned, articulate responses and I was moved and encouraged by your words, and truly inspired to take a harder look at how this process will work going forward for my own company. Jen from Grainline, Tilly, and Eléonore from Deer & Doe all dropped in with their two cents about how they run testing for their respective companies – I found their responses utterly fascinating!

I am so thankful to everyone who piped in; you really make me so proud and grateful to be among your company. I hope to take everything you said very seriously moving forward; your insight is invaluable!

  • Angela M.

    A beautiful, eloquent post! I’d love to be a tester some day, and I wish you all the best in your future patterns. For one, I think the bombshell suits look great, and I have one high on my list this summer. Sigh.. I wanted to make it before vacation, didn’t get to, and have been sorry about it every day of vacation.

    • Thanks Angela! Book another vacation if you need an excuse!

  • Wow! Where have I been? Moving take a ton of time I guess. I’m just now catching up on all these posts about pattern testing. It’s a hot topic!

    When I was testing Nettie, I never would have expected you to pay me. I consider you a friend, and I was simply helping out when you needed me. Point blank. I hope that’s the case with all the other pattern testers, but maybe I’ve naive.

    • Maddie, HOW DARE YOU MOVE & LIVE YOUR LIFE WHILE AN INTERNET DEBATE RAGES AROUND YOU!!!

      Enjoy your new digs my sweet girl!

  • Ally

    Heather I really want to thank you for being so open and honest! To me at least, it shows how much you care about the community/your customers, and that you’re so open and willing to engage in a dialogue. I feel so much of the reason I got into handmade was to FEEL closer to my clothes, and for me a big part of that is feeling closer to the people (like you!) who designed them; to carry a bit of the style I respect so much with me, and maybe have a little piece of their sparkling essence rub off. I’ve been following the blogging community for a couple of year and had noticed a bit of “clique” I suppose, but to be honest, that whole group of people has been so kind to me! Additionally I never put as much time and work into my blog/sharing my work as they did so regularly; I guess I saw it as the more you give to something the more you get from it, and those 10-15 people give A LOT of their time/thoughts/love. Anywho! Just my two cents 🙂 Thanks for the great post!

    • PS I ALSO had been meaning to give a shoutout for being one of the only (other than Tasia of course) Canadian sewing bloggers! I go to school in Kingston, which always felt so distant and removed from the sewing world until YOUR blog popped up! So again, thank you 🙂

    • I am happy to rub my sparkly essence all over you.

      That sounded really gross. I apologize. xo

  • sasquatch

    What a wonderfully articulate post. Nice job.

  • I think there is a way for bloggers…and everyone for that matter…to deliver their “constructive criticism”.

    I’ve read all I could find on this topic since your post came out yesterday and I have to say some of the comments/posts about the patterns people are producing are so mean & hurtful. I’ve been sewing for about a year and have had disaster and after disaster, but I certainly don’t sledge the pattern maker because the garment doesn’t work for my body (or that I don’t have a clue how to hack it to make it work). I write my thoughts and move onto the next project.

    I’ve read posts saying XXX entire range of patterns are awful and who would ever wear that stuff “in the real world”. Like you said…it’s subjective, but there’s no need to be downright mean & rude!

    What goes onto the internet stays on the internet. I think everyone should be a little nicer and remember there are REAL people making these products…and that words can hurt. Be truthful of course, but measure your works.

    Oh look, I wrote an essay! Whoops!

    • Lucy

      So agree with this! I mean, there are a couple of uber-popular pattern companies that leave me cold – not my thing, doesn’t have the right vibe for me – but that’s cool (even though I sometimes feel I’m the only one in the world!) Other people worship them, and that’s cool too. And I can appreciate the work and design that goes into those patterns, even though they aren’t my style and I’d feel ridiculous in them.

      Especially as I run a business myself – but I don’t put much of myself into my work, not in the way a designer does. It must really suck to see/hear people running down that design that you spent so long working on.

      End note: when I have a sewing disaster, I’m always raging about the &%^$ing @%$#ing @%$*ing pattern – but deep down I know it’s alllll me. And that makes me ragey, too.

    • Well said Melanie! I’ve seen some stuff that was downright mean and it comes as such a shock since normally everyone is so nice and well behaved. Hopefully conversations like this will convince people with a bone to pick to do in a constructive way!

  • Thanks Heather these posts have been so great! After your last one I dug around online for debate type material on this issue and found some negative talk that I was really not into. It made me sad and also made me not want to blog or put myself out there anymore. Thanks to you though I feel much better, and I think that you are doing our whole sewing community a service by being so open, articulate, and supportive. Thank you so much!!

    • Oh Bella, don’t get discouraged by that bullsh*t! I think 99% of peolpe have a very nuanced understanding of what’s going on- the negative Nancies just seem more powerful because they can appear louder than the rest of us being a little more objective. I can honestly say discovering and participating in this community was the BEST thing I’ve ever done in my life (well, short of falling in love or eating ice cream). Get out there and be your best, most authentic self. You will almost certainly get nothing but love in return!

  • Grace

    Wow. I didn’t actually know why the big bloggers were talking about pattern testing lately, until just now. Talk about a internet binge!
    Some stray thoughts…
    I rely on pattern reviews (usually through patternreview.com) before I attempt a pattern. I’m a technical designer and it’s my JOB to pick apart fit so it comes second nature to me and I love to see what the “first fits” are looking like and what people have done to make a pattern work for them. I think I need to become more active on my own blog about my experiences. I’m tall and busty and I have a lot of sewing failures and successes alike. It’s just that blogging takes so much TIME! I have so much respect for you and the “blogger clique” and I really appreciate all of the content you provide. I feel a compelled to participate more… to return the favor, so to speak. I’ll certainly be volunteering to test your next pattern and I plan to post about the Nettie once I finally get around to cutting her out.
    In the past I’ve voiced some constructive criticism in a flicker forum for a particular indie pattern and it seemed to be beneficial to other sewers so I think I did the right thing, but what are your thoughts on how you would like to hear about or receive criticism?

    • I really like hearing people’s thoughts. I don’t always agree (the subjective thing again) and sometimes your first instinct is to question what people are saying, but I try very consciously to fight that instinct because its not healthy! Speak your mind Grace!

      If you’ve got a good fitting eye I’d love your input during my next sewalong! My next pattern is one of those “fitting challenges waiting to happen” and it would be great to have an expert give people pointers! I’m not a fit expert (yet?!) so I’m hoping to have some help in that department!

      • I’d love to be involved, even to just to participate!

  • I’ve been skimming all the posts flying around about this topic, and I think you finally nailed it on the head – it’s all subjective. And there’s no way any one designer can accommodate every body type. I think Sewaholic patterns are fabulous, but I can’t wear them without heavy modifications because they weren’t designed for me (a stick figure at best). Does that mean they are of lesser quality? Absolutely not. In fact, I bet there are a bunch of pear-shaped women out there rejoicing.

    So yeah, enough of all this drama. Let’s all just get back to sewing and designing. 😉

    • Corinne Begg

      Love your response, Lauren. EXACTLY what my perspective is on the issue as well!

  • Emma

    Dear indie pattern company owners and bloggers, you inspire me and I love the way you get on with it and work together. At the end of my day-job day I am happy to spend my wages on your patterns and support your businesses. To my mind so many of the designs are freaking awesome, but also it’s lovely to think that you can set up a business in this way. And I’m behind you 100‰ My only worry is that you are too tired from being so busy struggling to run your day jobs alongside a fledgling business. Mostly I’m a lurker around blog land, but I just wanted to give everyone a woop and say how inspiring your work is and tell you that you made a huge impact on my life by teaching me the joy of sewing through your work! Thank you! X

    • Hopefully it gets to a point where you can relax a little – its always rough the first few years of a business! Thanks for your kind words Emma!

  • Miriana

    As well as designing the most flattering swimming costume ever, you don’t half write well. And I ‘m glad that this debate has made the topic a bit less opaque.

  • My thoughts on this subject have evolved as a result of these discussions, so I really appreciate the opportunity you and others have provided to think through them. I find that two issues are sticking with me as I think: honest critical reviews and compensation for testing. I want to see honest constructive criticism from sewing bloggers, whether they’re official testers or not. This need not be mean-spirited; I’ve seen bloggers outline why a particular garment didn’t work out or took some fitting finesse without insulting the pattern designer. In the case of Michelle’s BHL Flora post, she pointed out a discrepancy between the envelope’s stated final garment measurement and actual measurement that should have been caught earlier. Did other testers notice it but didn’t want to say anything critical about the pattern, or even perhaps chose not to post about their Floras because they didn’t work? That information could help the rest of us make informed decisions or at least avoid frustration. As I said in Michelle’s post, I like to see honest reviews because it helps me decide where to spend my limited sewing dollars and because reviews that ignore problems may lead new sewers to believe their skills are lacking when that may not actually be the case. I have absolutely no problem paying a premium for independent patterns, but if there’s a problem with a pattern and no one’s talking about it, I could be wasting my money on something that will be a guaranteed frustration. That frustration will annoy me, but it could kill the enthusiasm of a new sewer who sees everyone raving about a pattern but can’t get it to work for him or her. This is why I think people should not just decline to post their reviews when they find that something doesn’t work for them. I understand wanting to keep quiet if you don’t have nice things to say, but you could provide a valuable service to new and even experienced sewers by posting your constructive criticism. If everyone posted their reviews, we may start to notice patterns, like that all sewers in the size 14 and up range had problems with particular patterns while people in sizes below 14 didn’t. That tells us bloggers in the above 14 range something useful about the utility of the pattern to us, and putting the word out that a particular designer doesn’t draft well for plus sizes might put pressure on them to do a better job.

    As far as getting paid, I initially thought that people shouldn’t be paid for testing patterns because it might influence their opinion of the pattern, but I’ve since been persuaded by some compelling arguments to the contrary. With the caveat that maybe these rules shouldn’t apply to a very new designer who doesn’t have a large pattern line that’s bringing a lot of cash (like you, Heather, though I hope that someday you will as you expand your pattern offerings), I do believe that the labor sewers provide in testing should be compensated because they are providing a service that is intended to help the pattern designer make money. From the comments in your prior post, it sounds like Colette, Sewaholic, and Grainline all compensate outside testers rather than using volunteer labor from bloggers. Why should other pattern companies have the advantage of free labor for this service at the expense of the time, effort, and skill of bloggers? All of these pattern lines are pretty established, as far as I can tell, so perhaps a person who is testing the waters with patternmaking or who is just starting out is more justified in calling upon a supportive community to lovingly volunteer some labor to help them get started. But once a person is doing well enough to make a healthy profit from their patternmaking efforts, it seems unfair to me for them to continue building their company on the unpaid labor of testers who provide a service that increases the status and earnings of the company.

    I think these are important issues that deserve the care you’ve been taking in thinking through your opinions, Heather. I’ve been seeing a lot of people dismiss these issues as they’ve come up, but I hope they would take some time to consider them and contribute to the dialogue you and other bloggers have opened up so thoughtfully.

    • Thanks for your thoughts Gina.

      I’m not sure if Colette or Sewaholic pay testers. I would go out on a limb and say they probably don’t. What I think they do is have private testing that is not blogged about, using volunteers from their newsletter group. But I can’t say for sure, I’m just guessing. Jen at Grainline pays a seamstress to make up ALL her samples and doesn’t use traditional testing at all which is what the Big 4 likely do as well.

      I personally don’t think testing needs to be paid but that’s my opinion. I am testing all the time for others. I enjoy the process very much. I would do it happily even if I wasn’t making patterns on my own, because the stuff I learn and discover in that process is more valuable than money. But that’s just me. Which is precisely why if people don’t think it’s fair to test for “free”, they don’t have to do it.

      Regarding that Flora post… I seriously don’t know what went wrong in that particular situation. I find BHL to generally be on point for ease (they actually work with less ease than most patterns!) and have never heard anyone else complain the sizing being off. That is the sort of thing that would get caught immediately in testing or mentioned in reviews, even if people are not being super critical. I think that design is just TRICKY. Woven wrap dresses are REALLY hard to fit – I had a hard time with that variation (the other variation was totally great) but i’ve had that problem with ALL woven wraps i’ve tried. I think I know enough about drafting at this point to realize that for me at least, it was really a fitting issue with my narrow shoulders and hollow chest. I could be wrong though. The subjective thing!

      • Jen

        Hey there! That’s actually not quite the way it works for me but I know how you got that from what I’ve said in the previous post’s comment. I may do a post in the future on this, we’ll see. I’m also definitely a far cry from a healthy profit over here and have no other marketing venues besides my blog, IG, Twitter, and the occasional retailer who does a giveaway with their stock of my patterns. As someone who did a lot of unpaid internships in school, one in NYC where I had to pay for rent, food, transportation, etc., most of them doing fitting and pattern work that someone should have been hired to do, I have a hard time enlisting free labor for something that contributes directly to my company making money. That’s just me though and everyone is different and every business runs differently and no one way is right or wrong. Anyway sorry, I’m just a bit bummed I just got compared to a big 4 pattern company in an unflattering way as I really put a lot of work into making sure my patterns fit as wide of a range of people as I can.

        • Oops, didn’t mean to compare you to Big 4! Re-reading that comment and I can see I wasn’t being clear about what I meant. Not enough coffee. Just meant that I think they have someone sew up all their samples in house rather than using unpaid pattern testers, but obviously you are much more thorough and meticulous about the way you test. Your reputation attests to that. I shouldn’t have spoken for you and I apologize. I don’t know the ins and outs of everyone’s businesses so I shouldn’t be lumping anyone together; really not my place to be talking about it at all. I love your work AND the way your run your business so I’m sorry if I stepped on any toes there.

          It’s funny you mention interns; I was discussing my plans with a friend who works in fashion last night and she said “Just get some interns!” and I felt really uncomfortable at the idea. She made a pretty good case for it (a lot of kids coming out school who may not be confidant in the job market and WANT to work with small startups to learn the ropes) but maybe I’ve just read too many articles about the new intern economy…. Hopefully I’ll get to a point where I can hire outside help. Until then, hello 80 hour work weeks!

          I almost worry these last few posts have stirred stuff up more than necessary and I hope that people don’t feel obligated to share the ins and outs of how they run their businesses. Mari at Seamster wrote that because so much of our work is public, it can feel like there is an expectation to be transparent about everything. I don’t think that’s a fair expectation. You or I or anyone should do what we see fit and share what we want to share. As long as the product is good, that’s all that matters, right?

          Again Jen, sorry! Really feel bad. You know I’m a total Grainline cheerleader, right?

  • This whole discussion is great and hope there is and continually will be a better understanding between the Pattern Companies and customers/bloggers. When I see some of the nasty comments, to me, it always feels like someone is just butt hurt and needs to complain about something. I do think there should be more diversity in pattern testing and I do understand why it is not that way. Especially for a new companies, you want testers who are reliable, honest and perhaps someone that will help you become more success, even if it means you are only asking your friends to test for you. Because guess what, your friends probably fit those qualifications. However, having an open call, mixed with some of the regulars is a good idea. I also don’t think having negative post on pattern testing makes too much sense (unless changes have not been made to the pattern), but maybe we don’t need post about tested garments all together. However, I do like Patten-testing post.
    I think one of the topics that upset me the most is price comparison of Indie-Patterns vs Big 4. Some people think Indie Patterns are overprice and some possibly are, but you can’t compare those buy 5 for $5 deals at JoAnns to Indie companies. I have paid full price for a Big 4, its about the same. I think I have seen someone say Indie companies should offer their patterns for free. How, can you compare a product that is run by 1 person to a corporation that has been around for years. Every time I go to class, no one has heard of the Indie Designers I use, while they are fitting their McCalls/Vogue Patterns. How can you compare with household names?
    I do hope we as a community become more open and honest and yet still respectful of each other. At the same time, I hope we don’t get into dictating how people should do post on their own blogger, because that gets into scary territory. Perhaps, a few bloggers and designers can start a trend of transparency, that can become the normal. Thanks so much for these wonderful post and open discussions. Hope my rant was not offensive to anyone. I need to go to bed, since I did just apparently nodded of for a sec.
    FYI, my curves are now available is you need them 😉 Oh, and my Nettie is half way finished. YAY!

    • Sweet! Let me know how your Nettie fits! And I think butt hurt is the best expression ever, haha

  • Such an interesting topic. Like everyone else, I really admire your honesty. I think you have shared something wonderful with these two posts. Not just about this topic, but about generally handling controversy and debate in this terrifying online world. In the kindly sewing-blog world, it is (for some!) so easy to shy away from posting anything even remotely opinionated. I know that, exactly as you described, I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep knowing that somewhere out there, some random person might be thinking negative thoughts towards me or my blog. It’s reassuring to know that you also have these feelings and you manage to push through them and keep on going with your beautiful blog and patterns 🙂

    In the end, there’s nothing to be done about needlessly negative people. At least in this lovely community it is relatively uncommon. And just imagine how boring the world would be if we all liked and disliked the same things!

    • Thanks Zoe! We all need thicker skins and more empathy – that’s the perfect balance!

  • Rose from Thule

    I’m not 100% behind the statement that’s pointless to adress fit issues when reviewing or testing. Of course, the majority of “fit issues” are not issues, but our own idiosyncrasies. However, sometimes the pattern IS off. When the fit is wacky in the same way on 99% of the reviewers/testers, one can safely assume that there *is* a problem with the pattern. It’s true for Big4 patterns, Burda patterns and indie patterns as well. That’s precisely why getting patterns thoroughly tested by real home sewists on a wide range of bodies and shape is a huge opportunity and a big added value for indie pattern companies (vs Big4, for instance), provided the feedback is frank and taken into account. Kind of a quality label.

    Whatever, I join the ranks of the wannabe pattern testers and wait for your next call 😀

  • Marie Forest

    Really great posts Heather, I really enjoyed reading all the comments. Thank you for starting the discussion. I really admire all the time, love, effort you and other designers put into your patterns. I would like also to thank you about the advices you give this last year, about fabric shops in Montreal and repair shop. I just bought a really nice sewing machine at Pentar, and the service there is so great (my really old one broke and couldn’t do zig zag anymore and the broken part is not available 🙁 . Can’t wait now to try the nettie 🙂 .

  • LisaSmallThings

    Heather, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and thus giving readers a place to share their opinions. I’ve spent all morning reading up on the issues raised and have learned a great deal!

    The online sewing and blogging community is a young one, and it’s only natural that we need to shape it and correct it now and then. I hope that indie designers will take these discussions to learn from, but I know they will since everybody wants to grow and find the best way. On the other hand I hope that bloggers will try to give more balanced reviews, which will probably also mean posting about something that you’re not entiry happy about. I hope that constructive criticism will become more the norm rather than just not posting about something you don’t like.

    A lot of the difficulties come from the fact that the community is composed of many different individuals and companies and that we do not all share the same goal. Every blog is it’s own and indie companies cannot tell them what to post, even in the case where you’d ask to post something you didn’t enjoy making.

    We already know how to encourage en support each other, maybe giving and receiving constructive criticism is something we have to teach ourselves as a community, because it will benefit us all.

  • Corinne Begg

    As someone who is currently in the process of designing her first sewing patterns & about to enter the testing process, I’m super-grateful for your posts on this topic. I LOVED this final post – completely resonated with me & gave me some food for thought. Thanks so much for bringing up the discussion!

    • Thanks Corinne and good luck with new pattern!

  • This is why I love reading sewing blogs, blogging about sewing, sewing along with the sewing community online and what not– it all can be so thoughtful, responsive, supportive and all that jazz. You can’t please us all in one swoop. Now bust out more killer patterns… I’ma waitin.

    • Hopefully by end of August/early September!

  • sallieforrer

    Wow indeed, dude! I spent pretty much my ENTIRE Tuesday reading all the new comments that kept popping up on your post, and following all the links you posted and reading all of THOSE comments – and my head was literally spinning. I think I had two or three email drafts to you that I later deleted because they made no sense – wrote and deleted MANY responses to others comments, and finally had to take a deep breath and step outside! All of this to say – for whatever reason, and as minor as it may seem – this topic clearly touches a nerve with this community!
    I think the positive thing here is that Indie companies like you can actually RESPOND to constructive criticism! Large companies – and even some large indie companies – feel unapproachable. As the people buying their patterns we sometimes shake our fists in silent exasperation at a sleeve head with too much ease or the craziest looking crotch curve we’ve ever seen, but rarely do we feel that our complaints are heard. And THAT’S why I think this revolution we’re seeing of more one-woman-shows starting up pattern companies that are made in a RESPONSE to the lack they’re seeing on the market is so important. It’s not just certain styles or cuts that are lacking from the sewing pattern world – it’s also companies that are actually responsive to their market.
    And with that being said, I want to commend you on YET AGAIN hearing and responding to criticism (I know it wasn’t necessarily about your patterns, but it was about indie pattern companies in general) and responding in an elegant, mature, and professional way. You’re my hero, Heather.
    And lastly, and somewhat off topic-y, I keep being reminded of something I think I read on Poppykettle’s blog when she was doing her couture class with Susan Khalje – that a pattern is just a starting point – it’s the catalyst for creation for the home sewer. I think we place so much importance on the pattern, but really it’s what we as individuals do with it that can turn it into a beautiful example of our craft. And it’s that individual vision that I look to for inspiration in this community. I love when people hack a pattern, disregard fabric suggestions, or adjust a pattern beyond recognition. I love when people don’t follow the rules. That’s what inspires me about the sewing community. And, quite frankly, that’s what I look for in a sewing pattern.
    Thanks again, love, for sharing your time and thoughts and talents with us. You’re one of a kind.

    • I miss you. I wish you lived next door. *Long distance hug*

  • MrsGarlicHead

    I loved reading your thoughts on this and wanted to add that I have never so far found any of the pattern testings/reviews offputting in any way. The enthusiasm for the Indie design patterns always seemed genuine to me. (Now if you look at food or lifestyle blogs, it is a whole other story. Sponsered posts are so annoying and make me unfollow very quickly).
    I love that you are taking the concerns of the community serious and that you plan to include a variety of testers for your next patterns! I think you are doing a great job in growing business with a positive impact and I really happy to support you with the great sacrifice of sewing myself a fabulous bombshell.

    • Sponsored posts are so tricky…. people are trying to make a living blogging and sometimes its just part of the deal. Two blogs I think who handle the sponsored content really well are A Beautiful mess and Emily Henderson – its always integrated well and really something they would use IRL. Its something I’ve given some thought to since if I ever do make patterns full time I may need diverse revenue streams for slow periods… but its a tricky issue! Not sure how or if I’ll go down that road…

      • MrsGarlicHead

        I can totally understand that and I dont think sponsored posts are wrong per se, and seeing how thoughtful you are about these matters I think you are going to handle it well.

  • Connie Bontje

    I’ve often wondered about how designers choose their pattern testers. Having tested for a couple of pattern lines, I’ve enjoyed the experience – and agree that sometimes seeing the same-old same-old testers gets a little boring. I’m enjoying the reading here and was reminded today that I need to get further along on my Bombshell!

  • wow, I had no idea all this drama existed around testing and cliques! in case anyone is unsure on how I do my testing, here’s how it has gone down for me: for my first three patterns, I did all the testing myself. sewed each size and each view and checked for errors. but then here’s the issue: if I’m the only one looking at it, I will miss a problem in the pattern somewhere.

    so when I went to do the Emery dress, I had an open call to have people test it. I chose from 100’s of testers to find a diverse range of body types and chose ladies whom I thought would like the style of the dress based on their profiles. because I am 100% out to catch any possible pattern issues, that means that I prefer to use a seamstress that is intermediate to advanced, and in order to access the sewing ability of the volunteers, those with blogs were mostly chosen because I could see their previous work. I did ask for people to send in images, but many sent in images that were hard to tell how well the items were sewn, and since I really was looking for them to catch problems, I wanted to know that they were competent and detail oriented seamstresses.

    those that agreed to do it with very short turn around times were beyond lovely and all they got in return was a free pattern from me after it returned from printing. I featured them on my blog, with their permission, and many of them that had blogs posted about their testing. but this was in no way a requirement, and as the pattern still needed work, I was actually rather nervous about the whole thing as I didn’t want it to be perceived as “done” when we were “testing”.

    as for on-line debates and feelings hurt, it’s such a hard thing to handle. somedays I am fine and working hard and nothing gets to me, but then one day you’ve just had it *up to here* and someone says something bad about your patterns, and that’s just all it takes to get you pulled in. I can say that once I snapped at a blogger and felt terrible about it. it wasn’t because they didn’t like the pattern that made me upset, rather that they were saying untrue things about it, like the seam allowance isn’t included, or pattern pieces are missing.

    the honest truth is that no one fits a pattern right out of the envelope perfectly, and I (and likely other designers) expect that fit changes are part of the deal, so if someone is mad that they didn’t get a perfect fit without a FBA and they are size DD and my pattern is drafted for a B cup, that doesn’t upset me at all. that’s part of fitting. and not all pattern styles are suited for all body types! I trust that others reading the posts can tell the difference between poorly drafted and a lack of custom fit changes.

    anyway, this is a seriously interesting topic and a debate that I didn’t know was even going on. I have no idea if anyone else pays their testers, what the state of the pattern is when it’s tested, or anything else. but what I do know is how hard it is to do all of this by yourself and that each of us in this is here because we love it and we all work seriously hard at it. even those that are bigger, like Colette for example, work insanely hard. Sarai is a friend and I can say that she works her butt off. so just remember that behind every business is a very tired and overworked person, who is just doing their best!

    • Good to know! Everyone has their own way, and I don’t think one model is necessarily better than another. Good work is good work!

      I remember I once had someone complain that my instructions were terrible and I should have gotten someone from Colette or Sewaholic to write them (!!!!!!!) That was a bad day. Especially because I AGONIZE over those darned things. Trying to grow a thicker skin but its hard sometimes!

  • English Girl at Home

    I’ve loved both your posts on this topic. I’ve been travelling so it’s taken me until now to get typing! I hate to see negatively (I’m not taking about honesty or constructive feedback here, but actual negativity) in this lovely online sewing community, but I think the best thing that has come out of this discussion is that it’s been great to understand a bit more about indie pattern companies & designers. Personally I’d love to be as tester because I think we are a community and we support each other. Long may it continue!

  • Gina R

    I want to complain about some major fitting issues… and it’s because I am almost 42 weeks pregnant. I am ready to sew up my Nettie, knowing that I don’t get to try it on for a while. I thought that the pattern was flattering on everyone I have seen thus far. I’m 28 years old, and I wore body suits at age 7. I had a white long sleeved eyelet one that all the adults told me was “so cute.” I was embarrassed to wear it because my nipples showed through the eyelets. I was thinking of replicating that with a shelf bra. I thought that might make you smile. Thanks for the hard work.

    • HAHAHAHA! I’m dying. I DEFINITELY think the shelf bra is a wise idea. Unless you want something practical for breast feeding!

      • Gina R

        I figured that it would be nursing friendly because of the wide neckline and front and back scoops to slide off my shoulders like a leotard. Pretty awesome!

        • As long as your nipples don’t show through the eyelets! heehehehhe

  • Anna

    Heather, thanks for being so honest, it’s nice to hear that designers care and are trying their best to please their customers. I’m not a blogger, but I love making my own clothes, and I really enjoy sewing with indie patterns. I almost always have to make fit adjustments as I’m taller than average and a bit busty, so when I look at a pattern I try and figure out how much modification it would take to get it to fit well, and usually try and go for the ones that don’t need too much modification (your Nettie is awesome in this respect btw). When a new pattern in released though I often just don’t read the reviews/posts about the tested pattern from the usual bloggers because they always do the same fit modifications and it’s monotonous… From my point of view It would be very informative to see how different size/body type people deal with a certain pattern. I understand it’s not always feasible but it certainly would be nice.
    Thanks and keep the sexy patterns coming!

  • What a great debate, seems like a good time and place to be sharing all these thoughts. One thing you mentioned yesterday was about drafting, and I always find it a bit weird that people say things like ‘oh, it was so well drafted, it fit me without any alterations’ as surely this does not mean it was well drafted but luckily made for a body shape like yours! Personally I don’t know exactly the criteria to be used in order for a pattern to be described as ‘well drafted’, would be interesting to hear from someone (anyone!) more knowledgeable than me about what that involves.

    It is definitely helpful to know about the basic body shape around which a pattern was designed. Sewaholic are great because I know that I am not the same shape as a pear (broad shoulders) so while some patterns fit me and suit me (and I love Tasia’s patterns and have made several) others will not. Similarly, Colette patterns seem to be made for a bustier more petite lady than myself but then if Sarai is using herself as the basic block then of course that would make sense.

    I saw the post Jen from Grainline posted the other day about people expecting email replies immediately at all times of the day and night – crazy! People do expect a lot of you but all in all, I think that so many of us love independent pattern companies and think all of you are doing a great job x

    • kathleen

      I upvoted for the observation that “well drafted” is often used because the user didn’t need to make fitting changes. Fortunately, the definition of “well drafted” is less ambiguous altho interpretation (perception of standards) will always vary.

      In the most basic sense, a good pattern is one that sews together with all seams matching -within tolerance. So what is tolerance? The pattern maker may decide their tolerance for accuracy is 1/64th of an inch while the customer may think 1/4″ is fine so there is no conflict. However, if the customer thinks 1/64th +/- is acceptable but the patternmaker thinks 1/4″ is fine, then there are problems with two possible solutions. One, the customer is better off finding patterns made by pickier pattern makers, or two, the patternmaker may decide to up their game. In their defense tho, it is close to impossible to get more accurate than 1/16th if you don’t have a cad system.

      If you make pattern professionally (meaning, it is your trade/career) you tend to have more discriminating commercial customers and will have to follow their tolerances if you want to keep working. In such cases -returning to the topic of pattern testers- the pattern must be sewn up by somebody else in order to prove it. Just this weekend, a new customer was surprised that I pay other people to sew my patterns before I will approve them for production. Among professionals, the question is not whether the patternmaker can sew the pattern correctly (heaven help us all if they cannot) but whether someone else can.

      As to the rest of the debate on pattern testing; “the smaller the stakes, the more vicious the politics”. Don’t recall who said that but it is so true in my experience.

      • As ever Kathleen, your POV is invaluable! THanks for chiming is, as you are definitely one of the internet authorities on these matters. And you could not be more right regarding the viciousness vs. stakes comment…

  • laglov

    Hey there, I am reluctant to chime in since I don’t really have a problem with Indie pattern designers finding any way they can to get feedback AND visibility for their patterns. I can’t imagine not capitalizing on bloggers to test and create an appetite for a new Indie offering. I just wanted to give a little feedback regarding the pool of pattern testers. My daughter and I are both sewers. when we are together we are a hive of activity and we are both pretty avid consumers of Indie patterns. In fact, I just made my daughter 3 Netties for her birthday, and man, oh man, does she ever look amazing in them! The thing that gets me is that I keep hearing women my age—50 something and a little lumpy– talking about how much they love patterns like the Nettie, but could of course never wear it. While I would be the first to agree that decorum should rule the day and they are some things you just don’t want to see, I think there are plenty of women of all ages and shapes that would look kick-ass in a Nettie. For me, part of the problem is that most pattern testers look a lot more like my daughter than me. I get that. There is a reason why the models they get to sell RTW clothes look the way they do—-they make you want to buy the clothes. I think in this regard, however, Indie pattern designers have an opportunity to push back against the stereotypes especially since sewing is a world in which individual creativity and style are prized over perfect proportions, It’s definitely not the fault of the designers. We just seem to have this collective acquiescence that there is no way someone over 40 could carry off certain looks, and I think it is partially because we so seldom see women over 40 in the testing pools. Again not the fault of the designers—-it seems to be a synergy that exists in the sewing blogosphere. Honesly, it would never occur to me to sew myself a Nettie, but if I ever saw any of these dames modeling it, I would be having second and third thoughts about that: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-5fntW6v6gCk/UFoW9DxFo1I/AAAAAAAAEQE/cjweum-tYFo/s1600/IMG_5095+copy.jpg

    • I want to have a cocktail with those gals, really bad! There is a great blog that highlights “women of a certain age” rocking some serious style (forgive me as its been a long day and I can’t remember the name) that is so inspiring! Fashion should be fun and make you feel good – rules schmules! I always got so mad when I saw those fashion spreads on “dressing for your 40, 50s, 60s” etc. How about dressing for your life?!

  • Jennifer R

    Heather, thanks for being so open, I really don’t think you’re sharing too much, and I’ve really enjoyed this discussion and appreciate your response. From the outside it looks like you’ve done everything right and honestly with your work and I think it’s noble you’re so focussed on improving. I’ve never minded seeing the same cast of characters at each rollout they are all amusing writers and multitalented. It makes perfect sense to choose them for all they have to offer. I just think there could be more distinction between what is really testing and what is marketing the pattern. And even in that case I think it’s sort of a self correcting problem. If people sound like a broken record there will be a natural lose of interest and at some point brands would have to find a new way to distinguish themselves anyway.

  • Kate & Rose

    I know the original post was days ago but I’m just getting to see it. I’m a terrible commenter, sorry, Heather, and I’ve been reading your blog for a while! But this is such an important topic I couldn’t resist.

    Since my brief career in patternmaking started with RTW it initially never occurred to me that pattern testing might be a ‘thing’ in the indie design work. At the time I worked with a commercial patternmaker and we checked each pattern piece and each size but fit issues for all sizes were not something we’d dream of fixing. She was located in Hungary (I’m not, but she was the contact I had and it made sense at the time to work with her) – but I suspect things aren’t hugely different elsewhere. For my first pattern I didn’t do pattern testing with anyone I could reach via blogs/social media. Just tried it on friends of different sizes/body types and checked each pattern piece and size.

    For the second release (three patterns), I did do pattern testing, partly because I felt so overwhelmed that I didn’t think I could do a good enough job catching problems without a wider set of people looking at the pattern/instructions. I did also reach out to a few bloggers with larger readerships whose style I admire because I thought they have so much experience testing that what they say will be meaningful (IF they choose to say anything at all). (I also thought – well, these are bloggers I follow, I’d like to at least email-meet them! Very businesslike of me, I know.) By the way, I’d like to give a special shout-out to Oona because her feedback really was incredibly helpful. Like, kind-professor-who-teaches-you-something-for-real helpful (this is a frequent comparison that pops into my mind because I used to teach college.)

    But most of the testing was private, by people who responded to my call for testers. You’ll mostly not see their feedback or photos because they don’t all have blogs and are not all on social media, and some never got past the muslin phase, and for some the pattern didn’t end up working out. Some weren’t comfortable photographing themselves or just didn’t want the photo they sent me made public. And of course in some cases the photos showed problems I had to fix.

    (I imagine some of my testers thought I was horrifyingly disorganized (for example, my little girls brought home a big ole’ virus from school which delayed two of the three patterns getting sent out by several weeks – well, such is family life, at least at my house), but to be honest, I was so deeply grateful for every bit of feedback I got that, well, it’s okay by me if people think I’m crazy and incapable of staying on top of things. (They are probably right, actually.))

    But a huge part of seeing what others thought/made of my patters was this: when I got a photo of a finished garment from someone who really liked what they made, I had an overwhelming sense that it was worth it – all the times of staying up late, skipping meals, sometimes (ahem) putting screens in front of my kids because I really needed to work – because WOW, someone made something really cool with my pattern! OF COURSE it’s an added bonus if a blogger writing about the pattern also has a large readership. That’s often how I find out about things too…

    • The fit issue is really a tricky one. I am working on something now that I know will be problematic for a lot of people but that is the nature of the beast! I think part of the fun of sewing is making patterns work for your body, COME HELL OR HIGHWATER!

      I loved your new collection, btw. That dress Oona made this week made we want to get my Gunne Sax on something fierce!

  • Tina

    Great conversation, love your patterns, love your contribution. That said, I’ll add my bit (such that it is). Like laglov before me I sew a lot of indie, sew a lot of the bigs, draft some myself—- and for the most part I do feel marginalized b/c I am older— (60) and not the hotsy I was earlier on, there is more of me to love and adore. It’s not a bad thing, it is what it is. I think that anyone can wear anything if it is tweaked for them personally. I’m getting my courage up to make a Bombshell. I’ll need to wiggle that thang a little but I am incredibly intrigued to try. I haven’t made a Nettie but I love it. For me….. the neck would have to be a bit higher and I’d have to line it up with my drafted ‘classic’ as well as carefully consider what it is worn with. If something truly FITS it’s amazing what one can wear! The new fashions are all about the now and the fresh and for the most part best worn by same. That is not to say that those of us who have not passed our expiration date yet not in the fresh bloom can’t make it work. Re: Testing—– the tester needs to fit the ‘mold/vision’ of the designer as well as have a high blog presence. Indie isn’t the same as rolling in dough after all—- and many testers may not BE either in the shoes of those outside the ‘norm’ OR have the skills to fiddle and fuss a bit with a pattern for testing. The takeaway must be that we respect each other as sewists, where we are in our journey of life and our skills as well as remember that there is almost always something for everyone. For the most part, aren’t we lucky that creatives are kind souls?? We should remember that a tester is an individual with their own opinions and their skills may or may not be like the designers and that just might impact their final outcome.

    My bottom line is that indie patterns are just like the Bigs….. collect them, own them, love them, admire them. You don’t HAVE to make them for heaven’s sake! And in owning an indie you’re contributing to a fragile art.

  • Kathleen

    I wanted to comment on the other post but due to time I really couldn’t. My only comment on pattern testing is I would actually be very taken back by a blogger posting negative reviews if they are a tester. They are suppose to be giving feedback to the creator to help make the product better. To go on an bash that product on their blog would be rather underhanded in my view.

    As for the positive reviews by the pattern testers. Let’s all remember these are private blogs. If we start getting uppity about how they should and shouldn’t post we are going to lose a very valuable resource.

    As for the business side, I’m really impressed. You are really trying hard to respond to comments that I think are a bit out of line. Getting upset about indie patterns getting exposure on popular blogs……ummm that’s genius marketing. But I guess I never thought anyone was getting paid to be a mouthpiece for any business. But as a businesswoman you are trying to take those ideas to heart and see if there is a solution. That’s very impressive, I suspect you will go far.

    PS For what it is worth I was very impressed how lovely everyone looked in their bombshells.

    • Jennifer R

      I think you’re right, anyone who has been working with the pattern maker who then turns around and publicly bashes the pattern would be behaving badly. My only concern is sometimes what is called pattern testing isn’t really about improving the pattern. If someone is simply given a promo version of the pattern in time to make it up by the launch date, I would really appreciate it if they would just give an honest review of whether they would buy the pattern because that’s the question I will be asking myself as I read. Absolutely each blogger choses how they want to proceed. But I can choose who I read to and for me the ones who can give me a more balanced review are going to get more of my time.

      • Kathleen

        You make a good point….calling it pattern testing when it is really promotional is sleazy. And I have come across posts where I wonder if it really is pattern testing. I know everyone loves to hate on the Big 4 patterns and I tend to find the reviews for those companies to be rather harsh but very helpful. Compared to those reviews the sewing blogsphere practically softballs the indie pattern reviews. More balanced reviews would be wonderful and would go a long way to help me purchase more indie patterns.

        It is interesting, writing this reply made me realize something: I don’t believe or trust the reviews of the indie patterns. It isn’t that I think the bloggers are being dishonest. It is just I think they are talking about the products of their friends and colleagues. They just aren’t going to be able to bring the same critical attitude towards the indie patterns as they are to the Big 4 even if they try. Since they aren’t as critical, they aren’t as helpful and they aren’t going to help convince me to buy a pattern.

        I agree with what you are saying.

        • The proof is in the pictures, as it were. If you like what someone has made and it fits well – that’s the best indication of whether or not you’ll like a pattern. I don’t think anyone is doing major modifications and not mentioning it. I’d hate to think people are avoiding trying a new pattern because the pattern in question got a good review and they don’t trust it merely because the designer is an indie…

  • melissa

    You never hear about the patterns gone wrong, the ones that didnt fit. The testers seems to always LoVE the pattern and never complain about anything, sizing, fit, pattern directions. I dont take much stake in pattern reviews, just have to make it myself to see. Thanks for this great article

    http://sewingmelissa@blogspost.com

  • zilredloh

    Great post once again. I couldn’t read through all the comments right now, but I just had to say Sewaholic doesn’t do ‘private testing’. She has an email go out to all subscribers and the first X amount that respond are the pattern testers. This is a great way to do things since you get all walks of people-shapes and experience levels all in one go. 😀

  • Amy

    Oh my gosh, look what I missed! What a great topic, Heather and ooo-weee you gone and done hit a hot button! I read like mad through both posts and bazillion comments and was completely lost! Thank you for being so vulnerable to start this conversation. I have given this subject a lot of thought and probably stopped and started a million posts in my head about it but just end up going delete delete.

    Definitely seems like a big part of the conversation is about both pattern testing and pattern reviewing, and if the two should meet. I stopped writing “reviews” on the internet in general (nope, I don’t even do Yelp), not because I don’t find them helpful from time to time but find that, as you say, so much of it all (taste, fit, and even instructions which depend on culture too) is subjective. Patterns to me are like templates which are made to be interpreted and hacked (hence my distaste of Ikea diagrams!).

    Another thing I’m curious about and lurking underneath all this is a discussion about target demographics. What’s wrong with indie companies having one? The fashion industry would be dead if companies didn’t clearly define theirs and I like when start-up indie pattern companies have a defined demographic, even if I don’t fit into it. I can see pretty clearly when I’m not a company’s demographic (whether that’s age, lifestyle, body type or sewing experience), and take that into account when I sew up their patterns. So I think it’s perfectly okay to keep calling on a select group of people to test (whether bloggers or not), because you are designing with them in mind. Seriously, as someone who has been sewing for over 25 years, we have it gooood compared to when I was starting out. I’m so thankful for the diversity of designers coming out now… compared to even ten years ago, look at what we have now! It’s mind-blowing.

    Anyway, keep on girl. Starting a business is so tough! You are starting in a fantastic way. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  • Shelly

    I just came across this post and your last one and all the comments that followed. Thank you so much for writing this and for starting this discussion…it has been very interesting to read it all! I test a lot of children’s patterns, and have tested a few women’s patterns as well and I love doing it more than anything…I am totally happy to do it in exchange for the pattern, or for free in the case of the pattern never being released. The one thing that does really bother me is that (and I know your post doesn’t address this specifically) is that recently I have noticed several designers asking for testers to pay for the pattern in advance and they will be refunded once they have completed testing. I actually find this practice very offensive, as I spend a lot of time, money, and energy on pattern testing and it just seems really ungrateful on the part of the designer. I know designers have problems with unknown testers defaulting, but shouldn’t that be something for them to work out?! Anyways, i know this is a bit off topic, but I guess I wanted to rant about it! Lol. Thank you again…your viewpoints are refreshing!

    • That is an abhorrent practice. I’ve never heard of this before! If you want to ask people to donate their time, you really have to be okay with people not necessarily being able to finish on your schedule.

  • I was a pattern tester years ago when Colette first launched. I tested the Chantilly dress pattern and it just wasn’t for me. (I know her patterns work great for a lot of people but it’s not for my body shape. And that’s ok!) I sent in the feedback but never posted about it on my blog. It didn’t seem fair to review something publicly that was not a final product. On a related note, in the US by law, if you are given a product or compensation for a blog post, you must clearly disclose it.

    I’ve been wanting to start making patterns since I started my blog over 7 years ago. While I’ve done a lot of tutorials and some simple patterns, making one for an actual garment has been daunting because of how much time and dedication it takes. So, major kudos to you for all of your hard work! I hope one day soon I can do it too. Thank you for sharing your journey as a designer!

  • Lisette

    I think you’ve made a lot of really great points. The only thing I remain a stickler on is widening the pool of testing/reviewing talent. Unless a pattern is specifically designated as a “difficult” or “intermediate” pattern, you shouldn’t have just the best sewing bloggers out there testing it. Sure, have some. But isn’t a beginner, for whom the pattern is designed, going to give you a better review?
    And while I respect the same “clique” doing the reviewing over and over again, there’s really no excuse for each of them to all review the same patterns from the same companies every time a new one comes out. There is such a huge number of extremely talented sewing bloggers out there at this point that it should be easy to mix it up. I’m much more excited and interested when I see a new name on a testing list. Most of the time now if it is one of those same people testing I don’t even bother to read the post because I feel bored with it.