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Have you Thought About Becoming a Pattern Tester?

By Di, Jun 11 2019 02:20PM

Have you ever wondered how a garment pattern gets to the point when we can buy it either as a paper copy or a pdf? There are many stages from a design concept through drafting, redrafting, sampling, grading, writing instructions, drawing, photographing through to merchandising.

A good company will want to involve other makers in the process to test the pattern to provide an objective view of all aspects. To do this well they need testers from a broad spectrum of society including a range of ages, sizes, heights etc.

How to get involved.

The way companies source pattern testers varies, but it’s often via their newsletter, website and frequently on social media. An internet search will throw up some interesting results. I’ve even been known to contact companies and ask.

Things to consider

There are many great quality pattern companies, however there are also some who lack the necessary experience in an important element of creating a quality pattern with easy to follow instructions.

There's often quite a fast turn around so be sure you have the time, especially if you have to order fabric and wait for it to arrive.

> You normally get a free copy of the pattern, but it might not be the finished version. As a reward some companies offer discounts on other patterns in their range.

> You usually have to use your own fabric and notions which can be expensive if you don’t like the finished garment, the pattern is badly drafted or the instructions difficult to follow ending up with an unwearable garment.

> There’s no monetary renumeration.

> You may have to give permission for the company to use photographs of your finished item and they expect you to post and tag them on your own social media accounts .

> You’re providing free advertising.

> As you’ve been gifted the pattern you legally have to say so in your social media posts.

That does all sound potentially negative, however it’s important to enter into the process with your eyes open and possibly only sign up to test patterns from trusted companies you’re prepared to promote and ones who’s style you like to wear.

One of the positives of the social media coverage is that it not only raises your own profile, perhaps more importantly if you don’t fit the usual ‘model’ profile you’ll be raising the visibility of different age groups, cultures, body types etc. Hopefully companies will see the benefit of this diversity and be encouraged to widen their horizons in their marketing strategy. I'm involved with SewOver50 and we're working to see greater representation of garment makers in this age group used in pattern merchandising.

I’ve enjoyed pattern testing as it uses my dressmaking and professional skills. It helps to slow down my sewing output which is a positive thing as I’m determined to only make things that I’m going to wear often, otherwise I’m just contributing to the over production of clothing.

What will you be expected to do?

What's expected will vary between companies, some provide a questionnaire to help you focus on specific issues.

Here's a list of things to consider to help to make pattern testing a positive experience.

Make notes as you go along and take pictures of things you want to remember or you think might help the company.

If you've been sent the illustrations that will advertise the pattern consider if they're appealing, will they encourage you to buy the pattern? Are they accurate, are all the features obvious? Is there an accurate description of the garment including terms to describe the fit, length and all of the design features?

I have a particular interest in ensuring text and garment patterns are accessible to all, taking into account the different ways people learn, the need for them to be dyslexia friendly and considering the needs of those with English as a second language. Which means I look carefully at whether the font is easy to read and if it prints at an accessible size.

Some fonts are easier to read than others.
Some fonts are easier to read than others.

I like to print the instructions because some people will prefer a paper copy, so it’s important to see if they’re formatted correctly. Do the instructions display on screen accurately? I like to read the instructions at this point to get an overview of what I'm making.

Are the instructions easy to understand?

> The introductory instructions, are they clear and in a logical order?

> Do the technical drawings show the design features like darts, gathers etc clear, especially if there is more than one version of the garment, are the differences clear?.

> Size charts and any additional sizing information, are there finished measurements?

> Meterage and other items you need to buy.

> Is the size of the seam allowances clear. I like to know the seam allowance early on as I don’t often follow instructions! It’s important to find the info quickly if I’m teaching and I’m presented with the pattern.

> Instructions for printing the pattern, are there options for different print formats?

It’s at this stage I print the pattern and check it thoroughly before buying fabric.

> Is there a test square?

> How easy is it to match the pages, what points of reference are there?

> Have all the pieces printed?

> Are any of the pieces printed so they overlap? If so this is a good thing to photo as it explains the problem easily.

> Does the position of the pieces make the best use of the paper, could slight repositioning eliminate a complete row of A4 sheets?

> Is each size clearly identified either by colour or different line styles?

> Does each piece have a grain line or fold line marked?

> Is each piece cleary labelled, does it tell you how many pieces to cut?

You can either cut out your size or cut round the individual pieces. This might depend on how confident you are about the sizing. Like any pattern you might need to merge sizes and make basic alterations like body length. I’d want to check hem lengths to be sure I end up with a wearable item.

I like to check the pattern carefully.

> I measure the finished measurements.

> Make sure seams are the same length

> Are the facings the same shape as the area they’ll be stitched to.

> This will help avoiding a potential disaster and provide essential feedback to the company.

Next I follow the cutting layout on my table without fabric.

> Does the layout work? Is the layout easy to understand?

> How much fabric does it require?

> Are the fabric requirements in the instructions accurate? If you can make better use of the fabric take a picture of how you achieved it.

I’m now ready to select my fabric and cut it out as I’m sure I have the right amount.

Be sure to mark all notches, dots, triangles etc so you can comment on whether they match up as you sew.

Follow the step by step instructions carefully.

> Do they make sense?

> Are they easy to follow?

> Is there anything missing?

> Are there any terms you don't understand?

> Is there a glossary of terms?

> Are any pictures or diagrams easy to understand?

> Are the illustrations in the right place to go with the written instructions?

> If you printed the instructions is an illustration and its instruction all on one side of the paper or do you have to turn over to find more information? This is really important in helping people understand what to do, it's much easier to understand if all the information is visible at the same time.

> Check for spelling mistakes.

> Did you have to buy anything else to complete the garment?

Most important is do you end up with a wearable garment if you follow the instructions?

Giving feedback

Try to respond to any questions the company has asked about.

You might not want to respond to all the things I've listed. If you choose to focus on a specific issue make it clear that's what you've done.

If you find a problem try to explain what you've discovered rather than just stating it doesn't work.

If possible offer a solution.

Be kind even if something isn't accurate or you don't like the pattern. Someone has put a lot of work into the project.

Jun 12 2019 10:08PM by Joy

Thanks for a fascinating article. Pattern designers are very lucky that a person with your skills is willing to offer your time and patience to support them.

Jul 16 2019 11:21AM by Mary Pepin

Sorry, but your article, particularly your bulleted segment at the beginning, proves once again how women devalue their skills. I still see no reason for anyone to do this with no monetary remuneration. I , and I am sure you and many others, have spent a lifetime developing skills, just like any plumber, engineer or electrician. Does an electician work for a roll of wire at the end of a job? I don't think so. Come on, sisters. know your value.

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