Thursday, 12 June 2014

My View on Pattern Testing

I wasn't going to say anything about the recent comments on independent pattern companies and their pattern testers. Then I realised that I have been testing a fair bit recently and there are in fact a few test garments due to hit the blog in the near future so perhaps I should clarify with you guys my own personal approach to pattern testing and blogging. I in no way want to oppose anyone else's opinions on the matter or prompt any kind of further discussion I just thought perhaps you as readers would like to know how pattern testing and reviewing works for me.

Most importantly first of all; I'd never tell you guys I love a pattern when I don't or pretend a pattern is up to scratch when it's clearly not. For me the point of my blog is to share my sewing experiences and to be able to ask for help and feedback when I need it in order to improve my sewing. I know I do a fair amount of raving about patterns which I have success with but that's because I am genuinely proud of what I have made and love how it has turned out. If I love something I sure am going to let you guys know about it!


I don't often blog about projects that go wrong (partly because I still hope that I can salvage them) and if a test happens to be a complete disaster I won't blog about it as changes should have been made to the pattern and there would be no point in sharing a garment review so different to the finished product. But I am very happy to say if I have problems with a pattern (including tests) and have done in the past. I do, however, strongly believe that there's no need to be cruel about something that someone has put so much work into. A negative review should be well thought out and explained.

It is important to remember that everything I write about a pattern/fabric/technique on this blog is my personal opinion. It doesn't mean that you or anyone else will think exactly the same. Just because a pattern doesn't work for me or isn't to my taste doesn't mean it won't be a dream sew for someone else. In my opinion no single negative experience can ever totally write a pattern off and when considering a purchase I never look at just the one blog. It can be hard to tell sometimes whether the problem is the pattern or my own poor fitting/sewing skills/bad fabric choice e.t.c so in my posts I try to just lay out the facts. I aim to be frank about my experiences with each and every pattern in the hope that it benefits other bloggers. I try to include what I hope is useful information about fabric quantities needed, the alterations I made, specific techniques I used and what I might do differently next time.

There are many great plus points to being a tester; a free pattern, an early preview, getting to be part of the secret and in the case of success a new garment and feature for the blog. But none of this would ever sway the opinion I share and I have never been offered any kind of pay off for a good review. Yes, By Hand London arrange for their testers to receive fabric for their test for free but they also always explicitly request honest feedback and I have never been required to blog about my test garment. Testing a pattern and writing up feedback takes much longer than it does to sew up a usual garment and when you are purchasing fabric to test a pattern you are investing financially in a garment which has more chance than usual of being unsuccessful. So I see any free supplies provided for a test as a thank you for the time taken and an aid with the expense of helping the company improve their product. At the same time I would never expect this of any company asking me to test and the thought 'hey, I should be getting paid for this' has never crossed my mind. If I do receive anything for free I will always make this clear in my post.


I have always imagined that testers are chosen based on their ability to review the pattern and give good honest feedback. I do agree with comments that perhaps a wider range of body types e.t.c would sometimes be a benefit. One of the things I like about blogged test garments is that soon after release I get to see the pattern made up in different fabrics and worn differently before deciding if I would like to purchase it. It would however make me unhappy to think that bloggers were chosen mainly as a means of advertising rather than for their skills. If any designers were to EXPECT promotion on top of the time put into testing that would be wrong and there's never any guarantee that I will blog about any of my projects. It's my choice what I put on my blog.

I feel like I should briefly mention my Indie Pattern Update posts as they are basically all about spreading the word about indie! I am in no way compensated for these posts, although I have recently received, through no suggestion mine, two free patterns as a way of thanks for spreading the word. I am not supplied with information to include, I simply gather it up throughout the month from my blog feed and social media. The vast majority of the new patterns I list I have no personal experience of so I am not making a recommendation, I'm just spreading the word about the release. These posts are my way of showing my support for all the hard work and long often after work hours these talented ladies (and men!) put in. With the detailed pattern instructions, sew-alongs and tutorials they provide these guys (along with your blogs) have pretty much taught me to sew and I want to say thanks!

At the end of the day we're all different with different bodies, lifestyles and tastes. The upsurge of indie pattern designers within this wonderful online sewing community can only be a good thing as the huge variety now available means there's truly something for everyone. For me the pattern testing process is an important step in developing these patterns and is therefore one that I take seriously and invest a lot of time and thought into. I do it because I love sewing and would love to do just a tiny bit to help the industry flourish. If I'm not going to be honest in my feedback both private and public then what's the point?

18 comments:

  1. well said, fiona! looking forward to seeing your test garments.

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    1. Thanks Puu, I love being asked to test and being able to do my bit to spread the word so I didn't want anyone to have the wrong impression about my motives

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  2. Please never stop doing the indie posts! I rather love them!

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    1. O thank you Elizabeth! It's so lovely to hear people enjoy them, I'm definitely not stopping any time soon!

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  3. Well said. Thank you for your take on all this, I am really surprised by all the talk on this subject. I really look forward to seeing different versions of indie patterns and it feels natural that seeing as there are so many great sewists and bloggers out there that they would be included in the pattern testing/development, as this is such a great and supportive community. It has never crossed my mind that people wouldn't be anything if not honest and constructive. Keep up the good work with the Indie Pattern Update, it is so great to all have all the new info in one place. Thanks

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comment. Like you The negative things that have been said had never crossed my mind, I was really surprised to see some sewers thoughts on the subject and just wanted to clarify my own

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  4. I agree with the others, well said! I didn't see any of the negative comments that started off this debate, but personally I think it's good to see what pattern testers have made when a new pattern is released, and I feel like sewists in general seem to be pretty honest on their blogs. And I love your indie updates - always good to find out about things that I might have missed!

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    1. Thank you Ruth! It's lovely to see that so many people do share my point of view about it all!

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  5. High fives dude. Perfectly said. And I love your indie updates - keeps me in the loop!

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    1. Thanks :) I think your two posts were fantastic by the way and really helped to calm and clarify matters. You dealt with the subject fantastically

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  6. Enjoyed reading this as always and it's nice to find out more about this behind the scenes part - keep doing what your doing and I'll keep spying what you've made before I go and do the same!

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    1. O I'm so pleased that you see my test garments that way as that's exactly what I do with everyone else's! I'll make sure to include some more behind the scenes nuggets for you!

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  7. Thank you. I actually had already gotten the sense that you blogged w integrity, you're someone I trust.

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    1. That is such a lovely thing to hear, thank you. I did hope my posts sounded honest as they are but it's hard to tell how other people might read my ramblings!

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  8. Well said! I also missed all the negative comments (must have been buried under a rock)
    I love the indie posts you do, they are super useful to see what is new out there that I may not have been exposed to.
    I like the pattern testing posts too, but I do get tired of the endless book reviews sometimes. I do understand it is a good way for writers and indie pattern makers to get exposure, it is clever marketing really. Of course it makes sense for them to use the more high profile bloggers to help get the word out. I can't blame them really and I certainly don't have an issue with it. Also it should be noted that most of the higher profile bloggers are that way due to their sewing skills, I can't think of any high profile bloggers that are rubbish at finishing garments. My two cents.

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    1. I totally agree with all of that Lizzy! I don't have a problem with bloggers or testers being used for marketing purposes per se, most of these companies do not have the money for advertising so rely on support of bloggers to spread the word through reviews of their products. It's wrong to expect favourable reviews from friends and testers or to somehow arrange for positive reviews to be put out there. But I for one love seeing tester versions

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!