How to Be a Pattern Tester: It's So Much More Than Just Getting Free Patterns
I love pattern testing. It is one of the most enjoyable experiences I have found since starting my blog way back when. At first I would read about other crafters doing pattern testing, but then I started itching to try it out for myself! It took me a while to figure out how to get into pattern testing pools, but once I did it seemed like I kept finding more and more!
In my experience, this is how pattern tests usually work out:
- Testing Call is put out.
- Applications to participate in pattern test go in.
- Testers are chosen.
- Pattern is sent out.
- Testers make project from said pattern.
- Testers send in review of pattern.
- Pattern designer makes any necessary changes.
- Pattern is released.
Thinking about all the different processes that are involved in just the pattern testing gives you just a taste of how much work goes into releasing a pattern!
Before we go into the details of how to pattern test, how do I find a pattern test in the first place??
Okay, so unfortunately there isn't one easy way to get involved in pattern testing. There isn't some box you fill out and now you will be informed when anyone ever needs a tester. It actually takes a bit of work!
To start with, I would highly recommend following your favorite designers on social media and if they have an email newsletter be sure to subscribe to that. Most testing calls I have participated in have been through being a newsletter subscriber or hearing about it on Instagram.
Some pattern companies have a form you can fill out to be added to their testing pool. Once you add your email to the list, you will now be notified whenever they have a new pattern in need of testing.
I will tell you though, don't expect to get into the first few tests. Especially if the designer is particularly popular. Then everybody will be trying to test for them! Usually testers are chosen on a first come first serve basis according to size. A designer isn't going to need 14 people to test size 12. They will probably need one or two people per size and if you are in a more common size bracket, those spots will likely fill up quickly.
While you don't have to be a blogger to be accepted, being active on social media or having some form of online portfolio that showcases what you have made will be quite helpful.
I personally am a blogger, a vlogger, and I try to be regularly active on Instagram. Since these are all picture or video related, when I apply to be a pattern tester, the designer can browse through my different projects and see if I have the skills they consider necessary to make the pattern. Again, this isn't necessary, but I think it does help.
A Testing Call just went live!! What do I do?
To be a pattern tester, you must be prepared to stick to a strict deadline! In order to release a pattern on schedule, the designer needs to have all testing completed by the deadline so they will still have enough time to make any necessary changes. So before you click that submit button, really think about what you'll be doing during the testing period. Is there a major holiday? If you have children, do they have several activities that you will need to take them to? Is your work schedule very busy?
Everyone knows that life is excellent at providing the unexpected. Most designers are going to be understanding if something comes up and you suddenly cannot complete the test. In that case, do everything you can to stick to the deadline, but if all else fails, making and reviewing the pattern at a later date would be appreciated.
If you are reasonably sure that you can complete the test within the appointed time, then submit your application and wait to see if you got in!
Okay, so I've been accepted as a pattern tester. Now what??
A quick read through the instructions will give you a good idea of the time requirements and general overview of how the project making process will go. Dig through your stash before heading to the store to make sure you have everything you need. Nobody wants to get all ready to start a project only to realize that you don't have the correct color of zipper, are out of thread, have the wrong size knitting needle, or don't have quite enough of the yarn.
Personally, I hate that! I will be all ready and in the perfect mindset to spend the next two hours sewing or knitting and then. . . I can't. I live 30 minutes from town. Making a quick run to the store at the last minute really isn't practical. So double check everything!
Lets take a look at the pattern.
As you begin your project here are some things to watch out:
1a. If it's a pdf sewing pattern, was it easy to put together? Did the lines line up correctly or did you have to do a lot of fudging to get everything straight?
1b. If it's a paper sewing pattern, were the different size lines easy to see? Were you able find all the necessary pieces without too much trouble?
2. If it is a knitting pattern, were you able to find how much yarn and what size needle you will need? If necessary, is your gauge accurate?
Now it's time to get stitching.
While you work through the project moving from step to step, don't just follow everything blindly. The whole purpose of test knitting is to find any mistakes. Unlike other projects you've made, expect to find typos, grammatical mistakes, jumbled instructions, or unclear techniques. That's not to say every test pattern will have all these issues, but they are a definite possibility.
Ask yourself these questions:
Sewing Pattern Test:
Do the seam lines line up correctly?
Am I having to get more fabric because the yardage requirements are off?
Are the instructions making sense at every step or is there something I would add to make it easier to understand?
Is there a simpler way to explain this step?
Knitting Pattern Test:
Are you having difficulty matching the stitch counts?
If there are any special stitches or techniques, does the pattern clearly explain them or are you sitting there scratching your head?
Are the different sections of the pattern clearly labeled?
So you've finished your project. Photoshoot!!!
One of the best ways to stand out as a pattern tester is to send in good pictures of the finished product. These don't have to be perfectly modeled. If you are camera shy, you can always lay them out, hang them on a hanger, or recruit a willing family member or friend to be a model.
Quick tip: If you are testing a garment sewing pattern, make sure you understand what the designer expects as far as pictures. Usually, they want to see how a garment looks and fits on you. This helps them know if they need to tweak anything. So if you would rather do anything except for getting in front of a camera, make the test garment for someone else. You can always make a second version for yourself later!
I feel like everyone and their mother has said this before, but I am going to reiterate it here: you do not need to be a professional photographer or have a fancy camera in order to take nice pictures. Sure, those things are nice, but they are 100% unnecessary.
Nearly everyone has a smart phone these days. If you don't, you probably know someone who does and who would be willing to either lend it to you or even help you take the pictures. It might require a little bribing (i.e. ice cream, candy, nearly any food item, or just agreeing to help them with something else in exchange.) but it will be totally worth it in the end.
The key to taking good pictures is lighting. If at all possible, take your pictures outside but not in direct sunlight. Head out in the early morning before the sun has come all the way up, or in the evening when the sun has just gone down. At these times, the light is soft and diffused which helps enormously in achieving good pictures.
Quick tip: Take a bazillion, gazillion pictures. You can never have too many pictures. Deleting pictures is easy. Going back outside, setting everything up, and taking more pictures is aggravating on so many levels that we won't even discuss it. Always take at least 10-20 more pictures than you think you will need.
Editing shouldn't be too complicated. I use an older Macbook Pro for all of my computer needs and I have the Photos app already installed. I currently edit my pictures in there for simplicity's sake. My most common editing changes are as follows:
Increase the brightness (not the exposure. Increasing the exposure too much during editing can make your pictures look fuzzy.)
Up the Black Point just a tad. (This sharpens the pictures and makes everything clearer. Don't do it too much or it will make the photo super dark.)
If the lighting has washed out the color, I will increase the Saturation a touch. Keep this edit very minimal. Too much saturation will make your picture look weird and fake.
As you can see below, the change isn't that drastic. But the second picture looks brighter and more attractive than the first.
You've made the project, had a photoshoot, and edited the pictures. Sending in feedback is all that is left!
Some designers will have a specific form they want you to fill in at the end of a test. This makes sure they have all the answers they need to change or adjust the pattern. If that is the case, fill out the form as clearly and thoroughly as you can.
If there is not a form, you have the opportunity to stand out as a star tester. Send them as much information as you can and always include a few pictures. If you didn't find much of anything wrong with the pattern, then say that! Everyone loves to hear they did a fantastic job.
Detail any adjustments or changes you made to the pattern such as:
Sewing or Knitting:
Added or removed length.
Graded between sizes.
Did a full bust adjustment.
Used a lining instead of a facing.
Used a different yarn.
How much yarn you used.
What needle size was needed to get gauge.
All of this information will help the designer enormously both with knowing if they need to make any changes, and what sort of tutorials would be helpful after the pattern is released.
I've submitted my feedback and the pattern has been released. Do I have to write a review or blog post?
Unless it is a requirement of the designer, absolutely not. Writing a blog post or review is totally up to you.
If possible, I will try to release a blog post as close to when the pattern comes out as I can. This is a personal preference of mine, but I do it for a couple main reasons. One selfish, and one not selfish.
Reason 1: When a pattern comes out, people will want to see how it looks on a real person and not just a model. If I have a blog post up explaining what I did and didn't like about the pattern, what adjustments I had to make so that it would fit, and include several pictures, people will find it. This brings traffic to my blog and enables me to get my name out there a little more.
Reason 2: I want to support the designer. I want to encourage others to go use their patterns. When I release my blog post and include links to the pattern, people will likely go check it out. My followers now have been exposed to a great designer that they possibly didn't know about before. I have contributed a little to the success of a fellow small business owner and that is a wonderful feeling indeed!
And that's it!
That was a TON of information! Gracious goodness. If you made it all the way through I salute you.
Are you feeling inspired to be a pattern tester? Have you learned things about the process that you didn't know before? I hope so!!
As I mentioned, I love pattern testing. It is so much fun! It enables me to use patterns from different designers that I might not have been able to otherwise. And it is a way for me to help with the overall process of getting a new pattern out there into the crafting world.