Welcome back to Pattern Testing 101! Yesterday, we discussed what pattern testing is and how the process begins with the designer. Today, we’re going to be looking at a testers’ responsibilities, how tests are run, timelines and the first steps of testing.
Whether you are in a Tester Pool (more on that Day 4) or applying to a test call in a group, the process is pretty similar. The designer will post with a bunch of information that you need to read and dissect carefully – this is where it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of something new. I suggest you look for these 6 things to help you decide if you should apply: who, what, when, size, fabric information (knit vs woven, recommended types and yardage), and any extra questions)
Who: Who is the test for? Is it for adult women, gender neutral kids, teen boys, etc. You absolutely need to know who you’re sewing for and if you can provide the model they need. I’m not even talking about taking pictures of the garment later on, just talking about actually having someone in the range you can sew for and try it on.
What: What is the garment? Is it a sundress, a sweater, winter coat or underwear ? This is important for a few reasons: You (or your model) have to be comfortable modeling it, you have to be comfortable in your skill for sewing it and you probably want to think about the season you’re in vs the pattern (with testers/designers around the world, you may not want to try testing a swimsuit in the middle of your winter).
When: When are the due dates? Yes, I do mean dates, plural. There’s usually two, one for fit pics and one for finals. These could be as short as 2-3 days or as long as 3-4 weeks.
Size: This is important for SO MANY REASONS. First, you need to know what size you (or your model) fit in to apply correctly, and it needs to be accurate – so if you haven’t measured in the last 12 hours, go measure. This is how the designer picks testers, based off of how many they need per size. You also need to pay attention (especially in a main group) to see if they’re even looking for your size. They may have already pulled from their normal group and only need to fill a few sizes.
Fabric Information: I see this as a three part section. #1: Knit vs Woven – self explanatory, but you’ll want to know this going in. Some people only like to sew with knits, others with woven. #2: Recommended – this could be suggestion of actual fabric names (DBP vs liverpool, crepe vs denim) or a simple minimum stretch percentage / weight / drape. This could be something like 10% minimum mid weight, or lightweight, drapey woven. #3: Yardage – again, self explanatory, but essential to starting. You need to have an idea if you have something suitable on hand, or if you’ll need to go to a local shop or even order online.
Extra Questions: Some designers ask for a picture of your work to show an example of the quality they can expect, some ask for you to describe your experience level, some ask unrelated questions to get to know you before you join in. This is just something to look out for so that you make sure you’re answering all questions.
Joining A Test
Once you’ve been asked to join a test, there’s so much information that it can be overwhelming – and if you’re joining a group that’s mostly seasoned testers it can feel intimidating. I’m going to try to ease that and help you at least feel stable with a place to start from. A lot of indie tests are run through Facebook Groups, which is what we’ll be focusing on. (Others may be run through Instagram, Email or locally/in person). Typically, the designer will have created a new group for this specific test or cleared out all information/posts/members from a previous test and renamed it. Using FB Groups allows for a forum to post in, files to be uploaded, pictures to be posted and people and topics to be tagged. I’m going to discuss a general idea of how things work in these groups, but a lot of the specifics will depend on the designer and how they prefer to run things. So don’t take this as a set in stone manual of what’s what!
It may take some time for you to be added to the group, but it can also be immediate. Remember – they’re adding all the information you need as well as tracking down 30+ people to make sure they’re really there. You may join the group with nothing in it or with everything you need to start right away. The first thing to do is check for a Pinned Post/Announcement. Most designers will be using this as their central hub of information or at least your starting point. You will usually find all of the information about the test within here: due dates for both fit and finals, size and option assignments, what is expected of you, where to get the pattern and links to helpful information. You may be asked to comment on the post to “check in”, this will also turn on your notifications to comments – you may be tempted to turn notifications off, but stay the course! Once everyone has checked in it will die down, but it’s after that point where you want to be notified. Someone may ask an important question or the designer/admin may post a link to the latest update that you missed.
Getting the Pattern
There are a few different ways this happens:
- Check the group files for an upload
- A Dropbox or Google folder link
Once you know where to get the pattern, you can download it and check back for updated pieces as needed. When the pattern pieces are loaded, the test is officially on and you can start. But wait! Don’t print until you’re really ready to start. Try to make sure you’re going to print and immediately (or as soon as possible) start working. You don’t want to print the pattern if you’re not going to be able to start for 36 hours, because some people will start right away and there could be changes. So, wait to print until the very last second.
The next few steps will feel pretty much just like your regular sewing
- Read the instructions
- Print out the pattern
- Assemble, grade + cut the pattern
- Cut your fabric
While you’re doing these steps, though, you need to make sure to pay attention to every little detail. Seam allowances not matching up, pattern marks in the wrong places, missing or misspelled labels, sizes on the wrong layer, etc. You can also keep an eye out for spelling/grammar errors, confusing instructions, noting that a different picture may help accompany an instruction. Some people find it best to keep a notebook nearby to write down notes as they go.
Once you’ve sewn, the next step is to take some pictures. These are not the nice looking, modeled, staged pictures you see online! These first pictures are called “fit pics” and are usually not shared outside of this group of people. You can have someone take pictures for you or selfie with your phone and a mirror. Lots of people will do this before hemming (because we all hate hemming), just make sure to note that when you post your feedback, along with whatever grading or body adjustments you made. Twist, move around, feel how the garment sits and moves. Pay attention to ease and length. Do the shoulder and armscye fit as they should, is the crotch bagging out, is anything too tight or too loose or not laying flat? Take pictures. In general, try to get the front, back, side, arms up vs down and any feature. If there was anything that didn’t fit right, or you’re just unsure of, take pictures to show that in detail.
Once fit feedback begins coming in, the designer can begin assessing any changes that need to be made. Some people are really quick about getting this first version in. This is always good because it can help pinpoint early issues and give time to make changes. Don’t feel like you’re not doing it right if this isn’t you. Early feedback is good, but they need people to make the piece after changes are made, too. On the same note, keep a close eye on posts from the designer/admin for upcoming pattern changes, concerning areas to pay extra attention to or instructions to hold off while something is being worked on. If there are major issues that need to be worked out, deadlines can be pushed and new versions may be made.
Once the pattern is proven to fit throughout all of the sizes, the focus will then become finalizing everything for release. Check back tomorrow for the next installment: Finals, Release & Marketing.