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What I Have Learned About the Pattern Design Process - Using Pattern Testers

Michelle Burke

In this series of posts, I am sharing what I have learned about the pattern design process from the perspective of a fairly new pattern designer. Today I will share my thoughts on using pattern testers.

Have you ever tried to sew something from a pattern that is poorly written or illustrated? I have! I have sewn long enough to be able to stumble through a poorly written pattern; but the fun of sewing gets lost in the frustration of trying to decipher what the pattern designer is wanting me to do next. I don't mind having to spend a few minutes rereading a step that I don't quite understand, but when a pattern is so poorly written that I spend more time trying to read the pattern and understand it than sewing, it makes me never want to sew that pattern again! Then I imagine the insurmountable frustration of someone who is new to sewing, trying to follow the same pattern; it would be enough for me to give up sewing all together if I were in their shoes. For these reasons, I feel that having my patterns tested by a group of pattern testers is crucial to publishing a high quality pattern that anyone with basic sewing skills can follow, in order to produce a finished product that they can be proud of. 

Of course, one obvious benefit of having a pattern tested is having several sets of eyes looking for spelling and grammatical errors, but there are other benefits that I didn't expect from the process of pattern testing. By having several people of varying sewing abilities test my pattern, I learn what I need to change to make it more clear and easy to follow.  It is easy to write a pattern to my sewing ability level, using language that I am accustomed to using when I sew, but that doesn't mean that everyone else will understand what I am trying to explain in the next step in my pattern. I don't want to frustrate people as they follow my pattern, but instead empower them to sew something even if it is a reach for their current sewing ability. Pattern testers will point out steps that they feel are not clearly written and they may even suggest a way to write those steps in a more understandable way.

A sneak peek at something I made using my soon-to-be-released, next pattern!

A sneak peek at something I made using my soon-to-be-released, next pattern!

The final benefit of having a group of pattern testers test my patterns, is the fresh ideas that come from a wonderful group of people who are excited to try out a new pattern. If I had not had my latest pattern tested, I would not only have a few spelling and grammatical errors, some unclear steps, and a picture that needed more explanation, but my pattern would not have alternate closure options and a couple add-on features that make it even better than I had imagined it could be! I am now even more excited to release my next pattern at the end of this week because of the input and contributions made by my wonderful group of pattern testers! In my next post, I will share what I learned about finding a group of pattern testers and organizing the pattern testing process.

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