This is a question I get asked weekly. Probably because I talk about my testers often on Instagram. So I thought we’d go through this today. It’s a fun topic, I think!
Big businesses probably have trained copy editors for testing, but us indie businesses count on the average quilter to help us get our patterns edited. A pattern tester is exactly what the name implies, they are a person who tests the pattern for the designer. It’s an important task! If I’m selling a pattern, I need every single typo correct, every math problem addressed, every graphic to make sense and I need all my directions to be crystal clear. Otherwise, who would want to buy my patterns if there are consistently errors scattered about them?
Just because my pattern has been tested doesn’t mean that there’s not an error it, we are humans after all, but the vast majority of the time testers will catch EVERY THING! I’ve only had one pattern come out wrong after release day and it was caught quickly and made right.
So the above is basically what a pattern tester is, but I’m going to be sharing all my thoughts on them today. Let’s dig in!
My Newest Quilt Pattern
Skill Level: Beginner friendly
Available in PDF and Paper booklet
Pattern is clickable with lots of helpful links included (including methods for basting, quilting and binding)
Almost every time I’ve written a pattern, I’ll test the pattern myself first and then send it to testers. There are exceptions. I was rushed getting Tea Time to testers and sent it to them before I made the quilt. That was embarrassing! My math mistakes were running amuck! That’s another thing, I often write a pattern, test it, read through it and then pat myself on the back and think I’ve finally written an error free pattern, but I’ve consistently been humbled. My testers ALWAYS find numerous mistakes. The only pattern that jumps out at me that wasn’t riddled with mistakes was Migration Quilt.
I usually want my testers to do the following things: I want them to make a quilt top from the pattern, to take pics of their progress and post it on Instagram (to help spread the word) and I want them to write down all of the errors, inconsistencies, and any unclear instructions that they find. I usually include a date for all of this to be done by.
It’s no small job and it’s one I really count on. Pattern testers are invaluable!
Before I began creating my own quilt patterns, I researched and researched testers. Most testers work just for the love of quilting. They of course get the pattern for free and will get exposure from the pattern designer which might benefit them if they are working towards a pattern writing business of their own. Some of them may get the fabric to make the quilt if you are working for a fabric company. There’s many different ways to go about this. You may have noticed that quilters are some of the world’s most helpful people and the vast majority of them are donating their time freely.
For my own testers, they get the pattern for free, I try to share their makes on social media, my newsletter, and my blog and I also give them each a gift certificate to Meander + Make for each pattern they test. It’s not much, but hopefully it makes them feel rewarded for their time and effort.
Every pattern designer does this a bit differently. Some will announce they are looking for testers for a particular pattern and some will ask people to test for them. This is just a designer’s preference.
My testers have almost all been acquired by them asking me if they could test. I think I did one single call about two-ish years ago and beefed up my list that way. I keep all my testers names and info on a spreadsheet and when I have a new pattern releasing, I send them an email asking them if they are available. I’ve got somewhere between 40-50 testers currently. I think it’s good to keep a large number like this as people have lives and they definitely don’t revolve around testing patterns, so you may have some that can test in the summer and some that can never test in summer. With having a large number, I’ll always have somebody who is able to test.
I usually try to have at least ten testers per pattern, but will take more or a little less. Some quilt patterns will inspire more than others. Some quilt patterns are hard to find testers for. Ha!
I also try to give them at least three weeks before notes are due, but sometimes I’m in a hurry and things don’t work out. I’ve gotten much better with my planning in the last year and try to always make sure I’m not rushing them too terribly. If having a whole quilt top completed and photographed in three weeks sounds like an impossible feat, then testing is probably not for you. 🙂 This job is for the speediest of us. I’ve got a few patterns coming up that I know I’m going to have to give them a little more time than that. It really just comes down to if I’ve planned properly or if for one reason or the other I end up a bit rushed, which can be caused by a number of reasons.
Patchwork + Quilt (a class for learning to quilt)
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Every designer is going to want something different, but the number one goal is to edit the pattern. I’m looking for you to find my typos, tell me when I haven’t got the backing amount correct, tell me that my sentence needs re-worded, and everything in between.
There’s also several other goals that I want from a tester and a tester doesn’t have to be amazing at all of these goals. If they are great at one of them, that’s good enough, but having a list with a variety of quilters where some of them can check this box, and other check that box is an ideal situation for me.
I’ve mentioned that the number one goal is to edit the pattern. Number two goal is to help spread the word about the pattern. If a quilter has a large following then she/he would make a great tester because they can reach quilters that might not be someone I know yet. Patterns are a lot of work to get out into the world. They take up the majority of my time. The more people I can reach, the more people that may purchase the pattern and then the final result would be that this would help keep me doing this job that I love so much. If a pattern doesn’t sell well, it can be very deflating. So “reach” is an important thing.
The third goal is photography. What makes you want to make a quilt? More often than not you probably came across a picture that made you squeal or inspired you. Even if this picture is of a quilt flat against a white wall in a well lit room, I know I can get entranced and excited. This helps me in so many ways. First, this helps me have something to show to my readers. It helps me show what the quilt will look like in a different style from my own and in different fabrics or colors. The better the photography, the more quilters will likely be inspired by it. Look at the #littlemisssawtoothqal. You will find that exact same quilt in every style possible and this can get your mind going and the ideas flowing for your own quilt. I can also use this photography in my newsletters, blog and social media to inspire other quilters. The better the picture, the more likely someone is going to stop to ooh and aah.
I also like testers to tell me what improvements my pattern needs. I tend to forget to include coloring sheets until testers started saying something about it. I still don’t include it for all patterns, but it’s something I’d have never done without it being pointed out to me. I want to know if you think the pattern looks too busy or if there’s not enough. I want to know all the things and hear all your criticisms about it.
One last thing, it doesn’t matter if you are an experienced quilter or a brand new quilter, we want to make sure we have both kind of quilters testing patterns. I like to write my quilt patterns so that you won’t have any questions while working on it, this is one of the main reasons I include video tutorials in my patterns. So having a brand new quilter test will give the pattern another perspective which is no bad thing!
Everything You Need for Perfect Half Square Triangles
This is a question I get asked a lot by new testers. The main thing I request is that you give me your notes at the very end. Giving me notes scattered here and there will get me confused, so saving them until you are completely done is most helpful. Some testers will type up a whole page of notes, some will add their notes in an email, some will print out the pattern, make corrections on it and then scan it back in and email it to me. All is acceptable and I don’t really have a preference.
The notes need to make it clear, so that I don’t have to bother you with questions about your notes. For example, saying something like, “page 2, under heading ‘half square triangles’, paragraph 3, so and so word is misspelled.”
All of my testers do a great job with this. I do prefer to see a lot of notes, I feel it shows the thoroughness of the tester, but not all of them do this and that may be okay if their strength is taking beautiful photographs. Some of the testers on my list I keep my fingers crossed and pray that they agree to test, some of them are so good at editing me and I often wonder how I will put out a pattern if they don’t test. Ha!
I hope this gives you a glimpse into the testing of patterns. Rest assured that my patterns are written thoughtfully with the quilter in mind and tested thoroughly. I try to make sure all graphics are clear and to scale (I’ve gotten better at this in recent years and am always in a state of learning). If you have critiques I take them to heart and use them to better the patterns when I’m in agreement. I am so appreciative of your support with my quilt patterns. They are my favorite part of my job and the part that most excites me.
If you are interested in becoming a pattern tester, I’m currently looking for testers with strong photography skills at taking full shots of their quilts. Send me an email with a link to your instagram feed that shows your quilt photos.
A big thank you to all my pattern testers this year! I couldn’t create quilt patterns without you.
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