Photo Credit: CRFashionbook

Recently a fellow designer sent out a call for pattern-testers ( ). Designers do this often for research & development and quality-assurance of a new product.

Have you thought of being a pattern tester? It is just as it sounds, it means you test new patterns to ensure their accuracy before they are released to the public.  Testing patterns can be done for many items including handbags, children’s clothing, felt toys and quilt blocks to name just a few.

When you first start testing patterns, that entrepreneurial spirit kicks in and asks, “how much do I get paid?” Well, that’s the thing about most pattern testing. You do it for free.

Yes, you are “compensated” by receiving a copy of the pattern before it’s released, and sometimes you might be given fabulous fabric to work with as well. And you just might have your workmanship showcased on the company’s website once the pattern goes live. But in general, pattern testers are just helping out the designer, just for the love of it.

Back when I started, I was always looking to try new things, but without a large budget to invest in research & development, I relied on bartering skills and buying overstock of fellow designers’ sampling inventory at give-away prices. You see manufacturers are required to buy 10 yards of fabric to sample with when they order from wholesalers. If a dress takes up 3 yards to make, what do you do with the remaining seven? How else could I afford luxurious silks and cashmeres! And, that’s where the pattern testing part caught my interest.  I looked for talented sewers and cutters who shared my passion for fashion design. They often came from the local school of fashion…kind of an internship, you might say. It is an opportunity to learn something new about writing patterns, marketing and other things that go into patterns and designing a collection. It’s also exciting to be involved in something that is still in the works.

I’ve heard some discussion about people doing sewing or testing work for free, claiming it undervalues good skills. And while I see both sides of the argument, I can only add my experience to the mix. You gain a lot from being a pattern tester and sharing your ideas. Besides networking and making connections, your work may be featured online and in print, and you may learn to make things that you probably wouldn’t have tried otherwise. I know that it’s not cold hard cash, but that’s not always the motivation with creativity.

How do I become a pattern tester? 

What works best is to simply to follow designers whose work you enjoy and answer any calls for help. Social networks are a good place to watch for these opportunities. If there are designers you’d really love to work with, send them a message to let them know. If you have adorable kids to model clothing, or if you’re an amazing photographer, let them know.

Do I have to be super experienced?

Not necessarily. Be honest about your abilities – most designers want people with sewing skills from beginner to advanced trying their patterns. This will help them determine how difficult to rate their final patterns, or they may edit them to add in more detailed instructions. It is best, though, to have a basic knowledge of how to read a pattern and how to follow the instructions.

How does it work?

Designers put out calls for testers on social networks or their blogs. Once you’ve been selected, you usually receive a digital or PDF copy of the pattern. You’ll be given a deadline, and sometimes there will be an evaluation form to complete. You’ll probably be asked to include several photos of the finished project as well.

Do I have to use my own supplies?

That is often the case. Designers like to see their creation in a multitude of different fabrics and they are interested in how you might interpret their look. Other times, a specific material is needed. So if it requires special fabric or hardware, make sure you can get your hands on some and still have enough time to complete the test before agreeing to help. Sometimes the company may provide fabric and hardware to make up the prototype.

What if I find a mistake?

If you do come across something that’s not clear, or that seems incorrect, make note of it. Double-check yourself first, and if there still is a problem, let the designer know as soon as possible. He or she can then make changes and let the other testers know, which saves everyone time in the long run.

You might find spelling or grammar errors, so be sure to point those out as well. No one wants to go public with something only to find mistakes afterward. Be honest, but be kind as well. Keep your criticism constructive.

One last thing: You need to be a good communicator. Be sure to let the designer know if something comes up and you can’t make a deadline.

Ever wanted to be in on the cutting edge of something new? You may want to add pattern tester to your list of skills!


Filed under Bag'n-telle, Design Insight

3 responses to “PATTERN TESTING

  1. A great added bonus of being a tester, other than the ones you mention, is that you get to learn many techniques. I’ve been testing for a while now for various bag pattern designers and it has been like a school of bag making techniques. I love it!

  2. Krista

    I really appreciated this article. I’ve done some pattern testing and find I absolutely love doing it. I’ve been duly rewarded and compensated even without the financial aspect; there is the education and learning of new techniques, the building of new relationships, and most of all, helping someone launch their pattern and cheering them on. It’s also something I can do from home, which is an important consideration in the process. Testing has broadened my scope of skills, for sure, and I look forward to doing more!

  3. Tanya Paul

    I’m really interested in this. I’m 63 years old and have been sewing since I was about 10. My grandmother taught me by having me cut my own patterns using my grandfather chambry shirts layed out on newspaper. I’ve come a long way since then making wedding gowns…there isn’t much I haven’t made. This would be so much fun and to get a foot up on new patterns would be wonderful.

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