Quilting is a passion that many of us share, we spend years trying new techniques, playing with different fabrics, and making Quilty friends. I have been happily quilting for over a decade now, exploring different techniques like applique, foundation paper piecing, English paper piecing, modern quilting, traditional, and even some fabric block printing! And while I'll never get bord of quilting, I've been itching to try my hand at pattern design. Don't get me wrong, I've had patterns published in magazines, however you aren't required to write the patterns, or make the technical illustrations. All you need to do is design the quilt, make it, and send it in for the magic makers at the magazines do the heavy lifting.
I have spent the better part of the last 3 years honing my design skills with classes, webinars, and instructional videos. So many videos.... In this time I have grown my adobe skills, my quilt mathematics, as well as flexing my instructional writing to a point where I feel I'm ready to release my first pattern. However, before I could even think about pulling the trigger of releasing my patterns out into the wild I had to test to see if it was even comprehensible! That's where pattern testers come in. Pattern testers are the golden goose of all quilt designers. I had never worked with a quilt tester before this, and the last month has been a unique and rewarding experience. In this blog post, I'll be sharing my thoughts on the importance of pattern testers and how they've helped me improve my quilt designs.
Pattern Testers : what are they? and why are they so important?
Quilt Pattern Testers are an amazing group of individuals. They selflessly volunteer to test your patterns free of charge. This helps you see if your instructions are clear and concise for the average consumer that you'll be selling your patterns to. Pattern testers will take photos as they work on your project and then post them to their social media (hello marketing made easy). You'll need to specify to your testers what sort of images you're looking for, how many, and what level of quality you expect.
What do Testers get out of it?
Depending on what you are asking your testers to do, the majority of testers are volunteers. They are doing this service for you so they can play with fabric, and happen to work on a pattern for free before it's released. Some Quilters will provide their testers with material because they are wanting the tester to make the project in that very specific color way.
Quilters who have a little wiggle room in their budget will put together a goodie package for their testers that have things like charm packs, sewing notions, and hand made thank you cards. On the very rare occasion a tester may receive monetary payment, however, this is a rarity. Typically a Ghost quilter (a quilter who makes an entire quilt for a designer) will receive payment for their quilts, however they remain anonymous and get no recognition from the designer for their work. This is a good option for designers who are on a time crunch and need several sample quilts made and don't have the time to do them all.
How to Find Pattern Testers
Being new to quilt design, I had no clue where to find these unicorn quilters. There's no matting call of the tester. Sure, I could have left fabric out under a box and waited for a
tester to roam into my trap, but who has the time! Instead, I turned to Instagram for guidance. If you look for new designers, it doesn't take long before you find a new designer who puts out a post looking for testers. Know what I found? Hashtags are your friends!! One of the main # that designers are using is the #quiltpatterntestersneeded . Make sure to use the appropriate # such as applique, foundation pieced, epp/ English paper pieced to reach the right audience of testers. You'll want your post to be clear and easy to read with images of your projects that need testing so your testers can get a taste of what they're getting into. Make sure to include how you want your testers to reach out to you so you can communicate your specific requirements.
What if you're not really that in to social media? Then the tried and true method of quilt shop networking is for you! Your local quilt shops are going to have their finger on the pulse of who's designing, and who's testing. Your local quilt guide is also a great resource. You wont get the same level of internet marketing, but you'll be able to tap into that word of mouth that is so vital in small businesses. You also have the benefit of being able to work more closely with your testers in case they need more clarification on a section or need assistance getting that perfect photo of their finished quilt.
Finding the right Tester for the Job
You've posted your call for testers, and now you're getting flooded with direct messages of people wanting to test for you. It can be such an exciting feeling to have so many people wanting to make your pattern, that you want to say yes to everyone who applies! STOP . It can be tempting to say yes to everyone, and sometimes you can feel down right guilty if you turn a tester away. Especially if this is early in your designer career; I mean wouldn't it make sense to have as many testers as you can so you can get the word out to that many more people? Remember each tester has their own corner of the internet that they broadcast to and can mean a larger audience seeing your work. However, you have to consider how much can you juggle. Sure, having 20 testers may seem like a great idea for marketing, but consider how much time you're going to be putting into communication, social media posting/reposting, and your energy for all of it. I've found the sweet spot for me is around 6 testers.
Before you say yes to anyone make sure you know what you want from a tester:
Have they tested patterns before
What skill level of tester do you need
Can they complete your pattern in the time aloud
Can they take photos of the project along the way as well as the end result
Will they adhere to your Confidentiality rules
Will they not break your Copyright on your pattern
There are other terms and conditions you may think of, these are just a few examples of things you may want to consider.
With this being my first time looking for testers, I wasn't all too sure what to expect. I quickly found that I needed to put boundaries up. I had several people who where so enthusiastic to test my patterns, but had no idea how to applique. They wanted me to teach them and give
them a chance. I felt so awkward for turning them away. But I had to remind myself that this is for my business, and I needed experienced quilters to test my patterns. You'll need to make sure to talk back and forth with your tester-to-be to make sure they are a good fit with the skills you need and your personality. Scanning over their social media is a great way to see what they can do. Also, don't forget to "close" your call for testers!! you don't want someone two weeks out from your close off to ask to test your pattern.
You have your testers, and you're ready to go! now what?
Now is the time to stay
organized. Decide what platform you're going to use to stay in contact with your testers. Are you an email sort of person looking for that one on one communication? Maybe you want to make an Instagram group or Facebook group to help keep your group socially active and inspired by each others work.
Personally, I love using Discord for my group communications. I've had many the quilter tell me "Isn't Discord for gaming? That's what my kid uses." Listen, those are true, but discord
isn't just for gamers, it's for a great tool for anyone that is forming/organizing a group. Not to mention the Cool Parent points you'll earn with your kids! With Discord I am able to set specific group sections for each pattern that needs testing (that way testers who are only testing 1 pattern don't have access to all). I also have set up sections to help keep photos organized by project as well as questions and feedback. It has helped me keep my different patterns organized and my brain happy. There is a learning curve to Discord if you've never used it before, and I have a helper who moderates the technical side of my tester discord. I'll be going into more depth about Discord and all the different tools it has for quilters at a later date, so make sure to subscribe to the AQD newsletter for updates on new blogs going up! (ok shameless self promo over lol) Until then, I highly recommend checking out Discord's YouTube video here .
Sharing is Caring
One of the biggest things you'll need to do when it comes to testers, is keeping an eye out on their social media posts! If you've set a time window for your testers to be able to post
their progress shots of the pattern, you'll have an easier time managing your social media time. If, like me, you didn't think too much on the social media sharing window, you'll have your hands full making sure you share and repost all of your testers lovely work. Sure, you don't have to. But, that's part of the appeal of having testers on social media is it not? It also helps make your connection to your tester stronger because they will apricate that you've taken the time to notice their hard work and engage with them.
I know that with my second pattern, I will set a window of when photos can be posted to help build hype before I release the pattern into the wild.
Quilt Testers: the backbone to good design
All in all, my experience with quilt testers has been a very positive one. I've learned a lot in how other quilters may approach my patterns and where I personally can be more clear on my instructional writing. I cannot even begin to express how exciting it was the first time a tester pulled fabric for my pattern. Or the second... or the third! It's been such a thrill to work with them and see what they've created with my design. It makes me that much more excited to get my pattern out into the world for others to experience for themselves. I can't thank my testers enough for all the hard work they've put into testing my patterns thus far.
And as for my pattern? It'll be going live next week, May 11th 2023. Keep an eye out in the AQD Store for Bees n Peonys.
Till next time Quilty Crew,