Wednesday, March 2, 2016

PWS- How to Write a Quilt Pattern - Pattern Testing Round Table (Topic 8)

Topic VIII - Testing - Round Table Discussion

On Monday, I covered Topic VIII, the testing of the pattern.  The post covered why is a good idea to test you patterns and how you would do so.  Today our guest designers and going to talk about how they test patterns.

Tomorrow (Thursday, March 3rd), there is going to be an exciting, exciting announcement so be sure to check back!

a. Do you use testers for your patterns?

Amy of 13 Spools - If they are paid patterns, yes.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - In the beginning I didn’t. Now I use block testers to ensure that the directions and cutting for the block make sense. I would like to have full pattern testers in the future and would love to know how others make this work for them.

Christa of Christa Quilts
- So far I have not done so because most of my patterns have been quilt alongs first and my followers sort of helped pattern test as we go. Also, since I usually write up the pattern before I make the quilt, I pattern test it myself.

However, as my pattern line grows, I plan to add pattern testers in the future. If anyone is interested in becoming a pattern tester for me, they can email me at

Soma of Whims and Fancies - When it comes to my own work, I like to see it through end to end. Other than custom pattern requests, I always write patterns that I would make for myself. That covers the testing aspect of the patterns too.

Sometimes I share my patterns with my friends and I am very grateful when I get feedback from them.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - Yes. I am a firm believer in pattern testers. At the very least, I will have a pattern edited / reviewed by 2 quilters.

b. How do you find your testers?

Anne of Springleaf Studios - So far my block testers have been through my online bee. Local guild members have also expressed an interest in pattern testing which will be a nice option in the future.

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - To find someone willing to test a pattern, write a blog post requesting anyone who is interested to leave a comment. Put out a call for pattern testers using social media such as your Facebook page or Instagram. Ask a trusted quilting friend or two if they would be willing to test for you.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I put out a call for pattern testers on my blog at the end of 2014. I have worked with everyone who has said they were interested at that time and learned a lot about what I expect out of a pattern tester along the way. I now have a small group of trusted testers that I will ask if they have availability first, and I am also considering putting out another call for testers later in 2015.

Amy of 13 Spools - I have a close quilty friend who tests most all of my patterns. Many of my other quilty friends (through my quilt guild) are also willing to test for me. For my book, Stash Books provided 2 techinical editors to comb through my work. For the Tribal Block Club, I put out a pattern testing call - but that was the first time! My mom tested my first patterns for me. Yup.

Christa of Christa Quilts Like the others have mentioned I would probably put out a call on my blog or Instagram for pattern testers.

c. What are your expectations of a tester?

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - A pattern tester should be willing to give helpful feedback and constructive criticism, perhaps even offering suggestions for rewording the instructions to make them clearer and easier to follow. They should be able to provide you with a review of the quilt math. Are the fabric requirements accurate? Are the cutting instructions correct? To have a pattern tester tell you that they did not read the pattern, but simply followed the pictures is not very helpful.

Yvonne of Quilting Jetgirl - I wrote a pattern tester expectations document that I send to potential testers so that they understand my expectations before committing to pattern testing for me. I also send out the pattern testing form to any returning testers as it contains a set of questions about each individual pattern that I am specifically looking for feedback on.

In general, some of the things I expect are: Frequent and timely communication, specifically where the deadline is concerned. I understand that life happens, but if a date commitment cannot be met, I need to know sooner rather than later.
  • I expect completed quilts and not just finished flimsies. I want to feature different colorways / sizes within the pattern, and I find that finished quilts inspire quilters to do better photography than a finished flimsy.
  • Testers must follow the pattern – this is not the time to get creative and modify to make the quilt something else.
  • If fabric is being used from a tester’s stash, I ask that they please pre-cut down to the suggested yardage. I need to know what works and does not work in the pattern including yardage recommendations.

Amy of 13 Spools - Tell me what I did wrong - and hopefully be nice about it :) Some people give excessive feedback - or tell me the errors they made, and that I should add extra instructions because they made errors. Unfortunately, no matter how I write a pattern (and no matter how correctly I write it!), someone will always make an error. So sometimes, I honestly do ignore suggestions. You have to. Otherwise everything would be in bold and highlighted!

Anne of Springleaf Studios - I can only speak to the block testing part, but I expect them to ask questions about anything that isn’t clear in the instructions. Comments on whether the measurements, wording, and illustrations make sense and are easy to follow. Pointing out any errors or confusing things. I am always open to suggestions on ways to clarify so that the user has a good experience.   

I love Yvonne's idea of having a pattern tester document. That way it's very clear exactly what you want feedback on. 

d. Do you compensate your testers? If so how?

Yvonne of Quilting JetgirlYes, I compensate my pattern testers by providing a gift certificate to their online store of choice that should be enough money to cover the cost of materials to make the quilt. I have a more detailed blog post about paying testers, and I hope that this clarifies why I feel OK having high expectations (previous question).

Cheryl of Meadow Mist Designs - Yvonne has a great post about compensating testers on her blog here.

Anne of Springleaf Studios - Since I haven’t used testers for the full pattern yet, I don’t have an answer to this, but am curious to know how the rest of you handle this.

Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts - A pattern tester that has been willing to provided you with a thorough review is deserving of compensation. Yes, they got a free pattern. And no you may not be able to afford to compensate them "out of pocket". But someone who has been particularly helpful may be rewarded with a portion or a percentage of your sales. Other ways to compensate them would be to give them recognition on your blog or other social media. Praise them for their invaluable work and efforts.

Amy of 13 Spools - It varies. I don’t compensate my mom!! When I started out, I simply couldn’t. Since it’s mostly my friends testing for me, it’s a non-issue: if they want to volunteer to test for free, they do. If they don’t, they won’t. If my friends volunteer to pattern test for me for free, I always give them a gift at the end - usually something fabric related. And yes, I give a gift to my mom, too. Sometimes I’ve had people help me put together a quilt top (like for my book), and then I can turn around and give the quilt to them. That’s pretty awesome.

With my friend Darcie, who now pattern tests most everything I write, it varies - she began by purchasing her own fabric and not getting paid. Now, I can usually provide her with some or all of the fabric for the quilt. We also trade services - I’ve been building her website in exchange for some of her testing & quilting work. I paid her to help me finish some of the blocks for the Tribal Rose quilt. It’s great to have a regular tester because 1) she really knows how to communicate what was wrong with a pattern and 2) we can talk openly about what we both need at that point in time. If I ask her to test something, she’ll either say, Yes! I have some fabric from my stash that would work great for that! Or, Yes! Let me know if you want any input on the fabric you’re going to order. It’s been working awesome for us to have that kind of partnership.

Remember to check back tomorrow for an exciting announcement!


  1. This was interesting to read. I've only pattern tested once, and while the quilt was fine, I realized that 1) I don't like working from patterns so much, and 2) my expectations as a pattern tester are high. The pattern should be in 'final draft' mode, not rough draft. The pattern I tested was clearly just roughly sketched out instructions with figures and fabric requirements. As a tester I'm happy to provide feedback, but I'm not going to edit every single sentence. Anyway, it was a fine experience, and I decided to just appear to be a flakey tester with my completed quilt and "the pattern's great" feedback!

    1. Oh my, Liz. I try so hard to have a good pattern to use, but it doesn't always work that way. I'm having one pattern tested now that required me to scratch my head a bit, but if I didn't have the feedback of the testers, it would have gone out to everyone that way.

      It is good to know yourself, though. Your personal style does seem to be much more improv based and less structured. :)

  2. I don't think getting pattern testers will be difficult. Social media is a great way to find them. The idea of a testing expectations document is very smart. How many times do each of you test your own pattern? Or block? I am so thankful for this all are so helpful!

  3. When I wrote my last Mystery Quilt, I could not get anyone to test it for me at first, thank heavens for good friends. I was able to get it reviewed, finally. Still had few bugs but sure turned out pretty. This is a great blog series. Cheryl thanks for putting this together. I have learned a lot from you and this team of bloggers.

  4. When I wrote my last Mystery Quilt, I could not get anyone to test it for me at first, thank heavens for good friends. I was able to get it reviewed, finally. Still had few bugs but sure turned out pretty. This is a great blog series. Cheryl thanks for putting this together. I have learned a lot from you and this team of bloggers.

  5. Another great post in this series. I am enjoying reading along. Plus it is helping me to improve my pattern writing. I recently had 2 of my closest quilting friends test a pattern for me. At first I was worried what they would think and how it would go but after the first lot of feedback it turned out great. I got some good advise and feedback. I think I will have them test for me again.

  6. I hope you all will discuss finding pattern printers who really do speak Quilting. And how do you print applique patterns? Thanks:)

    1. Hi Kitty (you are a no-reply blogger so I had no way to respond to your comment directly) - I found one company online that printed many, many different quilting patterns including books and patterns for some of the top names. Unfortunately they were a really high volume printer and when printing smaller quantities (less than 500 copies per pattern) they were prohibitively expensive. So I ahve worked with my local printer and educated them on printing quilt patterns, learning about printing in the process and forming a great working relationship with them.

      I have not written many applique patterns so maybe someone else can chime in on this questions, but I have printed mine the same as my regular patterns.

  7. Ok, I'm getting jealous of Amy's BFFPT - I hope if I get going I can find such a mutually helpful friend to work with! Looking forward to tomorrow's reveal : )

  8. Another very thought-provoking couple of posts! I was intrigued to see that self-testing may sometimes be the only testing of a pattern. This is interesting for me because of my editorial background - I am a terrible pedantic language nerd for a living and I like to think that I check my comments and blog posts carefully before hitting "publish", but I still find myself cringing a day or so later when I realise I've cut'n'shut a sentence into incomprehensibility, for example! The trouble with reading your own work is that there is a tendency to read what you *think* you wrote, rather than what is on the page/screen. (And hey, it's why I have a job, after all!) Do designers who do this have any tricks to minimise this effect, I wonder?

    1. Those are great points Heulwen! I definitely think that when proofing your own work you tend to read what you think it says versus what the text actually says and it happens more and more, the more times you read through the pattern. I really have two ways I use to combat this, the first being really great reviewers and testers. They are worth their weight in gold. The second thing I do is that I leave the pattern for 1-2 weeks and then give it a re-read, I find that this helps me find more mistakes. I look forward to your editing and proofreading advice in the Facebook group!


  9. Hearing from everyone about testing has been very helpful. Something I'll be considering more this year.


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