Hello again! Welcome back to the quilt pattern testing blog series. This week I’d like to discuss communicating quality feedback. After polling fellow testers in my Instagram stories, a great deal expressed that sometimes they don’t know exactly what designers are looking for or what feedback to send to them. Naturally, I became intrigued by the idea of setting some kind of standard.
Knowing this aspiration is virtually impossible due to the large quantities of designers, testers and mixed opinions, I redirected my focus to offering insight as to what feedback I prefer to communicate as well as opinions of a few quality testers I inquired privately.
First and foremost, you should know that it is solely the designer’s responsibility to communicate clear guidelines for their pattern test. They’re responsible for issuing deadlines and explaining aspects of their pattern that they’d like reviewed by you. After all, they’re the captain of the ship. Elements of the pattern you may be asked to review include, but are not limited to, grammar, diagram clarity, direction comprehension, construction, fabric requirements and quilt math. It’s uncommon for a designer to send their pattern to you without communicating their test requirements. If this rarity happens to you, promptly query the designer.
Now, let’s talk about a few different categories in a bit more detail. To be most helpful, I have designed a fun Quilt Pattern Testing Worksheet free for you to download. My hope for this worksheet is to serve as a useful tool but also to inspire designers and testers to consider creating one of their own, tailored to their needs. My worksheet is not the be-all and end-all, but is a starting point. Download at the link below and keeping reading for further details.
GRAMMAR & SPELLING
Checking for grammatical and spelling errors are common designer requests. Testers should review the pattern for typos, punctuation accuracy and sentence clarity. It’s perfectly fine if Language Arts is not your strong suit. Offer what you can!
FABRIC REQUIREMENTS AND QUILT MATH
Several designers send their pattern to be reviewed by a Technical Editor. And if so, you may not be asked to double check any calculations.
Quilt Math is FUN! It’s also important. Double check block sizing. Make sure all component pieces of the block add up accurately when cutting and sewing together. Ensure your unfinished and finished block and quilt measurements match the designers. For calculation of fabric requirements, some designers allow wiggle room because they’re nice people. This allows for potential cutting errors, ease of cutting instructions, and overall pattern simplicity for beginner quilters. If you are not asked to dissect fabric requirements and various cutting options, you may simply be asked if you had too little or too much of any fabric.
But…. if you’re like me, sewing with minimal waste is a personal goal. I really enjoy dissecting fabric requirements in an effort to sew smarter, reduce waste, and reduce my overall quilt budget. CAUTION: Living life on the quilt edge does not come without risk! Measure three times, cut one!
PSA: I am a math and grammar nerd. I could go on and on as it’s my favorite part of pattern testing. Not a math whiz? Don’t sweat it. Quilters still land test gigs and never pull out a calculator. While I’d be really sad not to math it up, some jump for joy – it’s really up to the pattern designer what they want reviewed. Remember, each of us is unique in what we can offer as a tester.
Don’t forget to review the diagrams! Make sure cutting, construction and overall pattern diagrams are accurate. Sometimes, a sneaky little HST can point the wrong way. Or a cutting diagram may contain a typo in the number of pieces to cut. Do your designer a solid and make sure their diagrams are accurate and easily interpreted. Pattern writing is not easy! Be a friend.
Ask yourself three questions:
- Are the directions clear?
- Are the directions thorough?
- Do the directions pose any questions?
Without changing any aspect of the design, some designers are open to constructive criticism regarding the way a block is constructed. Sometimes, there really is a better way. I would encourage those designers that want the pattern constructed exactly as written to be clear in their test instructions. If you’re open to suggestions, inform your testers. Prevent the breakdown in communication and unsolicited advice. This subject can be tricky and the only advice I can offer, with love, is to practice good etiquette, read words without emotion or bias, and communicate.
POSITIVE POINTS AND CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
What is constructive criticism in the quilting world? It’s telling your designer that the fabric requirements are too restrictive or too giving. It’s suggesting that a certain sentence be reworked. It’s advising that a diagram has potential for misinterpretation. It’s not offering your distaste for the pattern. It’s not suggesting additions of sashing or a half square triangle here or there (hello completely different pattern design). It’s reviewing a pattern as if it were your own.
When you offer constructive criticism, pair it with a positive point. A positive point you’ve thoughtfully considered, mind you. “Looks great” is not sufficient. Take time with your communications. Remember the “Do Unto” golden rule.
Myth vs. Fact
Myth: (Tester) “I am afraid I’ll hurt their feelings.“
Fact: (Numerous Designers) “You are not going to hurt my feelings.”
Jordan’s note: I wish I could hug every person’s neck that messaged me on Instagram sharing they were afraid to send their true edits for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. I’ve said before that sewing is an emotional exercise. Unless you’re writing a “He-Man Woman-Haters Club” type of message to the designer, rest assured that your feedback is needed. To designers, you’re a Godsend. An easy way to gauge the necessity of your comment is to try asking yourself, “would I want to know this if this were my pattern?” Fear not! “You’re not going to hurt my feelings,” is the MOST common communication I’ve received from designers.
How often and what you are allowed to share on social media should be communicated by the Designer. Social media promotion may not even be a requirement. Here’s a few housekeeping items I’d like to share.
- Unless otherwise advised, don’t share the overall pattern design in your social media posts prior to pattern release day.
- Unless otherwise advised, you should keep your completed quilt top under wraps until pattern release release day.
- Fabric pulls, block and progress photos (without sharing the full design) are acceptable types of post leading up to pattern release day.
- Don’t share block sizing.
- On pattern release day, it would be kind of you to wait until the designer has posted their quilt reveal on their account before you post your test.
The last feedback element that I’d like to touch on is format. If you’re still reading this novella, bless you.
Pattern designers should communicate what feedback format they prefer to receive, whether it’s an email summary, a private message on Instagram or something else.
Personally, I have created a standard for how I communicate feedback and it’s super nerdy! Want to know? I add my edit suggestions to the PDF the designer sends me via “Comments” in Adobe Acrobat Reader. Adobe Acrobat Reader is free to download if you do not already use it, but chances are you do!
This way, I streamline my suggestions into one format. I save time by highlighting the exact part of the pattern I wish to add a comment to. Sometimes, it’s hard to explain in an email alone. Plus, I’m able to make notes as I go and save them easily.
Whew! That was a lot of information, I know. There are differing opinions on feedback and I could write until the cows came home, but I’d still be doing someone a disservice. What I do hope is that the contents of this post are informative feedback tools. I also hope I’ve helped cure a few fears of hurt feelings.
Did you think of something I missed while reading this entry or spy a typo of my own? Ha! Add your thoughts in the comments below!
Stay tuned – the next post will begin our highlight interviews with designers and testers! Eeeeekkk!