Tester Spotlight: A Conversation with Jen Levin

Interview with Jen Levin of Gathered Cotton

Happy Wednesday, sewing friends! For today’s interview in the Quilt Pattern Testing series, we’re chatting with Jen Levin. She’s quickly becoming one of my favorite quilters and I so enjoyed hearing her honest and thoughtful feedback. I am grateful she’s agreed to share a bit more of her creative journey and experience in testing quilt patterns with you all.

Jen was born and raised in Southwest Missouri but now lives in Charlotte, NC. She is married and is a mother to three children, ages 20, 18, and 15. When she’s not quilting with Annie, her Bernina, she enjoys traveling, photography, flowers, memory keeping, and is always in search of the perfect dessert wherever her travels take her.

Jen’s admiration of hand/needle crafting started at a young age. Growing up, she recalls being drawn to the handmade goods at her local annual craft festival, especially the quilts. During her teen years, she worked on hand quilting a fabric panel and jokingly admits wondering if she ever finished it. Cross stitch found her early twenties and she completed many projects. Jen’s desire for quilting never wavered; she knew she’d one day complete a quilt completely by hand.

Eight years ago, she hand quilted her first quilt for her eldest daughter and now she can’t imagine not quilting. Currently, along with pattern tests, she’s sewing her way through Tula Pink’s City Sampler: 100 Modern Quilt Blocks. She keeps her favorite quilting supplies, like her Oliso mini iron, close by and delights in fabric collecting. I think Jen has solved the mystery of sewing. More quilts equal more pretty fabric! She reveals that she considers fabric collecting as much as a hobby as quilting.



Jen’s future plans include launching a website where she can share her makes in greater detail.. which I, for one, cannot wait for! I’m positive you’ll find her interview questionnaire informative and relatable and I sincerely hope you’ll follow along her future endeavors.


Jordan: How did you become a quilt pattern tester?

Jen: For months I had noticed all these ladies sharing their test versions of quilts and I thought about how much I’d like to do that. Then one day I saw a call for testers on Instagram and I raised my hand and said YES, please! 


Jordan: Roughly, how many patterns have you tested?

Jen: Not so many…probably around 10.


Jordan: What skill level would you consider yourself?

Jen: I’d say an early to middle intermediate level.


Jordan: How do you send feedback to designers? Do you have a personal standard?

Jen: I send an email with all my feedback suggestions along with the photos of my completed quilt top. Sometimes during the process of making the quilt, I’ll contact the designer via Instagram and have a conversation in the direct messages, but I always send an email with everything we’ve talked about all in one place.


Jordan: What are some expectations designers ask of you?

Jen: They give me the expectations they have around sharing on social…some don’t want any full/completed quilt top reveals until the release day, some don’t care. They give me the hashtags they want me to include, the deadline they need the photos and feedback by, etc. Most designers want you to commit to a size of the pattern you’re going to make before you are given that pattern.




Jordan: Can you share your process for social media promotion of your tests?

Jen: I only share on Instagram. In my feed, I always post a photo of my fabric pull for the pattern, then a process photo (blocks or cut pieces) then the final quilt top reveal. I also share in my stories as I’m working on the pattern.


Jordan: What are some qualities you contribute to the testing process?

Jen: As I’m testing, I am quite organized. I’ve come to know what works best for me and I have a system for the process, for sure. When I’m given a quilt pattern, the first thing I think about is the “feeling” of the design. That almost always guides me to what fabrics I’m going to choose for it. Is it a really feminine design? Then feminine colors/prints. Is it earthy feeling? Then more natural colors and maybe linens… a more earthy/natural fabric. I also pay attention to my immediate thoughts upon seeing the design the first time. At times, I’ve had one fabric in my stash come to mind, then I build the rest of the palette around that. I don’t know why this is, but I also often try to go for unexpected color choices and fabrics. I want my version to add something a little different to the mix among the other tester’s versions people will see. 


Jordan: What are some benefits to pattern testing?

Jen: I am most excited about pattern testing because it feels even more creative for me. I got to a point where I felt like most anyone can make a pattern and it just wasn’t feeling creatively challenging for me. But with pattern testing, no one has made the quilt yet. There are no photos to look at for inspiration. It feels more challenging because I can contribute my own color combination…as silly as it sounds, the pattern feels more like a blank canvas. I realize ALL patterns are like this, but I can become easily influenced by all the photos I see online of the pattern. Additionally, it feels challenging because sometimes the pattern has mistakes. I have to be on my toes to make sure it’s all ok, even the illustrations and tables. I really love the feeling that I’m sort of collaborating with the designer to get this pattern out into the world. It’s not just me in my sewing room making things for myself, but it makes it feel like there’s a little more purpose in my making. 



Jordan: Do you have any testing pet peeves?

Jen: I don’t like when designers add in extra “just in case” yardage to the fabric requirements without stating so somewhere in the pattern. Also, I carefully plan out all my social media posts based on when the pattern is being released. I usually start posting on my IG feed three days out from the release and post my completed quilt top the day of the release…a BIG pet peeve of mine is when a designer gives you a release date, then goes ahead and releases it days or even a week ahead of when they told you it would happen. I realize that they might have all the info they need on their end to go ahead, but it’s super annoying. Gosh, it felt good to get that off my chest! LOL


Jordan: What are your views on follower counts? Does the number truly matter?

Jen: I don’t think it matters at all. I’ve seen it all across the board. Different designers look for different things I think. I’d be curious to hear from designers on this one. 


Jordan: Describe your dream designer to test for.

Jen: I’d love to test for Brittany of @loandbeholdstitchery, Rachel of @wren.collective, Emily of @emily_dennis_, or Fran of @cottonandjoy. Most of the quilt patterns these ladies release are ones that I want to make for myself anyway! Two people I do test for that are a great fit for me are Amber of @alderwoodstudio and Riane of @riane.elise. Their designs and aesthetic are so ME! Their patterns are well written and easy to follow. That makes working with them a dream!


Jordan: Do you have any advice you can share with someone who wants to test patterns?

Jen: Start sharing what you’re making on IG. Start commenting and having conversations with designers you like. Then when the tester call comes, raise your hand and say yes! Or, you can always reach out and email them and let them know you want to be included the next time the have a call for testers. Don’t worry too much about your skill level. Designers are looking for eyes from a variety of perspectives to see their patterns. Beginning quilters might notice something about a pattern that a more advanced tester might not and vice versa. 



The biggest thank you to Jen for taking time to share her thoughts and honesty with us! If you’d like to follow Jen’s quilting journey, see Instagram link below.

Stay tuned! Tomorrow is the last of the interview posts in the series. We’ll learn more about a Designer who also has quite the list of test quilts under her belt.



IG: @jenlevin

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