Erin’s love for sewing started organically at an early age. Her Grandmother, Eleanor, was a lifelong professional seamstress. When she visited during the Summer, she’d help bring Erin’s Fall fashion ideas to life. With Erin’s sketchbook in tow, the sewing duo would frequent Hancock Fabrics to purchase their materials and notions. Erin fondly recalls picking up dropped pins while watching, in amazement, as her Grandmother skillfully sewed at their kitchen table. After her passing in 2013, Erin’s family agreed that she should be the recipient of her Grandmother’s Kenmore.
Erin sewed in the years after, but really picked up speed after the birth of her daughter in 2016. She found herself wanting to make “all the things” including Mommy and Me outfits. She began sewing daily and even tested garment patterns. She’d never planned on quilting, but it unmistakably found her after walking into a modern quilt shop in search of woven fabrics for a dress for her daughter. It was love at first sight!
Erin jumped right in and began whipping up quilts as fast as the moment she fell in love. She’s tried her hand at many piecing techniques including Traditional and English Paper. She’s tested for a variety of quilters but notably for the ever crowd-pleasing and one of her personal favorites, Lo & Behold Stitchery. Erin met Brittany at a Quilt Retreat in West Virginia. They got to know one another and Erin has since become one of her repeat testers.
While gaining experience and exposure through testing, Erin filled a notebook with her own personal design ideas. Equipped with the necessary tools and a lot of heart, Love Sew Modern was born. Her inaugural pattern, “Diamond Skies” was released in May 2020.
Since then, she’s moved her family into a new home and continued to sew test patterns faster than any quilter I know. Now that her family is settled, she’s investing time in designing a new pattern and has so kindly agreed to interview with me. I hope you enjoy Erin’s responses regarding Designing and Testing as much as I do.
Jordan: How are you able to balance both designing and testing?
Erin: The only way I’m able to do both is by being very selective in what I say yes to. I used to say yes to almost every test I was asked to participate in. Designing and writing a pattern takes a lot more time and energy than testing a pattern. So when my time is limited, I enjoy taking on a pattern test. I like to look at testing patterns as my hobby and a reward to work on, while writing patterns, although a fun process, is my work.
Jordan: As a repeat tester, what qualities do you think it takes to land repeat tests?
Erin: It’s important in the quilting community to build relationships. The relationships I’ve made are what have brought me my greatest successes. To have a designer invite you to test again, you have to meet their expectations. If a designer doesn’t make it clear from the beginning what they expect from you, be sure to ask them. Life happens and sometimes you might not be able to complete a test or meet a deadline. You have to be honest and communicate that with the designer. They don’t want you to just make their pattern. They want you to tell them what’s wrong with it or what doesn’t make sense. Because if it doesn’t make sense to you, then it likely won’t make sense to someone else. A tester is quality control.
Jordan: Can you share a few expectations you have of your testers?
Erin: The most important thing is communication. If you can’t keep a commitment you have to talk with the designer. If you find cutting instructions to not make sense, don’t assume it’s a problem with you. Too often a tester is afraid that they made the mistake, and not the designer, so they don’t say anything. The designer wants you to find their mistakes. They will never judge you if it is actually your mistake. You are a team!
Jordan: Can you briefly describe your tester selection process?
Erin: I like to have a variety of testers. I put out a call for testers on my Instagram, then review the Instagram pages of those who respond to my call.
Jordan: What are some qualities that would make you select a tester?
Erin: It’s important to me that their Instagram account is public. I need to be able to review some of their work and it’s ideal that they’re able to share their completed quilts. They don’t have to only take very high quality pictures, I look to work with a range of skill sets. Another thing I look for is if they follow instructions. If I put out a call and ask them to direct message me on Instagram to apply, but they email me instead I would feel cautious about selecting them.
Jordan: What are qualities that would not make you select a tester?
Erin: If your Instagram account is private, I will automatically not select the tester. I have mixed feeling about this because I understand not wanting everything you share to be public. As a tester, I had this same feeling and chose to create a sewing only account and have a personal account to keep private. Promoting a quilt pattern is part of the role as tester. I’ve had some designers require a certain amount of pictures to be shared and even had designers create sharing schedules. I don’t ask this of my testers, but I do expect that if they enjoyed the pattern and are proud of their work they will want to share it.
Jordan: How often and what format do you prefer to receive feedback?
Erin: In the past I’ve requested testers to reply to my email by a set date. I’ve found this to be a low accountability approach and will do it differently in the future. As a tester, I prefer interacting in a Facebook group for the testers. I’ve had other designers use Instagram chats, but personally find that overwhelming.
Jordan: What are your views on follower counts? Does the number truly matter?
Erin: As a tester, you are part of the promotion team but I don’t think a tester’s follower count should be the deciding factor on selecting them. As a designer, I try to build relationships with other designers, fabric companies, and fellow quilters with larger following and reach out to them to share my pattern. I, rather, use my platform to help my testers gain followers and I share their content (related to my pattern or not) to my audience in my stories if I think it will interest my audience. I’m grateful someone is willing to give me their time and materials and I can’t hold their following count against them.
Jordan: What benefits do your testers receive from you in return for their test contribution?
Erin: Right now I’m still new in the designing world so my profits aren’t enough to pay my testers. In the past, as a tester, I’ve only been thanked with a copy of the finished pattern. Right now, I give my testers a copy of the finished pattern and give them as much exposure as I can. As I grow as a designer, I hope to give back more. I’ve had designers buy me Starbucks, or send me a gift card, send me a few fat quarters, and provide long arming service since they’re also long armers. As a tester, I do appreciate those extra things and makes me want to test again for those designers, so I hope I can do the same in the future.
Jordan: What are some of your testing pet peeves?
Erin: The worst is being ghosted. This all goes back to communication and how important it is to let the designer know if you’re unable to test or no longer interested in testing. If you let the designer know you can no longer test, they can get someone else to take your place. This keeps a good relationship between you and the designer.
Jordan: Describe your dream tester.
Erin: My dream tester is one that communicates with me. They provide me feedback and don’t worry about telling me if I’ve made a mistake or if I can word something better. They also share at least one picture, if not more, of their quilt and share their honest feelings and experience about the quilt. The perfect tester thinks of the tester and designer as a team!
Jordan: Do you have any advice you can share with fellow quilters that want to test or design patterns?
Erin: My best advice to become a tester is to build relationships. Make the patterns of the designers you want to work with. Be active on their social media and sign up for their newsletter. Many designers announce the need for testers through their newsletters and the spots fill up quickly. If you want to be a designer, start keeping a sketchbook of ideas. Search for your inspiration outside of Instagram. You don’t want to accidentally copy another designer. I like to walk the streets of my hometown and draw inspiration from my community. I have a picture folder on my phone of inspiration ideas.
Sending so much gratitude to Erin for sharing a bit of her wealth of knowledge. Want to follow Erin’s quilt journey? See below links
Did you enjoy the interviews as much as I did? I have to say it was my favorite part of the series. I am so appreciative of their willingness to share – I’m confident you are as well.
Only one post remains in the series – Compensation!