How to Become a Quilt Pattern Tester
When I emerged on to the modern quilting scene, I couldn’t help but notice the numerous social media posts teasing an upcoming quilt pattern release. In addition to designers, a variety of quilters shared colorful shots of fabric pulls and test blocks paired with cheerful captions disclosing their “secret sewing”. I quickly gathered that the chosen few were deemed as “testers” and had been tasked with sewing a pattern for quality assurance before it became available for purchase.
I didn’t know much, but I knew that I wanted in.
Are you curious about quilt pattern testing? Are you wondering how you can start? Stick around! This post serves as a starting point in a series of blog posts discussing the essentials of quilt pattern testing. I’m hoping to expand the conversation regarding how to start, proper etiquette, clear communication, identifying quality feedback, and I’m even addressing uncomfortable questions such as “Don’t I get paid for this?” Buckle up!
WHERE DO I START?
Conduct research, my friend.
There are several avenues you can take to discover a pattern testing opportunity, namely social media, but you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled. There isn’t a magical Excel spreadsheet complete with designers and subsequent columns of release dates and tester needs. There are also not any secret formulas to predict when their next pattern will launch. Therefore, you have to be willing to look for those opportunities. To start, social media platforms are a common way to stay connected with the designers you admire or want to learn more about.
Instagram: I consider Instagram to be the matriarch of social media for creatives. Yes, there are several other forces of nature but if I want to engage with fellow quilters on the inter web, that’s my first stop. Designers will announce Tester calls in grid posts and stories. Tip: Try searching hashtags related to testing, i.e. #patterntestersneeded #quiltpatterntestersneeded
Facebook: Admittingly, Facebook is not my preferred way of interaction… like ever. However, I am aware that many designers have personalized groups for their creative community. Tester calls are also posted here.
Pinterest: I’d like to challenge you to type “pattern tester” into your Pinterest search bar. Test opportunities for quilting as well as sewing, knitting and crocheting await you! Sometimes, we forget about the prettiest search bar in all of the land. Bonus: It’s also a great way to discover new patterns and designers.
Twitter: Like Pinterest, Twitter can be a great way to make quick announcements and provide a direct link for applications.
IS SOCIAL MEDIA THE ONLY WAY?
The flip side of social media is that it can be overwhelming or unhealthy. I wholeheartedly believe that taking a social media break should be recognized as a prescribed therapy. There are certainly other ways to learn of test opportunities without social media.
Designer’s Website: Have you ever visited your favorite pattern designer’s website? You should. Blog posts are FREE, I repeat FREE information to you. And while you’re there, subscribe to their newsletter. In addition to insider information, newsletters are used for tester announcements, my friend!
Quilting Magazines: Print is not dead, y’all. Flip through your favorite magazine for the skinny on potential test leads. I bet you’ll find something!
Quilt Guilds: A plethora of information that is often overlooked. Reach out to your guild. Ask around. Engage!
Podcasts: Wait….Quilting podcasts are a thing? Seek and you shall find. I dare ya! Tip: Quilt and Tell and American Patchwork & Quilting Podcast are both great places to start. There are many more! I really enjoy listening to Love to Sew Podcast. While it’s not a dedicated quilting podcast, episode 135 “Pattern Testing with Meg McCarthy” is such an interesting listen.
HOW DO I APPLY?
Yay! You’ve learned of a test call that you’re interested in. Now, how do you apply? Again, there’s no magic Excel spreadsheet to queue up. Application formats vary by designer. Some have an appointed form on their website that is accessible at all times. Some announce on social media with application instructions. Some send a call to their newsletter subscribers only.
WHAT DO I SAY?
Be prepared to answer some of the following prompts: what your skill level is, why you want to test, previous experience, contact information, availability, etc. Often times, you’re asked to include your social media account information (i.e. Instagram handle). Tips: Be honest. If you’re GREEN, you’re GREEN. Pattern Designers are looking for beginners as they offer an invaluable point of view. Don’t apply if you cannot commit. Seriously, don’t. Don’t test shop.
I’VE APPLIED, WHAT’S NEXT?
The last step is the hard part: waiting for an invitation to test from the designer. They will likely extend the invitation via email with test specifics, a preview of the design if not already shared, deadline information, etc. You should be clear in your communication of whether you can accept the invitation. Newsflash: You can politely decline for various reasons.
The great news is that there is not an official test to pass. There are not any tester credentials to gain, that I am aware of, but there is homework to be done. In an effort to provide stories other than my own, I contacted a few ladies that I enjoy following on Instagram. I asked them to share how they started testing quilt patterns and their responses quickly became my favorite part of this post. I hope you’ll find their unique experiences valuable.
“How did you snag your first quilt pattern test?”
“I snagged my first quilt test by….just going for it and putting myself out there! My first test was with Julie @thelittlepineneedle, it was her first pattern and my first time testing a quilt pattern. What I enjoy most about pattern testing is that it gives me the opportunity to make quilts that enhance my skill level and challenge me to be more creative with my fabric choices/pulls. My advice would be for anyone interested in testing – just do it! If a pattern writer/designer puts out a call for testing, take the risk because in the end it will pay off! Even if you don’t get picked for one initially, continue to reach out, don’t ever doubt yourself. We aren’t all perfect quilters/makers! In my opinion, the beauty in quilting are the imperfections! Nothing gives me more joy than receiving and giving a handmade gift! We make beautiful heirlooms that should be enjoyed for years to come!”
See? It’s possible and clearly a rewarding adventure. I have obtained testing opportunities various ways. The first test I snagged was by applying to a tester call announced on Instagram. I accessed the application via a link provided by the designer, proudly claimed myself the beginner of quilt beginners and hoped for the best. Surprisingly, the elusive invitation email came! Subsequent opportunities came by responding to an Instagram story and others simply by offering to test for a quilty friend. The most flattering opportunity recently came by designer word of mouth. I’d provided quality feedback and that attention to detail landed me another opportunity.
Now that you are equipped to explore, get out there! New quilt patterns are releasing WEEKLY. There’s room! Let me know how it goes! If you have a tester experience or advice you’d like to share, please comment below. Stay tuned for upcoming discussions including etiquette, communication/feedback, compensation, and some REALLY COOL highlight interviews with both designers and testers.