Have you ever thought about how sewing patterns are developed? Maybe not. There’s a process of designing, grading out based on size charts, editing the technical directions…
Then for many independent designers, there’s the process of testing. Volunteers in every size and many different body types sew up the pattern before release, checking the instructions for errors, clarity, appropriateness. The world of the internet has made this much easier, as patterns can be printed and assembled at home without special printers. Facebook groups full of people like me are ample ground for finding testers.
They try all the variations in a pattern, provide feedback about the level of skill needed, fit and comfort, best fabric. And they take pictures.
The first round is Fit Pictures. Not pretty or clever, but these pictures show how a size fits on the body (supposedly) meant for it. A shoulder drape, the amount of ease in a skirt or pants for moving, a neckline lying flat. The designer will then make revisions as needed to the pattern and submit a new copy to the testing group.
Then you get Finals. These are the styled and lovely photos you see on the designer’s website, serving as inspiration to potential buyers for their own projects. These are equally important, as you can see how the same pattern looks on a petite hourglass, a tall willow stem, and everything in between. If it is a unisex or multiple age group design, you’ll see families coordinated, Mommy and Me. Notes are made to show how fabric choice can affect the look and drape.
I love, love, love testing patterns! The groups are of imaginative and creative women (mostly!) who ask questions, support each other, provide advice and encouragement, and accountability. It’s a chance to step outside your comfort zone, to work with a new fabric or style, and to challenge yourself in skill and in posting your pictures online. Photography is one of those things that I always found interesting but didn’t do very well. Add to that living alone, and it’s a whole other aspect of the challenge. Thank goodness for cell phone tripods and remote capture buttons.
Because testing goes fast. Usually the entire process is only a few days or maybe a week.
I try to use only fabric from my stash, but the appeal of fabric shopping for a new project is hard to overcome. Because of the fast turnaround time, there’s not really much time to order anything online. Between that and limited availability at the local Joann (Hancock Fabrics how I miss you!), I can usually pull the project together from stuff I already own.
And who doesn’t love a free project?
Recently, I was selected to test the Portia Party Dress from Rebecca Page, and assigned the knee-length knit version. Guess what – it’s free for you, too! Or you can purchase the full pattern with woven and other length options.
This dress has a lovely late 20’s/early 30’s vibe, with romantic, draping sleeves that are part of a one-piece bodice. The skirt is fitted through the waist and flows from a front point to a swingy a-line. A split back provides a blousey back, while options for a partial or fully open back allow for various style and modesty.
Overall, it was a quick sew, with the cutting probably taking longer. The only finicky points were hemming the front neckline and attaching the front bodice, both because of turning at a sharp point.
CAUTION: Do not sew while Netflixing! Bunched fabric from the skirt got in the way of my serger blade. Thus, a shimmery dress becomes a shimmery tunic.
But I may actually like the top better than the dress.