You may have seen us put out calls for QR Testers or Photo + Sharing Team Members and perhaps wondered what exactly does it entail? Could I join in? What will I be asked to do? And perhaps, what will I get in return?
So that our patterns fit well across our size range, we follow a production process that ensures a consistently good fit. We break-down this process into the following stages:
- Design Ideation
- In-Studio Fit Testing
- Tutorial + Video Class Creation
- Quality Review (QR) Testing
- Photo + Sharing Phase
You can read more about these stages below.
In the past, our testing was completed by volunteer testers, who gave generously of their time and materials to help make sure every pattern was the best it could be. And we wouldn't be here without their giving hearts. Their feedback and time has always been invaluable and immeasurable.
We have always offered testers the chance to be compensated in the form of free patterns, and experience in the pattern development world, and maintained appropriate expectations that testers only be required to complete what they are able.
However, as T+T has grown, we wanted to change our testing model, to be further in line with our goals and beliefs. Testing is very much part of our pattern production, an important phase that ensures the high-standard of patterns that we offer. It is not a stage tacked onto the end of our process, but rather it is fully integrated into our process - and as such, it is integrated into our business model too. The cost of testing is part of the cost of production.
Now we are proud to say that we compensate our external Fit-models, Testers and Sharers as follows:
- We provide our Fit-Models with a financial stipend towards their time in studio and a copy of the final pattern. Often they will also receive a finished garment sewn specifically for them.
- We provide our QR Testers with a financial stipend towards their time and materials, a copy of the final pattern, and a T+T gift card which can be used personally or gifted as the tester desires.
- We make an exchange with our Photo + Sharing team of a copy of the final pattern in advance of its release, with their help in spreading the word when the pattern releases, by sharing photos of their finished garment. No testing is required.
This group is hosted in a private community with access to our expert team so they can ask any fitting questions they may have, and enjoy the camaraderie of sewing something up together. This team also receives a second pattern of choice for their personal use.
So what do each of the stages entail? Here's an insight into the process.
Ideas start with a sketch, and are then fleshed out into sample garments which are worn and road tested by our team and their families. Over the course of about a year, only the garments which are reached for over and over, make it into the next stage of production. They must be comfortable, functional and in the case of children's patterns - play-friendly!
In-Studio Fit Testing
In keeping with our values, in-studio fit testing allows us to work on things at our own (often slower) pace. This gives us more control over the fitting process, and a better pattern for you at the end of the process.
A selection of fit-models are chosen to represent particular sizes across our range, and we sew sample garments to fit their precise measurements.
We meet with the fit-models in our rainforest studio on the outer fringes of Auckland, New Zealand to try the samples on and we carefully examine the fit in-person.
We make changes to the pattern after each of these sessions, and sometimes two or three rounds of sampling are needed before our team is satisfied with the fit - if it is going to be worth your time and effort, it's worth ours, too.
Tutorial + Video Class Creation
Once the fit has reached our standards, we then go about creating the sewing instructions/tutorial. Construction methods are carefully considered and much thought goes into choosing methods that enable home-sewers to produce a high quality item, while keeping the construction as simple as possible.
The sewing instructions are photographed step by step, alongside the video class which accompanies the pattern.
Additional resources such as adaptive pattern pieces and fitting techniques are created, and the pattern pieces are laid up with coloured and dashed lines, and AO Copy-shop and Projector files are created ready for Quality Review testing.
The tutorial and video is then carefully proofed to further refine and spot any errors that have managed to escape us.
Here at T+T it is our goal to create a pattern which is as close to "finished" as possible before it goes out to testing in our wider creative community.
Quality Review Testing
This phase begins with a call out for paid testers. Selection is based on different criteria:
- Measurements - we are looking for people who closely match the measurements of certain sizes across our size chart.
- Sewing Ability - we like to select a variety of sewing skill levels. In this way we can test the quality and clarity of our instructions for new sewists, as well as receive valuable feedback from experienced sewers. particularly around technical details and fit.
- Other factors - we encourage inclusivity at T+T, and encourage as many sewists as possible from under-represented groups to apply. This gives an opportunity for feedback on the pattern and tutorial from a perspective that we may not have considered.
We do not require our QR testers to promote or share photos of the pattern. This is a purely technical phase. This also encourages honest feedback which is critical to the success of the pattern.
QR testers meet together with the full T+T team in our new private community space (not on Facebook). This gives testers the opportunity to chat with the team including pattern maker and tutorial writer, who can respond to fitting queries, sewing instruction questions etc. directly.
The QR team:
- Sews a muslin/toile carefully and accurately in a "testing" fabric
- Provides feedback on the fit of the garment, the clarity of instructions, suggested fabric and notions etc.
- Helps us catch any persisting errors within the tutorial and pattern pieces prior to being published, such as typos, grammatical errors, omissions, broken links, labelling errors etc.
- Helps us identify which pattern resources such as hacks, modifications, fitting tutorials etc. may be helpful to accompany the pattern.
Conversation in the testing group is friendly, frank, and sewing friendships are often made! The feedback and conversations are greatly valued by us, and all comes together to bring about a great pattern result.
Once the QR testers have finished, the T+T team go through the corrections log and make the changes necessary to the pattern pieces and tutorial. The testers feedback forms are also reviewed and incorporated.
After everything has been gone through with a fine toothed comb, we make a final proof to complete the polishing and ta-da! Production is finished!
It would be remiss not to mention that at any of the stages throughout this process, a pattern may be discarded if it isn't performing how we would like it to. We never release a pattern simply because we have invested a lot of time and energy into it. Only the best ones make it through!
Photo + Sharing for Pattern Release
It is at this point that we offer the fully finished pattern to a small, diverse group of sewers who love to sew and share, in exchange for sewing it up and helping us spread the word when the pattern releases. No testing is required.
We acknowledge that many people who enjoy the technical development of a pattern in the QR phase, may not be as interested in photography or community involvement at a pattern's release, and vice versa.
Separating this out of the production phases, allows people who love to photograph and share their makes, but aren't interested in "testing", a chance to be involved.
To honour our value of inclusivity, when the pattern releases we want people to be able to see the pattern on a wide variety of bodies of different sizes, shapes, colours, and abilities.
In order to achieve this, interested sewers are invited to apply via open calls to a Photo + Sharing Team. The team is selected through a lens of diversity, and comes together in our private community space (off Facebook). The team has fun sewing up the pattern in the company of like minded people, with opportunity to discuss possible fun hacks, discovering all of its' possibilities, and to share photos and experiences. The group also has access to our team for any fit or technical questions they may have.
When a pattern finally releases it is a very special time for us. This is when this group really shines. It's so wonderful to see everyone's unique versions being shared with the wider sewing community - so much incredible inspiration! A pattern is all about how the maker interprets it, and we are here to celebrate them all.
And so there it is, the pattern is now out in the Big Wide World and there for all to enjoy, with the support of our very own T+T community behind it.
Be a part of it!
After reading this we hope that you see what an exciting and in-depth process the production of a pattern really is, and that the pattern is the sum of ALL parts.
Next time you see us call out for QR Testers or for Photo + Sharing Team members we hope that you will now understand the different stages a pattern goes through and perhaps you might even be inspired to join us! There is a place for all sewists here.
If you would like to be notified when either QR Testing or Photo + Sharing opportunities arise (with no obligation to take part!) please add your details here.