So you want to be a tester. When you test you are *volunteering* your time, skills, and photos in order to benefit a particular company. In exchange, you are learning some basic drafting and some of the behind the scenes work of pulling a pattern together prior to release. It can be very rewarding communicating with the designers and seeing all of the different personalities and styles at play when making a pattern come to life. Here are some basic questions to help you decide if testing is for you.
1) Are you a sewist that enjoys taking your time to create an outfit, working little bit by little bit? Or, would you prefer a deadline to put fire under you to get things done?
I like my sewing both ways, but I have found that when I have a deadline I do indeed get the project finished on time. There are many unfinished or not even started projects on my table that have sat for months so, for me, deadlines make things happen.
2) Do you enjoy sewing with deadlines?
The pressure is on to develop a garment that will translate well in photos. To find the right fabric(s), thread, notions, trims, etc. Think project runway… You get it done or you are out. While in PR the end result is the runway at the end of testing you will be turning in edited styled photos. Some companies give a generous amount of time (a week or more) others a few days. I have found that most companies are up front with their testers about the time limits to ensure completion.
3) Are you OK with making a garment more than once to get it right?
This is one that leaves me half and half. When I worked with a newer company that did not have a pretest group and kept changing the pattern completely (dress, added romper, then added pants romper) it felt a little taken advantage of. Some people do not mind using many yards of fabric on one pattern. I do. It’s costly and time consuming. However, sometimes another draft is necessary once seeing the pattern on multiple shapes and sizes, but I have since limited my free resources to two drafts.
4)What fabrics are you comfortable sewing?
If you just love wovens, signing up for a predominantly knit group may or may not be your best option. Do you want to try new fabrics or stick with your tried and true? Up to you.
5)Do you have the time to not only sew garments but photograph them as well?
The finished edited pictures are included within the deadline time. Finding a location, photographing and editing can take hours, so you do need to account for that. Fortunately, my yard is picturesque and we live in an area abundant with photo spots close by, so I have never needed to travel more than 20 minutes for pretty pictures.
6) Do you have a real DSLR camera (think Canon/Nikon)? Do you have software to help you edit (Lightroom/Photoshop)?
Although this isn’t 100% necessary, it does help you produce a more professional photo which IS what the companies require to sell their patterns. Most companies will require you to use a “real” camera with lenses, and adjustable iso, aperture, etc. This is a fun side hobby of mine and I enjoy it, but it can get very expensive very quickly. If you include software to edit on top of the camera and different lenses/flashes you are easily up in the $1000s anually. Although, I personally believe that phone cameras are getting pretty magnificent at taking pictures, when you blow those pictures up on a larger screen many times they become grainy and unusable. Shooting in RAW helps to eliminate some of this and keep your colors true which cannot be achieved with a phone camera.
7)And a couple big ones for me: Is this something your child enjoys? Can you find a balance with family life and sewing life?
It’s great to have hobbies and to use those hobbies to benefit others however this isn’t a job. Nobody is paying you to make those garments or edit those pictures or use those images you produce. lt is strictly volunteering with a gift of an $8 pattern at the end in which you helped provide feedback and editing and hours of your time. My daughter and son enjoy this right now, and the deadlines (like stated above) keep me on task and help push me to complete garments that would take me a month or more to produce. However, after testing five different outfits in one week, I really pulled back to reevaluated my time and resources. Now, I test one to two patterns at a time with little breaks in between. I have found that this is a great balance for me, my kids, and my family life and also keeps me happy with my sewing.
So, those are my big 7 you need to think about prior to becoming a tester for any company. Join me next time when we will discuss the pros and cons of testing. Until then, happy sewing!