Pattern Testing: Behind the Scenes of your Favorite Patterns

I recently tested another fantastic pattern from Itch to Stitch. This time I made the Newport Top, a flattering knit t-shirt with an envelope neck and a hi-low hem. The flowy hem makes it super comfortable to wear. A tailored fit through the arms and shoulders keeps the shirt looking trim and sophisticated. The neckline is unique and provides the right amount of visual interest. I am a big fan.

Testing the Newport was more interesting than the average pattern test, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you a behind the scenes look at pattern testing.

What is pattern testing?

Pattern testing is a review process that helps patternmakers make sure that a new pattern is ready for sale. Patternmakers ask a group of sewists to review all of the aspects of their new pattern—the clarity of instructions and tutorials, the layout of the text, and the garment itself—so they can make sure it is ready for its debut. In exchange, they provide their testers with a free pattern when it’s all done.

It usually works something like this:

  1. The patternmaker puts out a call for a new pattern via their blog or Facebook page.
  2. Testers apply to create a specific size and view for their model.
  3. The patternmaker selects a group of sewists to test a range of sizes and views and provides them with a copy of the test pattern.
  4. Pattern testers review the instructions and sew up a garment for their model using the pattern exactly as written.
  5. Pattern testers provide edits to the instructions, text and layout. They also give feedback on fit and provide snapshots to demonstrate how the garment looks on various models.
  6. As the patternmaker receives feedback on fit, they may choose to make a revision (or two or three) to fix fitting or sizing problems.
  7. When pattern revisions are made, testers make new garments to ensure that the revisions are achieving the desired results.
  8. When the patternmaker is satisfied with the pattern, testers take pretty photos of models in the final version for marketing purposes.

Sometimes a pattern requires no revisions, but other times a pattern will need some adjustments in order to achieve a good fit across a wide range of body shapes and sizes. This was the case with the Newport.

Testing the Newport Top

We tested three versions of the Newport top before we were done. Now, a lot of revisions does not necessarily indicate that the original pattern wasn’t excellent. In fact, the first version of the Newport fits me very well! And I enjoy wearing the first version that I made.

But many testers felt that the neck on version 1 was too wide. Some people were having trouble keeping their bra straps covered and found the shoulder placement was too wide. So our patternmaker made a second version to try to fix the problem.

Version 2 provided good shoulder coverage. But adding extra shoulder coverage reduced the impact of the wide boat neckline. And many testers found the shoulder placement was now too narrow.

Again, our patternmaker made a revision and the third time was the charm! As you can see in the photos, the neckline is wide, but not too wide (straps stay covered!). The shoulder placement hit most of us perfectly. The result is a beautiful and refined top that is flattering on a wide range of women. Check out the other tester photos here to see how it looked on everybody.

If our patternmaker hadn’t made so many revisions, the top would have probably been fine! But because she took the time to fine tune the pattern according to our feedback, I think the result is fantastic. I feel that this demonstrates a real commitment to a high quality product. Seeing her dedication to getting everything just right was a lesson in professionalism.

Another thing I love about pattern testing is the camaraderie of the testing community. Most pattern tests have a common forum (such as a closed Facebook group) where all of the testers share feedback and photos as they work on their tests. It’s inspiring to work alongside other sewists, albeit virtually. For example, there is always at least one person who slams out their first version on day one. This motivates me to get started sooner and to work faster! I enjoy seeing the variety of fabrics, colors and prints that other testers use. It’s an environment that fosters learning and creativity and I love it.

As a lifelong procrastinator, I find that the hard deadline of a pattern test is helpful. Part of the pattern testing agreement involves getting it done within a given time frame. If you’ve ever started a project and then neglected to finish it, or if you have gathered the materials for a project, but never found the time to start it, you might enjoy the pattern testing model. When I test, I have to get started right away, and keep going until I am done. Within a week, I’m rewarded with a new and beautiful garment to wear.

If you like the Newport Top pattern, you can get it for 20% off until the end of day Sunday. I highly recommend it!

Happy sewing!

Have you ever done a pattern test before?
Who do you enjoy testing for the most?

Full disclosure: Post contains affiliate links.

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2 comments

  1. This looks like my ideal shirt–both comfortable, practical and a little chic. For us beginners: what fabric did you use for this? Is it Jersey? I really need to take a sewing class, because I think I would love to make something like this but my sewing knowledge is very piecemeal.

    1. It really is comfortable! And forgiving (it doesn’t hug the belly). This is a lightweight jersey knit. It was a little tricky to work with, so I went slow. My first Newport was with a medium weight interlock knit and it was much easier to sew with. It didn’t stretch as much and it sewed up much more quickly. My advice to someone new to knits is start with fabric that is slightly heavier weight and not too stretchy. You may not get the lovely drape of a jersey right off, but you’ll feel more confident while you are gaining experience!

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