So You Wanna Be a Tester?

So…

in a recent post we showed you the bags that our testers created in the process of “test-driving” our new design, the Wrapsody. And just in case I haven’t said it in a while, you need to know that our testers play a totally vital and oft underestimated role in our design process. So I’m constantly amazed at how often folks write to us inquiring about how to join our distinguished panel of testers. It happens so much lately, that I thought it might be time to devote a post to detailing exactly what we look for in a pattern tester.
poll77These are a few of my favorite bags that tester Peg Rice of Westport Island, ME has made. Above, is her matching Gadabout & Porta-Pockets Purse Insert. poll236And this is Peg’s Quattro. UptownPeg1and here’s her Uptown Saddlebag.Peg LOVES working with color and bold prints!  🙂
First of all, you need to know that I really only need 5 or 6 testers in order to get the feedback I need prior to publishing a new design, and lucky for me, several of my testers have been with us for many pattern cycles. It obviously doesn’t happen often but occasionally one or more of our testers either decides they’ve had enough, or needs to skip a cycle for one reason or another. When this happens, we like to refer to a list of prospective candidates who have an interest in joining us!
poll1And this was the very first test bag Judi Graf of Tyler, TX made for us. She loves working with pleathers and vinyls and this Trifecta was amazing! poll73Her Boho Baguette was totally stunning! poll115And this Lollapalooza could be on the pages of Vogue! 🙂
But here’s the deal… even though we overwhelmingly have had excellent service from our testers, there have been a couple that just weren’t cut out  for the job. For example, I’ve had testers commit to taking part in the process, (which involves making up the bag in the allotted amount of time, then providing a critique and a decent picture of the finished bag) but then, after accepting the materials, they’ve…
  • simply disappeared!  ….. Did they ever make the bag? Did they get sick? Did the package get lost? Who knows, because we never heard from them again!
  • sent in their critique without ever making up the bag (this really drives me crazy!)
  • made up their bag and then submitted their critique without ever sending me a picture of their work.
  • sent in their critique which consisted of something to the effect of…”no comments, I see no errors”. This is probably the LEAST helpful of any critique because a first draft always… and I do mean ALWAYS has errors and things that need to be clarified!
poll99Lori Gates of W. Henrietta, NY created this cute-as-a-button AbracaNiche
Lori Gates West Henrietta, NY "Lollapalooza + Encore"
Lori Gates
West Henrietta, NY
“Lollapalooza + Encore”

This is an incredible Lollapalooza & Porta-Pockets Purse Insert Lori made and at right is her interpretation of our Quattro

poll226I really count on Lori to critique my grammar and punctuation. She has a special gift for proof-reading which I was totally unaware of when we asked her to join us!
poll201bpoll405by Diane Rhodes Monroeville, PA "The Guardian"  The first time I saw this Trifecta (at left) created by Diane Rhodes of Monroeville, PA I couldn’t believe my eyes! Diane loves making intricately pieced exteriors and specializes in the intricate use of color. And our polka-dotted zippers look fantastic with Diane’s exteriors and never better than they do on this Baggalista (in center)!  And at right is Diane’s take on our Guardian. Spectacular, no?

This is why over the last 10 years I’ve gradually refined my process of choosing new testers, because I’ve come to the conclusion that what I’m really looking for is a fellow bag fanatic (as opposed to someone who views this process as a passing novelty). Now I realize I can’t conduct a sit-down interview with potential candidates, but there are other ways I can “get to know” them. So… with this in mind, if becoming one of our pattern testers is an objective of yours…

Here’s TWO Ways to Help Us Get to Know YOU!

 1) Send us email letting us know of your interest & your sewing experience-  FYI- while I love for our testers to have a variety of sewing experiences, I’ve learned the hard way that I prefer to choose a new tester that’s made one (or more) of our bags.
2) Stay connected with us! Mostly because of the reasons above, we’ve gotten so we never ask a prospect to join us without having  developed a prior relationship with them. If you send us your name and we never hear that name again I can promise you will never be considered for the role of a tester. And here’s the thing, it’s so easy to let us get to know you! Here’s a couple of ideas!

a) Send us pictures of bags you make (by email) from our patterns. Why is this so important?
1) I like to see how well you handle zippers (its amazing how many people have sewn for years, yet have never inserted a zipper)
2) I like to see how well the bag is constructed (bag sewing involves small turns and tight curves and corners)
3) I like to see what fabrications you choose. The finished look is important to me because I publish the pictures of our tester’s bags, so I’d like for them to be interesting.  Notice that I didn’t say anything about it being similar to what I would choose, as a matter of fact, different is maybe better, but either way it gives me a pretty good idea of your style and capabilities.  🙂
4) I like to see that you can take a decent digital photograph of your finished project. (see #3) It’s also surprising how many folks make a beautiful bag and then send me a picture of it all crumpled up in a bold, flowery chair. Staging matters to me. It doesn’t have to be any more elaborate than placing it thoughtfully in front of a non-competing background.
b) Be an active participant on our FaceBook page or Blog- Commenting on our posts in either location is a really great way for us to get to know you. It gives us an idea of what you like, and what you don’t…  and perhaps more important, it shows that you have an interest in the success of our products and the growth of our brand.
Beth1Beth2Beth Revere of Council Grove, KS joined us during Cycle 8 of Purse Pattern Chronicles and this is her fantastic Cosmo Convertible!  Beth has been an active member of our Facebook page and comments regularly on our Blog.

So, anyway- this answer turned out to be way longer than I thought it would be, but I hope it gives you a pretty good idea about what we’re looking for and why? And just for the record, we’ve been TOTALLY satisfied with the testers we’ve taken on since we began choosing them by way of this system.

But, now it’s YOUR turn!

Does this post answer what questions you might have had about our testing process? And can you tell by these pictures that each one of our testers have their own special flair and style?

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12 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. Hi…I’m sure its easier for you to use the same testers over and over, you know you can count on them, they do a great job…but do you sometimes think that maybe its not a fair look at a pattern? Maybe they get used to your style of writing and know what you mean when you say something a certain way. Would someone that has never done one of your bags know it too? So while maybe using several of the old standbys that you know are safe…but add one or two newbies each cycle to be sure you are really testing it. Fresh eyes so to speak?

    • You’re right Dyan. There’s truth in that. But I dont know how many people would really be interested in working with us knowing it was on a one-time basis. I think there might be a tendency to be less committed and since we work on a timetable, committment is something we REALLY value. It’s a suggestion that’s worth considering though, so thanks for suggesting it! 🙂

  2. I think it would be fun to make up a test occasionally. It seems like there are seasons in our life where it might be awesome and fun! But then…a parent or child needs extra care or a move, and then…a person might need a break.

  3. I would love to be a pattern tester for you.! I’ve been selling for over 40 years and in the last 5 years I’ve been making bags pretty exclusively. Of course I still so for my granddaughter who is 4. 🙂
    back to you… I just bought my first studio cat pattern for the Wrapsody bag and I’m so excited about making it. I have a few orders in my Inbox that I have to finish first but I picked out my fabrics and I’m ready to go as soon as I’m finished with those items. where should I post pictures of my bags when they are done?

  4. I’ve made a number of your bags and can say without hesitation that the Wrapsody is the most complicated. I had to walk away a couple times to let my mind rest. I’m sure the next one will go more smoothly. That being said, I think I receive the most compliments on the Wrapsody. It’s smaller size keeps me more organized, more like a wallet on steroids. It’s certainly in my top 3 favorites from Studio Kat.

    • I’m glad you got your Wrapsody done and that you enjoy carrying it. I really don’t agree however, that the Wrapsody is all that complicated. Quite the contrary, I think it goes together easier that most of our bags. That being said however, it does go together in a totally different way than our other bags, so maybe thats what threw you.
      I’ve had very few phone call questions, and that’s usually a pretty good sign that the bag is going together well for most people.
      Thanks again!

  5. Also curious if you sewed up a test bag using Sew Lazy’s Stiff Stuff as opposed to Soft-n-Stable for the shell of the Wrapsody. I was in the local alterations shop recently and we got into a discussion about the pros and cons. Thought I’d ask before I spend the time and fabric reinventing the wheel.

    • I absolutely do NOT recommend Stiff Stuff for the Wrapsody. I like Stiff Stuff and its great in the right application, but a stiff foundation will make the Wrapsody VERY difficult to manipulate during construction. The soft pliable Soft-n-Stable is perfect for this bag however. I do not recommend any other material for the foundation.

  6. I love your patterns, and I was really happy to test the Wrapsody! It wasn’t the easiest pattern, sure, but I had less problems with it than with the Quattro! I made 4 for gifts and was sewing the bottoms on…there were so many pins holding the bottoms together, and if I removed them too soon everything would shift…and I ended up breaking every single sewing machine needle I had in the house! But they turned out beautifully in the end, so they were worth the stress and tears lol

  7. Bobbie Greiner

    I think your patterns are totally amazing!! I’ve made two Trifectas. The first one was made out of a pretty red silk and it has worn out–the silk didn’t hold up too well, but I hated to “retire” it.

    My second Trifecta is made out of a soft gray ultrasuede and I get many, many compliments on it. It’s not fancy piecing, but looks rather elegant (if I do say so myself). When I contacted you asking your opinion on using ultra suede, you weren’t sure the fabric wouldn’t be too “clingy.” But I’m happy to say it didn’t give me any problems 🙂

    Now I’m working on the Porta Pocket Plus pattern for it and I have a question–it seems to me that the “planks” #3…should be backed with something to make them hold their shape….for instance in doing the elastic pocket, the plank is distorted by the elastic in the pocket.

    Have I missed something?

    Thanks for your help and for your wonderful patterns!!
    Bobbie

    • meaning no disrespect Bobbie, I prefer answering construction questions by way of email, not on an unrelated blog post. So… if you wouldnt mind submitting it that way (info@studiokatdesigns.com) I’ll do my best to help you. 🙂