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On Pattern Reviewing

So… it seems that lately a lot of my subject matter has revolved around criticism in one way or another, and this might lead you to believe that it’s because I’m being criticized more than usual of late. And you know what? That’s kinda true, but its not the primary reason behind this post.

This particular post has been percolating in my mind for several weeks months now because it involves a tricky issue that has no definitive answer. I’ve had the basic outline fleshed out numerous times, only to shelve it because the timing just didn’t seem right. But yesterday, the perfect example… the epitomy of what I’ve pondered so much, arrived in my inbox.
(For purposes of full disclosure, I probably receive an email like this 2-3 times per month and I’m not really sure why this particular email seemed to provide me with the clarity I needed to finish this post.)

Let me preface this discussion by saying that the Internet has changed EVERYTHING about advertising and marketing, and by that I mean, everyone who has a Blog, a website, or a FaceBook page is now an instant publisher. That might even describe YOU, right? Nowadays, by simply hitting the “Enter” button, anyone can promote or undo any advertising strategy, no matter how carefully crafted it might be! It’s just a fact of life for today’s business owner and that’s OK with me, because you know what? In all likelihood, my business might not even be a reality if not for the Internet and this very phenomenon.

All this to say, I’ve pretty much made my peace with the Internet critics. We get our share negative reviews along with the positive ones, some of which we deserve and others of which we don’t. Overall, I think we’ve been fortunate enough to have fared better than most, and I’m thankful for that. But today’s post isn’t really just about criticism. That’s because today’s post is about the booming industry of Pattern Reviewing. What? Pattern-reviewing is a business? You bet it is! There are literally countless Blogs and websites devoted to simply making items from patterns and then reviewing what’s good and what’s not so good about them. There’s no qualifications for this job and no experience is required. All you need is a computer and an internet connection (dial-up will do).

Now you might be thinking that I’m getting ready to lambast these Bloggers and put them in their place, but you’d be dead wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, these amateur critics are a very important part of the growing independent pattern industry. They’ve probably had more impact on spreading the word about my pattern line than all the advertising I’ve actually paid for. And believe it or not, both positive AND even negative reviews can have positive results for our pattern line (but that’s a whole ‘nother post as they say).

Which brings me back to that email that arrived in my INBOX yesterday. It was from a Blogger (who shall remain nameless, because she’s really just a metaphor for the countless similar ones I’ve received before hers), and she had just finished making the Guardian, our newest handbag pattern.

Now keep in mind that I am writing this post on April 11 and the official release date for this pattern was April 8th, but this particular sewist convinced her local merchant to order the pattern for her about 2 weeks ago when I first made it available thru our distribution channels. She didn’t buy the notions kit and was missing some many of the required “supplies”, but made her own substitutions, sewed the bag up anyway, wrote her review and published it.

Now please don’t get me wrong. This is a free country and this customer is certainly entitled to make this bag up as she wants and to change as many things as she likes, even if in so doing the result is a less than optimum outcome. But…maybe she would have been happier with her bag if she had used the recommended materials and followed the instructions? We’ll never know I guess. What I don’t understand, is why this Blogger would depict this as an accurate “review” of our pattern on her website and most mystifying of all, why would she then send this critique directly to ME?

What do YOU suppose she was expecting to hear from me? 

Because the first thing I usually say to MYSELF is… “When changes are made to a pattern, is it EVER really a fair & true review?” Even if she gives it a glowing review, is this an accurate review of this particular pattern, or is it a review of her derivative? After all, let’s say a book critic from a local paper substituted his own ending to a new novel he was reviewing, and then published his review based on the version with HIS ending. Would that be fair to the author? And would that review ever be taken seriously by the public? Somehow I think not. So here’s my dilemma… I certainly can’t/won’t chide this gal for taking liberties with my pattern, BUT, I absolutely can’t say that I’m happy that wholesale changes were made to our design, especially since the final result was considerably less different than it could have been.

So I wonder… what do YOU think is the appropriate thing to say to a person who has posted a review (which includes negatives) about a particular pattern, but…

  1. has ignored part(s) of the materials list and made some inappropriate substitutions
  2. has changed the size or shape of certain pattern pieces
  3. has ignored part or ALL of the instructions and put the bag together her own way.

And before you answer, please consider that the person you’ll be corresponding with has a public venue to distribute her review (as well as your response) and also has a following who listen and respond to what she says. Because I have to say, oftentimes I am at a total loss as to how to respond! I’m not even sure there is a right way to  respond… so sometimes, I just don’t…

So… what am I hoping to accomplish with this post, which I happen to feel may be one of the most important that I’ve ever written?
Maybe just an opportunity to get the conversation started… So with that in mind,
I would REALLY LOVE 
to hear your comments!  ******************* Did you enjoy this post? If so, please feel free to share it via FaceBook or Twitter!   

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Kat

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