So You Wanna Be a Tester?


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.

These 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.
And this is Peg’s Quattro.
and 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!

And this was the very first
test bag Judi Graf of Tyler, TX
made for us. She loves workingwith pleathers and vinyls and this Trifecta was amazing!
Her Boho Baguette was totally stunning!And 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!
Lori Gates of W. Henrietta, NY created this cute-as-a-button AbracaNiche
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

I 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!
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.

Beth 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?

We actually LOVE comments and questions too, so if you’d like to share yours, please feel free to do so the section provided below! And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it via FaceBook or Twitter!