Saturday, May 4, 2019

Pop Pouch - Pouches from the Testing Team

Hello friends! We're in the homestretch of the launch of the Pop Pouch sewing pattern - all the edits are done and the pattern will be available for sale in a day or two! I am beyond happy. I'll tell you more about it in the next post; today, I'm sharing photos from my team of pattern testers. Also, some random thoughts about the testing process.

First, I thought we'd chat a little about sewing patterns and markets. Nothing serious - just random thoughts that run through my brain at various stages in the pattern-development process. Maybe someone reading this might be thinking of launching their very first sewing pattern. And maybe this might help them. Maybe. If this isn't you, feel free to skip ahead to the photos, okay?

So, an important question for a pattern maker to ask themselves when they are conceptualizing a pattern is, "Who might want to use this pattern?"

The answer = the target market.

And then, when the pattern maker has created the pattern, another important question to ask is, "And whom should I have test my pattern to be sure it is good for those people who might want to use this pattern?"

The answer = also the target market.

In other words, They Who Test should ideally be a fair sample of They Who Might Use. It's kinda self-evident when stated this way but I didn't always understand this, especially when I first began writing patterns and tutorials. And now that I've written enough patterns and tutorials to observe my own evolution as a patternmaker/somewhat-technical writer, I will say that the process of pattern testing, for all its straightforwardness, has its own odd nuances. 

Here's an example.

If I were designing a sewing pattern for a felt donut, I might imagine that it would mostly appeal to people who
  • enjoyed making cute, crafty items for which practical use was not really the main goal
  • might have children in their lives to whom they might give the finished donut
  • were themselves children, teens or anyone young at heart
  • may or may not have prior experience making felt food but if not,
  • were comfortable with sewing simple two-dimensional projects, with maybe some hand-stitching, and thus be motivated to try making a felt donut.
and so on. Generalizations and stereotyping, yes, but a useful starting point for visualizing who the potential users might be. 

To ensure that this pattern were appropriately written for those potential users, it would be rational to choose testers who had at least some of the characteristics from that list. For instance, an obvious candidate might be someone who has had past experience in making felt food. Another obvious candidate might be a mother of grade-school children who has made dress-up clothes and the occasional Waldorf doll and who might not yet have jumped on the felt food wagon but might have had it on her ever-lengthening to-do list.

But what about, say, a fashion school student looking to master advanced drafting and draping who happened to own a sewing machine and some scrap felt? 

Less obvious, but an option nonetheless. Because who's to say that a fashion student whose priorities (and strengths) lay in custom fit and experimental media couldn't also produce a fabulous felt donut? And possibly even transcend  generic FeltFood-dom with a felt donut so cutting-edge blingy and gorgeously textured as to inspire runway trends well into the next decade?

I mean, provided that said fashion student were so inclined. Or skilled. It's often hard to know what skills and techniques are truly transferable before undertaking the actual making, isn't it?

If they did rise to the challenge, however, I'd have a pattern tester who was appropriately capable but who might be working outside their comfort zone. Which could be all kinds of awesome: fewer preconceived notions, atypical insight into a new-to-them creative process, a truer gauge of the efficacy of the written instructions. Would such a person be representative of my intended target audience? Probably not as much as someone of the More Obvious camp. But what if I'd drawn the boundaries of my target audience too close to home in the first place? What if I aimed to communicate instructions in language so plain and free of FeltFood-vernacular that even non-FeltFood people could feel like  part of the party? 

I broached this to give you a peek into my mind as I was short-listing my testing team. The hypothetical felt donut pattern had a certain niche following; the Pop Pouch's was a little more nebulous. For starters, the requisite skill level: being an intermediate-level project meant that the feedback from beginner-level testers might be far less diagnostic than that from testers with commensurate ability. 

Then there was the scope of application. By that, I mean that I imagined all kinds of people in all kinds of settings using Pop Pouches. Students toting them around school  attached to their trapper keepers. Teachers using them on their desks to stash white board markers and felt-tips for grading papers. Children of all ages organizing their coloring supplies at home, on a plane, on a road trip, in grandma's house. Artists, crafters and seamstresses filling them with tools, notions, stationery, art supplies, cosmetic brushes, . . .  Ultimately, whenever and wherever a person might employ a mug or jar to hold and access sticky-out things, that person might be interested in making and using a Pop Pouch.

Now, I didn't list all those uses to brag about the Pouch's versatility (that I'll do in the next post! Haha!) but to explain that a pattern's target market could well be larger than I'd initially imagined. Consider: someone who's made other pencil cases could be naturally drawn to its familiarity. Someone who's never sewn a pencil case but who's had prior experience in making bags or quilts might be intrigued by the precision hinted at in its construction. Someone else who's only ever sewn garments might see it as a useful receptacle for their sewing tools and be motivated by need to take it on. Caregivers of children might be interested simply because they believe those children would make good use of it.

Thus if the testing team were to faithfully represent this wide target market, I could have literally picked anyone and their feedback would've all been helpful in a myriad of interesting and insightful ways. As long as they met the basic skill requirement required to perform the sewing tasks involved, I believed that each had something unique and valuable to contribute.

And it was indeed so. I selected testers with a variety of experiences. Some mainly sewed garments with the occasional pencil case or pouch on the side; others were primarily bag-makers. Some were teachers of the craft, themselves familiar with directing other folks to sew things. Some were avid pattern users, with particular preferences and learning styles. Some were good at noticing and sticking to details in text; some were more comfortable wrapping their minds around the general approach and "winging it" thereafter. Some were combinations thereof; others none of those things. 

What rockstars those five ladies were! Over a fortnight in March, they read the pattern and each from the instructions therein produced a Pop Pouch which you will see in the following photographs, all while real life continued to happen around them. Their feedback was plentiful and varied, from which I was able to make important revisions and improvements. I am immensely grateful. Thank you, ladies - the final version of the pattern is better because of your work on that early draft. 

And now, let's meet the testing team and their Pop Pouches! You'll see the variety of fabrics they used - both of the kind recommended in the pattern and substitutes. 

In alphabetical order:

Cecile, who blogs here, and has an instagram account here.

Katie Coleman:

Grandma G, who posted about her Pop Pouch on her blog here and her instagram here

Maggie, who shared these in-progress shots with me,

and Ruthie from Derbyshire, UK. Ruthie made three pouches in different fabrics, including denim and faux leather. Read her blog post here to read more about her experience and to see more photos of her Pop Pouches.

I was so excited to see these Pouches popping (ha ha) up in my inbox as the ladies were finishing their work and turning in their comments and suggestions. 

See you back here in a day or two for the pattern launch!

1 comment:

  1. Looking forward to the seeing the pattern as I have lots of scrap fabric on hand; some of which I will be using for your Emily's Slouch bag.


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