Since joining the Modern Quilt Guild, I have enjoyed participating in the webinars they host on a regular basis. In September 2014, Shea Henderson of the Empty Bobbin Sewing Studio gave a webinar about pattern testing. It turns out that Shea is a huge advocate of the We Are $ew Worth It! movement, and one of my favorite quotes from her presentation is, “You have a skill as a quilter! Value it!” At the time, she was talking about pattern testing for someone – she does not think we should do so for free, because we have skills as quilters that have value. Shea’s main business is in selling her patterns, and she advocates paying testers.
I was on the verge of looking for quilt pattern testers when I watched the webinar, and I definitely took a step back and spent some serious time (2-3 months) considering her message before deciding on my course of action and asking others to use their considerable skills and valuable time to make quilts and provide me with invaluable feedback. I knew on a fundamental level that her message resonated with me; I am also a fan of the We are $ew Worth It! movement to charge what our quilts and work are worth (and it has been working for me). So after much deep thought and deliberation, I decided that I would pay my pattern testers.
Pattern testing requires not only a considerable time investment, but it also requires a significant monetary investment in fabric. I also try to make it clear with my pattern testers that I am looking for consistent, open communication from them during the process. I want more than a “great pattern, good job” as a response: I really want to know what does and does not work. Would an extra image or description or step be beneficial? Is something too wordy or not explained well enough?
So given the expectations that I bring to the table (and hopefully clearly communicate prior to a quilter agreeing to testing a pattern for me), I want to make sure that the people who are working for me are compensated. Because let’s be honest: it IS work. I do my best to make sure that the finished test quilts are included in the pattern, that the pattern testers are attributed in the pattern, and I also do my best to provide some nominal amount of money to help cover the material costs associated with making a quilt.
Is this a solution that would work for everyone? I don’t know, but I do know that I am always confused by only offering a pattern tester “exposure” through a blog hop. Does that do anyone any good other than the pattern tester? Maybe, but probably not enough to truly compensate someone for their hard work.
I realize this is a tough balance. I know first hand how much money you can output to testers only to have a pattern only sell 5 or 6 copies (*cough* Tessellated Leaves *cough*). I currently chalk it up as a learning experience, but it is not an experience I would like (nor can afford) to duplicate many times!
Another issue surrounding whether or not to pay testers (in my mind) is related to the law of attraction and intent. Because I have a strong intent behind what I am looking for and (hopefully) placing decent value for the exchange of services, I have had some pretty darn amazing pattern testers. I have heard lamentation about lack of quality feedback, and when something is done for free and out of generosity, how can there be a sense of accountability? And once jaded, isn’t it easy to maintain the status quo?
Paying testers or compensating them in some way for their efforts creates a beneficial situation in which they are more likely to want to pattern test for you again in the future, too. What other kinds of compensation have you given or received that helped build rapport and left both sides feeling valued and supported?
Have you ever pattern tested before, and how did you feel about the compensation for your time and effort? As a tester, do you gauge your level of feedback and promotion based on how valued you feel?
Have you ever had pattern testers work for you and is compensating your pattern testers something you do or would ever consider? Do you feel you have or would get better feedback and quality testers when you consider compensation?
I know this might be a very sensitive topic, but I do feel strongly that if we do not hold conversations about these kind of topics among ourselves that we will continue to perpetuate the cultural sense of that “craft” lacks value.