Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just Test It

I was reading though all the blogs I follow and came across a post from Nicole of Sister's Choice Quilts about her experience of using a poorly written pattern. It's entitled Surprise Finish. You will not want to miss the quilt that she made from the pattern. Even though the pattern was not written with clear instruction, Nicole was able to put together a beauty of a quilt.

Have you ever bought a pattern to find out that it's written poorly or missing part of the instructions, and no matter what you do you just can't make your quilt look like the patterns? There is not much one can do other than let the author know that you have had trouble with the pattern, and hope they can help you clear it up. I understand that mistakes happen and part of a pattern may get left out or mistyped, but that is why a pattern needs to be tested before it's ever sent to press.

Just because a computer quilting program told you how to make the quilt you designed, you can't assume that it will go together the way it looks on the screen or paper. Some quilt designs just don't work out in real life. I don't think Nicole would have had as many problems as she did, if the quilt shop would have tested their pattern before sending it out. When I have written patterns in the past I would have a quilting friend make the quilt following my directions to the T and then she would give me feed back on the pattern. She would let me know what needed to be changed or let me know the trouble spots if there were any. Yes, I know there are deadlines and all, but a bad pattern could turn someone away from quilting. When I write a pattern again, I would like to test it in a classroom setting at my local quilt shop. This way I can get more feed back and see what people think of it before I get hundreds of copies made.

I think that most patterns are written thinking you can just look at them and figure them out, but that is not always the case. I think they need to write everything out step by step and make sure it's clear. It's like when you go to write a computer program, you need to tell the computer everything to do and you can't skip over anything or the program won't work.

Back in high school I had to write a mock computer program telling how a person would put on socks. You think that would be easy, but it's not. I had a page of instructions when I was done. I could not leave anything out and yet I still missed a step. I think that patterns need to be written this same way. I think that patterns need to go as far as telling you what direction you need to press your seams because it can make a big difference in the finished projects. Don't you just love when a pattern has clear pressing directions? Most of today's patterns are doing good if they tell you to press. Patterns seem to take it for granted, but sometimes we need reminding of the simple things like squaring up your blocks or individual pieces.

I was doing an online quilt along awhile back. Received my block instructions and read them all before I began, and then thought this is kinda easy, I should be able to do this. I got my blocks all done and was so proud of myself. Then went to piece them into a top and they did not line up no matter what I did. I wrote back to the person putting on the quilt along to ask her what I could have done wrong and she asked if I had squared up my blocks. I was like "no I didn't square up my blocks because the pattern didn't tell me to". Her reply to me was "I guess I left that step out because I thought most people would just know to square them up". She did make a note so the next pattern could include this step. Yes, I should have known to square up my blocks and I'm not trying to say it's all the author's fault, but a reminder would have been nice. Even if the block is simple like a four patch you still need to square them up and we don't always think of this. It can make a big difference in the end.

When I did write my patterns I always tried to write them in the style of Quilt In A Day. They tell you every single step with lots of pictures. Some people have to see it before they get it and others read it.

In short keep it simple, include everything and test the pattern before it's sent out.

Until next time,

post signature

Be on the look out for another giveaway when I tell you about the Grand Re-Opening of Quilters Station in Lee's Summit Missouri. Rita is celebrating 15 years of being in business. Congrats Rita.

Still no camera. Hope to have one soon.


  1. When you write another pattern, I'll help test it! Thanks for the insight and information.

  2. You make some very good points here about patterns!

  3. Great post Charlie. When I write a pattern, I like to include photo's and diagrams of every step. You never know if a beginner will buy the pattern who has no or little quilting skills. Then I have three testers of different skill levels test it for me and make notes on what needs to be changed.

  4. i've had that experience with patterns too. pattern testers are a must.

  5. Hmm. I want to design some patterns. I guess I will ask my blogger friends to be my testers!


Please make sure to leave your email address if you have a question or entering a giveaway so I can be sure to reply to you!