Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Testing Patterns and Products

Original pattern had velcro closure
I have always been a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) kind of gal. Mom started teaching me to sew and to use her sewing machine when I was around 8 years old. I started with doll's clothes and progressed to making clothes for myself. My knitting was a nice augment to my sewing. Variety is a good thing and this is a useful skill set.

Now I am beginning to branch out from using other people's patterns to making my own. I started by tinkering with existing patterns to modify them to my style and preference. Now I am starting to simply make a sketch and then pull out my calculator to figure out the number of stitches I need to cast on my needles or the yardage of material I'll need. The first few times I did this I was a little nervous about wasting my time and materials budget on something that might not work out. So I started out on things that were for use in our home: curtains for my sons' rooms, EVE pillows for Christmas, and a new sweater for an old Pooh are good examples. Every time I look at these things I see what I would change or do differently the second time around - but that is just my design process.
A new sweater for an old Pooh

There is something incredibly liberating about crafting 'without a net' and on the fly. So what if I screw up, I'll just take it apart and start over. So what if some material gets mucked up, I just add it to the scrap bag and it will get used by another project. The hard part now is to remember to journal what I do so I can write down the pattern and instructions to improve or reproduce the product. Some of these on-the-fly patterns are very spur of the moment, like my Bottle Cozy pattern, or simple experiments in texture and materials like The Ashton Hat or Lorica's Toque. However, judging from the number of hits that those particular blog pages get and the fact that some other pattern sites are beginning to link to my blog, I think I am having some small successes.
EEEVAH! for Xmas
Improvement and reproduction is the kicker in pattern development, particularly if I want to publish the pattern or a tutorial as a freebie on the blog, or maybe even begin to do pattern sales via Ravelry and Etsy, one of my goals. How many times do I need to test knit something and in how many different sizes before it's good enough to put out there for other people to use? How will my product hold up to use and wear? How much testing should I do before it's something worth selling? It's one thing to make something and give it away. It's something else entirely to sell it. I want people to get their money's worth. Then there is money itself. How do you place a value on your development time and production time? These are just a few of the cares and worries I have in selling my work and making things available on my blog.

So far, with my free patterns, I have done the test knitting myself. I would love to have a friend or family member test knit them as well but I don't see that happening in a timely enough fashion to make it a viable form of proofing prior to posting. When I get to the point of selling patterns, I'll pay for a professional technical proof reader. However, while my patterns are free, I just can't swing that; but, if I get useful feed back regarding these patterns from other knitters, I will definitely incorporate it.

Product testing is tough for me when it comes to baby things because I don't have babies any more. I do gift things but I always take any feedback I get about these gifts with a grain of salt because most people are loathe to criticize, in particular, handmade gifts. However, experience as a mom and with knitting in general has given me a good feel for what works versus what doesn't. Still, feedback is nice.

Cotton-hemp soap sack in beta testing now
Lately, I have been experimenting with non-clothing items such as reusable produce bags and home spa products. These require more product testing. I have to make sure my produce bags can be ultra light weight and still stand up to holding a bunch of broccoli. My family and I have been and will be using these beta models for awhile before I make them publicly available. I am probably going to send my cousin and my mom a couple of things to try for a while too. Product testing is a definite kink in my product release schedule of late but, hopefully, it makes for a better product.

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