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  • Writer's pictureLindsay Hillbom

Pattern Testing, Math and Grammar

Updated: Apr 9, 2023

As I started my quilting journey, I came to appreciate (or grumble about) the way a quilting pattern was written. Spelling errors, poor grammar, poor layout, unclear instructions and bad quilt math make me cringe.... oy! Is it just me? There are so many fantastic patterns out there. So when you get one that isn't making sense, it can make you question if you even want to continue with the project.

I think back to my health care professional days, when I was responsible for creating brochures and handouts in a specialty medical clinic. Keeping it simple, using clear language with easy to understand medical terms was vital! It was so important to "know your audience". And, not everyone had the same reading or comprehension level. Sometimes, I felt like a sleuth trying to find out what the unasked questions were. You know, the ones you are too embarrassed to ask but really want to know an answer to.

Besides having a professional responsibility to cover necessary information and following best practice guidelines, I would also informally chat with patients to see what it is that they felt was important or what they have found most useful to them. Being a quilt pattern designer and tester is kinda the same thing! The pattern developer is typically a quilter, has a great idea for a pattern and works hard to write that pattern. But, how does this translate to the everyday or novice quilter? Was anything not clearly written? Did a detail get missed that was super obvious, but because you have looked at this pattern 100 times, you missed it? This is where pattern testers come in!

We follow the pattern, as it is written, pretending we are novice quilters and report back with any suggestions or concerns we may have. Was the quilting math correct? Are the directions easy to follow with clear instructions and/or diagrams? Did everything turn out the way it was supposed to? Was there anything missing? Spelling or grammar issues? These are the kind of details that I love!

An extra bonus - it is a great 'excuse' for me to make a quilt, not that I really need one! It also offers an opportunity to meet other quilters that pattern testing the same pattern. End result? Pattern designer has worked out all the kinks, I have made a few friends and have made a new quilt along the way.

Here is a lovely mini quilt pattern that I tested for Namaju Quilt Studio called "Summer Reflection". It was an opportunity to try something new (to me) - using solid fabrics. Until this point it had been all prints for me! And now, I have realized that I have more than just a fondness for the simplicity of solid fabrics.

The most interesting thing that came up, while testing this pattern, was how printing in different countries works out. Paper size! I had no idea that the standard paper size in Europe is different than North America. This is something that just never occurred to me. Claire (of Namaju Studios) lives in France. I live in Canada. When I printed out her pattern, there was a template that was cut short "just a bit" on the bottom of a page. I tried various settings (assuming that the issue was at my end) to fix this issue. This is when I learned that standard paper size in Europe (A4) is 18mm longer and 6mm narrower than standard letter paper used in North America. This is why the page would not print out properly for me. Did you know this about standard paper sizes? With this information, Claire was able to make some adjustments to her layout so that it would print out properly, no matter which side of the pond you live on.

So, sometimes it is the little details that can make a big difference!

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