When we purchase a product or even consider a quilting class or workshop, we have an idea in our mind what it should cost and we would like to spend. Of course, we would always like to spend as little as possible. On the other hand, even when we pay little, we want high quality and value.
Why is it that sewing machines, embroidery machines, longarm machines, and even some classes and workshops cost so much? Are they really worth that much?
Cost vs Value – Machines
Sewing machines have a very long history going back to 1846 with Elias Howe’s patent of the first practical sewing machine. These machines were revolutionary and a huge improvement over hand stitching. Can you imagine creating the wardrobe we enjoy today stitching all of those garments by hand? Or even hand stitching the long dresses worn in the 1800’s? When sewing machines came out, women immediately could see their value. They were a huge time saver allowing them to be much more productive making more clothing, giving them more time to work on other necessary tasks,or even allowing time to enjoy craft sewing.
Although the first machines were expensive at $300 ($10,000 in today’s money), Merritt Singer perfected the sewing machine and began selling them for $125 ($4,166 in today’s money). Singer offered the very first “buy now and make payments” ever was on any product. What a novel and savvy business idea so that women could benefit from the use of the sewing machine while paying for it, possibly by making things for others. Regardless of the cost of the sewing machine, it was worth the purchase because of the value it brought.
Fast forward to today’s sewing machines. Quality sewing machines have many features that we enjoy, zig-zag stitching which offers many specialty and decorative stitches, needle down, scissors (we do love those!), a longer sewing bed, and more. Could we do without those features? Of course, but do we want to do without them? NO, we love those features because they make our sewing more pleasurable, even easier and more productive. Sewing machine manufacturers have noticed and designed machines with features we WANT.
How many of us have an embroidery machine, or a sewing machine with an embroidery
unit? These machines are not cheap. In fact, many cost more than most mid-range longarm systems, including the Nolting longarm CLX model I sell. At quilt shows prospects are often shocked to find out that they could actually purchase a full longarm system (machine and frame) for what they paid for their embroidery sewing machine. Are these machines and systems just expensive, high mark up, high dollar items, or is there more to the story?
Every product on the market, including sewing machines, embroidery machines, and longarm and computer guided systems have evolved from their simpler and less expensive counterpart, to what we see for sale today. Over the years there has been a lot of changes, improvements, additions of features, and incorporation of electronic technology replacing mechanical in the product. The total product costs include design and development, purchasing the raw materials, manufacturing costs, labor, overhead, transportation, and a little profit for manufacturer and seller. This all add up. The question is, do we find value and benefit in these improvements? If the answer is “yes” and we want those improvements, then we must pay the price to have them. In fact, to be truthful, our machines today are a value. Based on pricing in the 1800’s converted to today’s dollars, many of these machines would cost between $30,000 and $40,000 for the basics!
Cost vs Value – Classes and Workshops
Now, what about workshops and classes? A half day longarm hands-on class at a national quilt show will cost $200 or more. Other classes will cost from $50 to $125. Why so expensive? (1) The show must cover its costs, venue, overhead, and profit. (2) The teacher has expenses that include travel and lodging at the show and he/she expects to earn some money, not just cover expenses. In fact, for some of these teachers, this is their only income, while others teach in addition to quilting, digitizing, or making show quilts.
When you take any class or workshop, what are you really paying for? Experience and knowledge. That teacher has spent a lot of time, often many years, acquiring knowledge, practicing the skills, and developing techniques that they are willing to share with you. You are actually buying years of experience. Perhaps with time, a lot of time, you might stumble onto the techniques, and with a lot of practice get sort of good. But, by taking a class and learning up front what works well, you can shave off years of trial and error and frustration.
Buying Years of Experience
Years ago I owned a carpet cleaning business. Because my background is in education, naturally I felt learning everything I could about my business would be helpful. My husband and I took 25 certification courses which were costly, included travel, often long distances to where they were offered, but in the end were the equivalent of a college education. Because of what we learned, I built a high end, well respected business in our area. What was more beneficial to my business than even the knowledge and techniques we learned on cleaning and restoration was the value of the experiences shared by our instructors. We learned so much from our instructors, not only knowledge, but the valuable information they shared on their bad and often costly mistakes. These were experiences we definitely did not want to repeat. As a result, we were much smarter and more profitable in business early on because we didn’t make those same mistakes ourselves.
The same is true of the value of classes and workshops for quilters, regardless of the class or workshop. It may be a class teaching a different technique, hands-on class, computer guided workshop, longarm class, or even an introductory how to use it class. There is something to be gained from every workshop or class. When you pay for that class or workshop, you are buying the years of experience of that teacher. That knowledge and experience took time, often a long time and expense for them to acquire, and it can be valuable to you.
So, how do you justify that expense? There is value and benefit in everything we learn. I have always felt that no education is ever wasted. It may not have immediate benefit, but at some point there is an “aha-ha.” moment and you remember something you learned. When you think about your investment in your sewing “tools,” your sewing or embroidery machine, your longarm, or computer guided system, the cost of the workshop or class is a relatively small investment in its proper use, techniques that could save time or frustrations, or techniques that could expand your skill, capabilities, creativity and enjoyment. If you own a business, continuing education can be written off as an expense. And, regardless of whether you own a business or not, the value of what you learn, may in a very short time, have its own rewards. A new skill or technique correctly learned will offer its own rewards, and for a business owner, it may very shortly return its value with increased efficiency or a new “service” to offer the customer.
It costs WHAT!!! Don’t count the cost, look at and count the benefits and value.