Earlier this morning, I announced details on the new Downton Abbey Mystery Quilt Along, and it only took a couple of hours for a question to come up about why this one had fees when last year’s did not.
I thought it might be a question that many people might have, and the simple answer is that… they can’t always be free. This is my seventh time hosting a quilt along, and the first time I’ve had to charge something for the experience.
When you compare $18.95 (the cost of the upcoming quilt along pattern) to “free”, that can seem like a really high price to pay. Certainly, it’s an infinite percentage increase and baffles my scientific calculator, but when you look at the cost of my quilt along versus what you might pay for a book of patterns, it’s actually pretty comparable.
I did a lot of research on pricing out blocks of the month, quilt alongs, patterns, and other events like this. There isn’t really a standard, but in this case, it works out to be about $1.50 a week to participate (or $1.50 per pattern if you like it better that way.) Our quilt along is on steroids; we make really large quilts in a very short period of time. The DAMQA could very well be a year-long BOM, and no one would bat an eye at paying $1.50 a month to do a BOM pattern.
If you did the quilt along last year, you could also think of it as paying $9.50 for last year’s event and $9.50 for this one. Or, think about how many “free” things you’ve participated in over the past year or so on the ‘net, and average the cost out over all of those. Either way, you’re getting a good deal! 🙂
Seriously though, any quilt along that’s out there, free or not, has cost the designer quite a bit, whether that be in time, attention, fabric, or financial terms. Those of us who offer free events decide to just absorb those costs and it’s not usually a big deal. That is, until you get to hosting something so big that it nearly breaks you. So here’s what goes into that price you’re paying.
1. Quilt Alongs are a lot of work.
What you’ll see culminating into a 9-12 week event will have taken nearly a year to plan, significant investments in infrastructure & people, and countless hours of designing, refining, piecing, calculating, writing, photographing, editing, quilting, and probably a bit of frogging and cursing as well. 🙂 When I do Downton Abbey, I can’t really do anything else, because there’s something new every week to do, and it’s downright sloppy to get behind, deliver a pattern late, or heaven forbid post the wrong instructions.
There’s coordination with Andover to make sure we understand the fabric requirements to be supported with shipments, there’s marketing and advertising to be done, and also coordinating with independent quilt shops to get as much local support for the quilt along in as many places as possible. To get this quilt along to run smoothly, we need to have a lot more conversations more often with a lot more people to be successful.
2. Quilt Along participants need support.
The other thing that gets lost I think is the hours spent helping, responding to questions, hand holding, clarifying things. No matter how well planned something is, or how clear you think the directions are, or how many times you’ve written or photographed or mentioned how to do something, someone somewhere will not have seen/heard/read/understood it.
I’m a teacher at heart, and I don’t mind doing those things at all, but responding personally to every query is hard to do if you’re getting dozens of emails a day, you’re one person, and it’s not the only thing you have to get done that day. I want so much for this experience to be personal and supportive, fun and nurturing, and have everyone feel like they can be successful at quilting & that they belong to a community.
3. Quilt Alongs have expenses.
After last year’s quilt along, I gave a lot of thought to how I could do things better; how I could support you guys in a different way, keep my sanity, and prevent myself from descending into a mess of snarkiness and tears. My #1 lesson was that I cannot run an event this large by myself, so I’ve hired a web company to revamp the website and develop an app for me to help me manage the quilt along in a secure environment; I’ve hired a pattern writer and a customer service agent. I’ll likely need another assistant this fall and some stunt piecers. None of them work for free.
Last year, I also offered quilt kits, which brought in funds to help defray expenses, but also turned out to be a logistical nightmare that cost me a lot of good-will and frankly peeved quite a lot of people (many of whom still write to tell me so) due to the delayed deliveries. The money from the kits helped me to justify not charging up front for the pattern, but there’s no way I would wish that on myself or my customers again. It ended up costing me more money in the long run in lost customers, bad reviews, and poor health. The stress of kitting for an event this large is just not something I can do again, so I have to find a different way to cover expenses.
4. Quilt Along Hostesses have to eat.
Above all, if I want to be able to keep doing this, and one day make it something from which I can earn a living, then I can’t always work for free either. There’s a lot of work that goes into running an event like this so that it seems really simple & fun & effortless to everyone else.
I don’t think it’s unreasonable or unfair to ask people to contribute when I put so much of myself into everything I do. I love sharing this craft with you all & teaching you new things; sometimes I can do that for free, and sometimes, I cannot. I ask you guys to pay for stuff when it’s necessary, but it also saddens me that I have to explain myself, or justify why I’m charging a certain amount, and that our free-wheeling bloggy giveaways have led to the expectation that no one has to pay for anything ever, or that because I choose sometimes to give away my hard work, it means that I can’t ever earn money from it.
Pricing is very complicated and very simple at the same time. Charge too little, and you can’t afford to keep going; charge too much, and no one can afford to keep you going. 🙂
In any event, I hope that you guys find the price reasonable enough for us to keep going together, and that you’re willing to come on this journey with me as your guide. We’re going to have so much fun!! 🙂