Woman's hands at sewing machine

What "Handmade" Means to Me

I have been working on a new lace top for my Spring Collection, and this post was supposed to be Part 2, showing the second half of the construction process and the final product. But if you'll bear with me, I'm going to take a little detour first.

If you read Part 1, you'll know that I was taken by surprise how much hand sewing was necessary to make this lace top. Even with other delicate fabrics, I usually manage to baste (secure using long stitches) using my sewing machine. In my mind, if I had to do any significant amount of hand sewing, I would become frustrated and stressed, constantly looking at the clock, thinking how long this project was taking me. And although designing and making clothing is my reason raison d'etre, I'm still running a business and as they say, time is money.

Sewing and knitting collage

But something very interesting happened as I spent so much time stitching with a needle and thread - I actually entered a kind of meditative state that was very relaxing and time slowed down and then disappeared. I suppose this is the 'flow' state of any creative activity - whether it's knitting, painting, woodworking, jewelry making, you name it. Perhaps it is that absence of the machine that makes the difference - it is just you, your hands and the materials working in perfect harmony.

Collage of handmade items
Flower arranging, herbalism and artisanal espresso - 3 of my favorite handcrafted activities. My favorite herbalist is Wild Roots Apothecary.

A few years ago, I was listening to a live webinar presented by a company that had developed a technology where you send them your patterns and fabric, and they used an automated system - basically a robotic arm - to cut the fabric and send it back to you, all cut out perfectly so you wouldn't have to do it yourself. It was an interesting concept and I thought it might be able to help me save time in my business.

People handcrafting items
Handcrafted beverages, soap making and baking

The sales rep was explaining the process, how you send them the pattern and fabric, and the computerized system sends the instructions to the robotic arm, and how they shipped everything back to you. What really struck me was that, at the end of the presentation, the sales rep - practically bursting with excitement - said “our goal is to not have a single human involved in the entire process”.

I kind of got a chill down my spine, and felt a little nauseous. At the time, I thought why would anyone not want humans involved? But after thinking it over, I understand that for most people, the goal is to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible, and this is the be-all-end-all of goals. And that’s totally fine – everyone is entitled to be motivated by whatever is important to them, and we all have to make a living. But for me, the clothing manufacturing business is already bordering on soulless, and not a single human involved would rob it entirely of any creativity, meaning or beauty.

Collage of creative activities - jewelry making, sewing, painting and bread making
Sewing, painting, jewelry making and bread making

This lace top was the first time I was in a position where I had to do a large amount of hand-sewing, and it got me thinking about what the word 'handmade' means to me. 

The term ‘handmade’ has been overused so much, I’m not even sure what it means anymore. Does it literally mean made by hand, as in every stitch is done by someone’s hand, every piece of wood chiseled by someone’s hand, someone standing somewhere in a kitchen squeezing lemons into a ‘handcrafted’ beverage? I think that’s a little unrealistic – there’s nothing wrong with using machines to assist us in producing things, but removing humans entirely is a different story. There has to be someone there, directing the process, with a brain and a heart and soul, and doing it for reasons other than dollar signs on a spreadsheet.

At times, I even felt a little confused about what I meant when I called my own designs "handmade". I'm so glad I was forced to bring things back to basics so I had the opportunity to think about it and get clear on the true meaning behind my handmade clothing.

Hands sewing white fabric at a sewing machine

What does "handmade" mean to you? Do you do any hobbies or work that allows you to do handmade work that sends you into a blissful state? Let me know down below!

And if you like my posts, please consider signing up to the newsletter at the bottom of the page. Thanks for reading!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.

What I'm Reading

Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress

by Daniel Defoe


My Rating: 4/5

Check out my Reading List

What I'm Watching

Father Brown, Season 11 (2024)

My rating: 4/5

Check out my List of Period TV Show and Movies