What is “handmade”?

There is a lot of discussion surrounding handmade artisans and their manufacturing processes. It leaves one to wonder what is handmade.

The following questions was posed to me the other day:

“What is Handmade?”

“What does it mean to be Handmade?”

To be Handmade, a product should be physically produced by a person’s hands.

When I was talking to my youngest son (he is 13) the other night about why I was helping someone manufacture dresses for their local small business, he countered: “but you did not make them 100% by hand, the machine did the work.”

That made me truly think about what Handmade is. What does it mean?

What does handmade mean?

The dictionary definition of handmade is: “made by hand or by a hand process.”

With that definition, very little we do today is “handmade.” With the industrial world that we currently live in with all its technology and advancements, the line between handmade and not handmade becomes a little grey in my opinion.

Handmade and Industrialization

Just because it is made on a machine, does not mean that it was automatically machine made. Let’s look at the part of the definition: “by a hand process.” This doesn’t mean that we make the fabric, make the clay, or whatever else that goes into our products as “raw materials.” That is not always practical and we are blessed to not have to be experts in every aspect of our work.

Just like these raw materials have become a part of the finished product, crafted by us, it is unfair to expect that hand made items cannot be made with the assistance of appropriate tools, yes even machines. So many of our crafting tools and machines still require individual attention. While sewing machines have come a long way over the many years of their existence, they still require a human to interact with them. Sewing is very much a hands on activity. Pottery wheels require a human to work the clay.

So much of our handicrafts require the “hand” to still be present! Equipment, machinery , or tools aside, the hand dictates the outcome. No one should be made to feel lesser skilled or talented because they quilt by machine as opposed to by hand.

My opinion: What is handmade?

To me, “handmade” is:

  • Handmade is made by a person. It means that someone personally attended to the details. That individual personally loaded the materials into the machine, they personally guided and directed the materials in the ways that were appropriate and safe for the product type. That individual accounted for margins of error and imperfections.
  • Handmade means to me that items created are “perfectly imperfect.” These items have acute attention to details that machines cannot account for. However, unlike a machine, these products are susceptible to human errors. A slight over stitch here or a not quite straight stitching line there. A buttonhole that is slightly off-center or a tag that is put in slightly askew. Those little imperfections are what make an item handmade. Those little imperfections are what indicate to a person that someone physically handled the construction of the item. Someone physically took care in its construction instead of half-heartedly checking for machine produced flubs.
  • Handmade is often made in small quantities. Often they are one of a kind, or limited quantities. This is not to say that If you manufacture 100 of the same item, your items magically aren’t handmade. Some crafts do produce a large quantity of items. In my mind, however, we are not seeing large scale production of items.

Handmade is still very much a thing in our industrial and technologically advanced society. Please consider shopping from your small shop artisans.



What do you consider handmade?



What is “handmade”?
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