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When you make something, do you want people to be able to tell it’s handmade?

When you make something, do you want people to be able to tell it’s handmade?

by Meg Dedolph

It started like so many conversations do: Emily and I were unpacking some new yarn. We looked at all the colors and talked about which ones went together, and which ones went with other yarns in the shop, and what people might make with them … and then it happened. One of us pulled out a ball of dusty pink yarn.

This color made headlines in the last few years - some people call it “millennial pink.”

On one hand, it’s pretty, it’s not as sweet as some pinks can be, it goes with lots of other colors and it looks good on lots of people. 

On the other hand, it was everywhere for a while. I saw clothes and accessories in that color in nearly every store I went into. 

That ball of pink mohair opened up the door to an interesting discussion.

When you make something, do you want people to be able to tell it’s handmade? 

Emily said for her, she loves it when she wears a garment she’s knitted or sewn and it is indistinguishable from a commercially made item. 

To her, it means the item she made is well-crafted and looks like professional work. It means that the pattern she chose is sophisticated, current, and stylish - all good things.

Other designers agree, like Elizabeth Margaret, who teamed up with Jennifer Parroccini to become One Wild Designs, (they visited STYC last year, if those names look familiar). 

She wrote this on Instagram recently: “Is it just me, or does ‘did you make that?’ not feel like a compliment?”

There are definitely makers who say there’s a difference between “handmade” and “homemade.” One term - handmade - implies technique, skill, and craft in a way that “homemade” doesn’t.

But many of the things knitters and crocheters like to make are not items that most people wear anymore. Gone are the days when a well-dressed lady wouldn’t step out for the day without a shawl, for example.

If I wear one of my handknitted shawls or wraps, anyone who knows anything about fashion knows I didn’t buy it at a store. And when I’ve knit sweaters, I almost always chose colors I love, regardless of what was in style.  

There are a lot of reasons to make your own clothes: getting something to fit exactly right, or using colors you love, or making your own version of whatever happens to be hot off the runway this season.

And there are a lot of ways to make it look more like a piece of clothing you bought, whether it’s knitting at a fine gauge with fingering weight yarn, (Elizabeth Margaret’s top tip) or choosing colors in the fashion mainstream.

That’s why the fiber arts are fun - no matter your taste, there’s a way to show it off (or not.) 

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Pam - April 3, 2024

I feel it is a compliment if someone asks if I made something I am wearing. I also enjoy seeing what my friends wearing the sweaters, shawls, and other accessories they have made. It actually encourages me to keep knitting and challenge myself to learn new skills.

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