Sunday, July 13, 2008

Handmade versus Store-Bought

I belong to a knit and crochet group that meets once a week. Our leader Paula always reads something from a book of knitting thoughts. Most of them are appropriate for crochet too, except maybe when the author commented on how wrong crochet was – but that’s another story.

A few weeks ago, Paula read a piece about why people bother spending hours and hours making something when they could just go buy the same scarf or afghan at the store.

It made me think about it. There is definitely something magic about watching a ball of yarn turn into some usable item. But it’s more than that. There is something about a handmade item that a store bought one can never measure up to even if it is more perfect than the slightly crooked edge of the handmade version.

I think when you make something, you put something extra in it. Call if love, your vibrations, or your feelings – the item carries something of you with it. Why else would my agent Jessica Faust tell me she likes to use the pot holders her grandmother made even though they are old and stained. Why else would Karen write a post to my last week’s blog and mention the crocheted items she has from her grandmother and how she wants to learn to crochet so she can leave things for her grand kids. It isn’t the what the items are, it’s about who made them.

I read a post on the Crochet Partners list about a woman who had lost someone close and the people in her office wanted to do something for her and so they got together and crocheted a blanket. She kept it on her chair at work and wrapped it around herself and took it home and did the same. It was as if the feelings, the caring, and the time the makers had put into it had all became part of the blanket and it helped the woman through a terribly painful time. Just buying a blanket no matter how lovely would never have done the same.

In my crochet series, the Tarzana Hookers are always making something for charity. In HOOKED ON MURDER they all make squares that are joined into an afghan for an auction to raise money for a pet charity. In DEAD MEN DON’T CROCHET they make shawls they call Hugs of Comfort for women at a shelter. In DEATH AND DOILIES they make book marks for a library sale and blankets for traumatized children. As I wrote about their efforts, I realized how much more meaning there is to donating something that has been handmade.

Obviously it doesn’t have to be crocheted to have meaning. Anything handmade is the same. It is all about putting something of yourself into the making. My mother didn’t knit or crochet. Her only craft work was a few needlepoint pieces she had turned into pillows. And every time I look at them, I think of her. My husband treasures the toy dog his mother made even if it’s head is not completely attached anymore.

And there is a gift for the makers as well. What could be more satisfying than knowing you’ve created something that is going to mean so much to someone else? Somewhere a preemie is going to be cuddled by a pink hat with a pom pom you made. A friend’s spirits are warmed by the scarf you made just for her in her favorite shade of purple. Or your grandchild naps peacefully under the sunny yellow coverlet you made.

Handmade things always come from the heart.


Leigh said...

Betty, I invite you and your close-knit group over to Criminal Brief for a quilting bee and scrapbook fest.

Leigh said...

Hmm. With a little more imagination, I could have created a link for the above:


Kathryn Lilley said...

You did a wonderful job hosting us at Criminal Brief, Leigh! I want everyone to stop by for a visit!

Linda O. Johnston said...

I used to hook rugs, Betty, and I agree with your comments about putting something extra into something handmade--whether you do it for someone else or yourself. I hooked one for my husband when we were dating, and he eventually proposed. And then when my first Cavalier died, I hooked a rug with his picture on it and still treasure that memento.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, what a nice gift to have given your husband, no wonder he proposed. A rug with a picture is a nice way to keep the memory of your first dog.

There are people who have their pet's fur spun into yarn and then make things out of the yarn. I've heard dog fur is kind of scatchy, though.

Terri Thayer said...

Handmade trumps store bought any day in my book. I made my own clothes for years and some of those pieces just won't die.

There is definitely something extra woven in a piece that is handmade. That's why we quilt.

Betty Hechtman said...

Terri, are you going to post a photo of the miranda bag you mentioned last week? Is that like Miranda of the Sex and the City quad?

Terri Thayer said...

I will post it. I forgot. NO, it has nothing to do with Miranda, although it's extremely stylish!

Sheila Connolly said...

I raise a cheer to the idea of hand-made, but with a couple of caveats. I've been a knitter since eighth grade, and I have to admit, about half of the sweaters I make turn out unwearable (or not in the size intended). It hasn't stopped me, and I've given most of those to deserving friends. Maybe it's that element of unpredictability that keeps me coming back.

Second caveat: try to buy a nice wool sweater in a department store these days. They just aren't there--everything is cotton or synthetic. I harbor a sneaking suspicion that the energy crisis will force people back to wearing wool, so knitters, be prepared!

My grandmother was raised poor and learned to sew and mend early. She kept it up long after the necessity had passed, and I treasure pieces that still carry her stitches--such as feather-stitched blanket bindings. I remember her sitting on a porch at the beach hemming blankets in the 1950s. (Handmade stuff lasts!)