When I first saw another maker use this hashtag, I felt a little weird about it. What did she mean by “#HandmadeNotHomemade”? The two terms are basically synonyms. Something that is handmade is usually also homemade. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I will always support handmade items when I can, but sometimes you don’t always get the quality you expect. Before everyone takes this the wrong way, allow me to explain myself.
I’ve heard more than one person say, “handmade is in right now!” and it makes me cringe every time. I understand where they are coming from, but the mentality is still not in the right place. It’s becoming more and more popular to purchase handmade items as gifts or for yourself. Supporting local business has suddenly become “trendy” and “hip”.
With this increased demand in handmade items, there has also been a surge in new businesses that claim to be “handmade”. As a maker, this makes me feel a lot of different things. On one hand it’s stressful, because there is so much more competition in my market. On the other hand, it’s enlightening and empowering to see so many other talented people out there offering their items for sale.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Everyone likes to think the best of themselves, and I totally appreciate that (I think I’m pretty awesome sometimes, too)! But sometimes this self-confidence is misplaced. Many people think it’s incredibly easy to open your own shop and start selling items you’ve made. This is not the case. A lot of preparation, research, time, and money goes into starting a small business. This is overlooked. All. The. Time.
This next part is going to be hard to read, but 100% relatable to everyone. Have you ever ordered something, thinking you’re making a change in the world by supporting local artisans? But then the item you receive is sub-par and you could’ve found something nicer at Walmart? Same here, on multiple occasions.
Like any store, you should be able to return your item with a valid complaint, no questions asked. This usually isn’t the case for handmade items. A tiny part of the maker’s soul is in that item you just purchased, and complaining about the item can be extremely hurtful to said maker. The buyer usually isn’t intending to upset anyone; they just wanted a high-quality product. When this doesn’t happen, a lot of feelings can get hurt.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that not every small business you come across produces high-quality goods. This isn’t necessarily because they are bad at what they do. Most of the time it comes down to a lack of passion and interest.
Like I said, everyone thinks it’s really easy to just start a business. And it can be. It probably won’t be a good one, though.
That’s where the difference between handmade and homemade comes into play. Some of the nicest items I own are handmade. From purses, to tap shoes, to certain soaps that I use, I choose to buy these handmade items over and over again because they are superior to what I can find at a department or grocery store. These items are not homemade. They are not quickly thrown together on a whim with fingers crossed for a mediocre result. There is time and effort and love poured into these handmade items. You can see the maker’s livelihood present in the item. They care so much about creating something beautiful, that the quality shines through so easily.
Homemade is great… but it isn’t always amazing. I’m going to use myself and my journey with Strings & Things as an example. When I was first starting out I was incredibly concerned with profit margins. I was a university student still, so I was literally paying for my classes with the products I was selling. I needed to earn as much as possible per item.
To maximize these margins, I would buy some of the cheapest yarns available. I would rush my way through production. If there was a mistake, I would only go back and fix it if it was really noticeable. I didn’t have a nice website. I didn’t have any professional packaging for my items. I spent zero time on photography. My customer service was atrocious. I cut a lot of corners.
I had a few people complain about things I had made and I was heartbroken. People told me things like “my toque stretched out within a week” or “the fabric pilled so much, it’s unwearable now”. I was so offended that they didn’t love my product and that they were able to find something to complain about.
Years passed and I fell in love with Strings & Things even more. I was proud of what I was doing and I wanted to provide the highest quality items possible. I wanted my toques and scarves to outshine anything you could find from the mall.
So, I slowed down. I invested more time into testing stitches for their strength, yarn for its quality. I started designing my own patterns and getting help from other people to test different sizes.
Sure, my profit margins decreased a bit. But the complaints stopped.
My customers could see the love I poured into every piece I made. They could feel the quality as soon as they pick up the product. My passion for knitting and crocheting and all things yarn is present in every single item I make, and the world can tell. I managed to move away from my homemade mediocrity and step up to handmade beauty.
I want to close this off with a message to all makers. If you are struggling to see success in your business, or are feeling underwhelmed with customer responses to your product, take a step back and look at yourself first. Is your heart really in it? Are you taking the time to produce the best possible product you can? Your passion can’t shine through if you don’t take the time to let it.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion on the hashtag #HandmadeNotHomemade! Comment below or shoot me a DM on Instagram if you want to chat over this hot topic!