What's Love Got To Do With It?: Why Handmade is Better

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Thread Spun creates handmade goods including surfboard bags and clutches using artisan fabrics like this.

Thread Spun creates handmade goods including surfboard bags and clutches using artisan fabrics like this.

Thread Spun creates handmade goods including surfboard bags and clutches using artisan and fair trade fabrics like this.

Before I started Thread Spun, the last time I had made anything with my hands (other than my kid's dinner) was at summer camp in 7th grade. I sewed a stuffed koala complete with nose, eyes and bow tie. It still holds throne over my childhood bedroom, because my dad is that parent.

Until a few years ago, the term "handmade" seemed very abstract to me. Like sure things made by hand held some sort of intrinsic value I couldn't quite put my finger on, but they existed in a realm mostly outside of my day-to-day reality. We don't live in a pre-industrial society but a mechanized one driven heavily by technology. A new report estimates that 67% of households in the U.S. use Amazon Prime (I am not ashamed to admit we are one of these households). This service provides nearly instant gratification with perfectly manufactured goods for all areas of your life. Anything you need can quickly be ranked against similar products according to customer reviews, price, and delivery time. You can pretty much guarantee to get what you need quickly and have it work well, regardless if it was made in a factory in China or one in Mexico. So if I can get what I need/want quickly and inexpensively, what's the point in handmade?

When I started Thread Spun, I found out. But first, I had to revisit my 7th grade sewing skills. I invested in a new machine and I got to work. First, I made a handmade surfboard sock. And then, a handmade clutch, and a handmade zippered pouch, and another bag, and two more clutches, and so on. It was frustrating; the first time I tried to thread the needle and bobbin on my new machine it took me almost three hours. It was hard; I literally put my blood (sharp needles), sweat and tears into the first clutch I made. The result? Awful. A zipper askew, crooked stitching, wonky lining. But the shocking part? I didn't care. In fact...I loved it. I loved that clutch so much, I showed it to anyone who would give me the time of day. The guy at the coffee shop was all, "wow." Completely monotone. I called my friend and was like, "The coffee shop guy LOVED it. LOVED. IT." I couldn't believe I had made something. With my hands.

I had made things in my previous professional life. But they were intellectual things, abstract things, nothing I could touch or feel. A training program or a spreadsheet. But never a physical thing, that I could hold, from start to finish. And it felt great. I gave that first clutch to a good friend for her birthday, and I was so proud of it. I imagined her opening the box and her eyeballs shooting out of her face like an old cartoon. WOWZA. She would love it even more than the coffee shop guy. I was sure of it. I was so excited I felt like a kid again, clutching my handsewn koala bear waiting for the bus home from summer camp so I could show my parents.

So long story short is I found out: the point of handmade isn't convenience (usually), or price (because it's going to cost more), or perfection (it won't be perfect). The reason for creating something by hand is love. The reason for purchasing something handmade is the same. It's the blood, sweat and tears of the maker. It's his/her pride, the care and time taken, the story behind it. It's all of the things you won't get from Amazon Prime. And that's a lot.

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