Monday, April 22, 2013

The Real Cost of Handmade

(Climbs up on soap box)

I make a lot of the gifts that I give.   I knit these gifts.  I crochet these gifts. I sew these gifts.  I do some other kind of craft to make these gifts.  I am lucky to be blessed with people in my life that appreciate handmade items, but there is a negative connation that is sometimes associated with handmade/homemade gifts.  I will discuss that a bit further down. 
First I will tell you about my handmade gift-making process.
I want to tell you about my sister’s apron that I made for her for Christmas, even though I have no pictures to show you.  Although my sister knows the value in handmade gifts, this is the perfect example to show you my complaints with the common misconception.
Where the idea came from?
My sister is a chef, and I see her years down the road with little ones around her and she is in the kitchen baking.   In this mental picture of her, I see her apron.  It is an apron of a mom and aunt, not a chef.  It is a vintage style apron that has apparent wear to it.  I knew that that apron needed to be handmade, and I wanted to be the one to make it.
Next Steps?
I gathered the materials.  I did this well before Christmas.  I found the perfect pattern in October, and it was on sale for $1!  I continued to check fabric sales and found this light blue plaid with cherries pattern.  It was on clearance, and I bought the fabric and other materials for around $9! Total score!

This pattern was out of my league.  I am a beginner seamstress, and I needed help.  Luckily, I have a friend whose mom helped me.  She was amazing and I can say without a doubt, that Becky would not have an apron without her.  She and I spent about 14 hours working on the apron.  Part of that was due to the fact that I am amateur seamstress, and the other part was the dang bias trimming the skirt had.  What a pain!  I made my teacher take $20 for helping, although she deserved much more than that.
This is where the negative connotations or common misconceptions come in.
1.      People think handmade gifts are cheaper.   This is the one that bothers me the most. Handmade gifts are most certainly not cheaper.  I will explain. Yes, the cost of my materials and my tutelage came to a total of $30!  That is a great deal for a normal Christmas present.  But if you add in my time at an average hourly wage of a woman in the US which is $23, in case you are interested.  The total cost of my present soars to $352.00!  I will not even factor in the opportunity cost, remember Economics?  Things/activities that I had to give up in order to make this apron.
2.      People think that handmade gifts have less meaning or less thought.  No, I didn’t run out some corporate powerhouse and fight the crowds to get you the same gift that thousands of others will open on Christmas morning.   Instead, I thought about what I wanted you to have, and I took the time to make it.  TIME, not MONEY.  Money is a renewable resource.  More money can be made each day.  It can be saved and multiplied.  TIME is another story.  It is not a renewal resource; it can’t be saved or doubled.  In fact, time is slipping away from all of us.  And I chose to spend my precious fleeting time to make this gift for you. 
3.      People think that handmade gifts are not the same quality.  Well, this could be true depending on the skill level of the crafter.  But for the most part, the skill that we crafters have is amazing.  And even if it is not perfect, the time and love that went into it make any gift worth treasuring.
4.   People think that handmade gifts are not to be used.  This could not be further from the use.  I want you to use that dishcloth that I made you, until it is ratty and gross.  And then, I want you to tell me that you need another.  I want you to put that tiny sweater on that baby, I don't care if he throws up on it or stains it.  In fact, I would rather it be that way.  I want to know that you loved your gift  And if you love it, you will use it.  And it will show signs of use, and you will eventually need another one.  I know this, I look forward to it.

Obviously, this is a subject that I feel passionately about.  So you may be wondering how I deal with the people in my life that don’t realize the value of handmade? 

Easy, I buy them stuff. I don’t waste my time of making them something they will not appreciate. 

Why would I do that, when I know...

That Holly loves custom made character hats in the winter?
That Becky needs an apron for this future vision I have of her?
That my mom needs new crocheted towels for her kitchen?
That Terri loves the crafts that I put in her Christmas basket?
That Sandy loves the scarves and cowls I give her to keep her warm?
That Justin appreciates having a character doll that no one else has?
That Andrew loves his tank slippers so much that they are on display during the summer months?

I am busy crafter, so I craft for those who love receiving handmade gifts.  And the others, I simply will let the big box stores with their unoriginal gifts do their part.

(Steps off soap box)

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