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why handmade is better // an ode to makers

Megan Nielsen Maker tee + Brumby skirt sewing pattern in silk brocade // both available at www.megannielsen.com

I recently bought a new hat. It’s handmade by my friend Jessica, and i snapped it up right away when she launched her Etsy store. I’ve long admired the hats she creates for herself, and was excited to finally have one for myself.

When it arrived my jaw dropped.

It’s definitely the best quality hat i’ve ever owned, everything about it is carefully created and artfully made with great attention to detail. Every time i wear it people (literally) yell at me “i love your hat!”

It got me thinking about handmade. Buying handmade, and creating handmade pieces myself. How people perceive handmade items versus what the reality of what they are.

There can be this odd perception with hand crafted items that they are lower quality, cheaper and easy to create. It’s amazing how far from the truth that is!

Megan Nielsen Maker tee + Brumby skirt sewing pattern in silk brocade // both available at www.megannielsen.com
Megan Nielsen Maker tee + Brumby skirt sewing pattern in silk brocade // both available at www.megannielsen.com
Megan Nielsen Maker tee + Brumby skirt sewing pattern in silk brocade // both available at www.megannielsen.com

It comes down to quality

I love handmade items. The craftsmanship is at a completely different level than what you find in most retail stores. I love looking at my wardrobe and seeing that the items i have carefully stitched for myself have well outlasted the items i purchased from stores. When i make Bunny or Buddy a costume, it lasts years – when i buy one, i’m lucky if it doesn’t start falling apart before the afternoon arrives.

Take this skirt for example. It wasn’t cheap by any means. Think of the all the tools and machines that were used, the notions, the interfacing, the lining, the silk brocade fabric. I’m not even counting the hours i spent behind my sewing machine, the cutting, pinning, pressing and hand sewing. I shudder at what the total would be if i added up the costs. So was it worth it? OF COURSE. When i see this skirt hanging in my wardrobe i can’t help but smile. I love everything about it, even down to the facing on the waistband. I know it will be with me for years. It will last through washes, and school runs, and getting in and out of the car, and tiny people with sticky hands.

On being unique

The reason sewing has always been a constant love in my life, is because at the end of the day i like to be unique. I have a very specific idea in my mind of what i want to wear, and i can never find that in a store. When i sew i can make the style i want, in the fabrics i want, with the finishes i want.

Fussy people unite! If you want something done right, do it yourself. Or in this case, make it yourself :)

Surely we’ve all been in the situation where you walk into a room and you’re wearing the exact same outfit as someone else? What if that never ever happened again. I know. Amazing. I love that about sewing. Everyone can be their own special snowflake hehe

Ethics

The lack of ethics in the garment industry has been at the forefront of the media for quite some time, and yet… not much has really changed. That breaks my heart.

I love to eat meat and eggs… but i desperately care about animal welfware. Thankfully, i can buy these directly from the farmers themselves – so i can stand in front of them and look them in the eye and ask – how do you treat your cows? where do your hens live? What do you mean when you say free range? And walk away knowing everything about the food i am about to eat.

We don’t get that luxury with retail clothing. Most brands won’t tell you – and you’re left hoping that what you’ve purchased wasn’t made by a child in a sweatshop. (It probably was).

When you buy handmade or make something yourself, you know where it comes from. You see the person behind it (even if its you).

Positive body image

The way we as women see our bodies, and how others talk about our bodies is always a hot topic – but here is where i believe makers have the advantage.

When you make something for yourself, to your own measurements, you’re making something that fits. That works for your body. You know what works on your body! You OWN your measurements. You’re not standing in a store trying on three different sizes to see which looks best, and wishing that miraculously your legs were longer. Instead: you start with your body, and you go from there. That’s control.

You can take any sewing pattern and adjust it to your body. There is nothing wrong or bad about your body, it’s all numbers, and if the numbers are different you can make adjustments! Your tape measure isn’t judging you, you are judging your tape measure. You don’t need to conform to a standard, you make the standard conform to you. I find that incredibly liberating.

Back to this skirt – when i put it on I feel great because it is made to my measurements and fits perfectly. There is no size label staring at me and reminding me that I’m 31, and I’ve had 3 children and I’m not the same size i was when i was 18. NO. When i put it on i see my favourite fabric, that i bought with my husband in Paris. A carefully inserted zip, and a waistband facing made from fabric with pattern pieces printed on it. I don’t feel intimidated by my own clothing, because i created it.

Be a maker and support the makers

So at the end of the day, what I’m saying is – I believe in buying handmade for the very same reasons as i believe in making handmade.

I believe in making, and supporting the makers.

So to all the makers out there, this is my ode to you. Keep on being awesome.

Megan Nielsen Maker tee + Brumby skirt sewing pattern in silk brocade // both available at www.megannielsen.com
Megan Nielsen Maker tee + Brumby skirt sewing pattern in silk brocade // both available at www.megannielsen.com

Meg xoxo

[Make this look]

Maker tee: Megan Nielsen // Get it here
Skirt: Megan Nielsen Brumby skirt // Get the sewing pattern + similar fabric
Hat: Jessica Quirk // Stars and Field
Shoes: Swedish Hasbeens
Necklace: Merl Kinzie // Clydes Rebirth

About Author

Meg is the Founder and Creative Director of Megan Nielsen Patterns, and is constantly dreaming up ideas for new sewing patterns and ways to make your sewing journey more enjoyable! She gets really excited about design details and is always trying to add way too many variations to our patterns.

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Margo B
6 years ago

Love this!

Helena
6 years ago

Such a great post! I agree with all of this, it’s thoughts I have had but never put down in print.

Valerie
6 years ago

Yes to everything you articulated so well.I would add that I did several years of itemising what my sewing actually cost me vs buying similar quality clothing RTW (not the cheap stuff) and it was not hard at all to break even. Make a coat or a special occasion dress and I was way out front.

Megan
6 years ago

Yes, yes, yes! Especially the part about positive body image and control. Oh, and I love the hat too xx

Becky
6 years ago

I love everything you said. And, as a new mom who is having to get used to a different body than I had before, I especially appreciate the comments on body image. I bought a couple of pairs of jeans as a transition while I wait to see where my measurements end up after I’m done nursing, and the numbers are rather demoralizing.

Suzanne Alise
6 years ago

Thank you for this wonderful post!

Vanessa Smith
Vanessa Smith
6 years ago

All of the things I love about sewing rolled in to one beautiful post!

Shell
6 years ago

Well said Megan, I couldn’t agree more!

Marie
6 years ago

I couldn’t agree more.

In my opinion the problem with handmade items seen as cheap, crafty messes is bad up-cycling and crafting just for the sake of it.
I know many people who enjoy creativity and making something. I feel lots of them are satisfied with what they made even if it’s not perfect or even useful. Some just care more about the creative process than the final product. And that’s totally fine.

My motto up-cycling and refashioning is: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. E.g.: cut up jeans with some fabric to make a skirt oder bag

Sewing being seen as cool and handy is slowly picking up speed. After decades of being seen as something necessary if you can’t afford clothes…

I’m usually met with awe when I tell people that I sew. But I always feel I have to downplay it right away because I’m only self-taught and I don’t want people to think I’m like a professional seamstress ^^

Fadanista
6 years ago

Lovely post, and gorgeous, gorgeous hat. I agree completely about handcrafted items – you’ve said it well.

ClaireOKC
6 years ago

That is a fabulous hat! This is the way I’ve dressed for almost 50 years and it’s become so common for me, that I have to remind myself that the clothes I have that last or 20 years is not a common experience for most people – only for those of us who create!

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[…] was recently reading Meg’s post on quality and it reminded me again of why I sew.  She was describing the shocking quality of the […]

Kat @ House of Lane
6 years ago

Love this post! And I love that hat too. I am hoping to try hat making a go myself next year. If it all fails then I know where I can find a beautiful handmade hat for myself.

Aless
Aless
6 years ago

Go for it (making a hat!). I have a large (not HUGE!!) head and could never find a straw hat to buy, so I went to a 3-4 week class and made my own. Not only does it fit perfectly, but it looks professional, AND the style is just right for my head/face shape. Even though I’ve been sewing for over 40 years, that hat is one of my proudest achievements.

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[…] out Megan’s post about being a maker for some serious creative […]

*y*
*y*
6 years ago

Wow. Such a beautifully thoughtful post, and such beautiful photos <3

Lisa
Lisa
5 years ago

Thank You!

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[…] As i’ve previously mentioned – I much prefer to buy handmade items and make things myself. This year one of Birdie’s presents is this gorgeous handmade doll from Roving Ovine (i have epic love for Roving Ovine, super fan here – she’s on Instagram too if you want to know when new dolls are coming, and these are the dolls she made for Bunny and Buddy). […]