Life Is Not Perfect and Neither is Handmade

A few years ago, I had an Etsy shop. The shop is closed, not because of the story to follow but because I just couldn’t make a go of it. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from trying again and again on different marketplaces, but I digress. The story that follows here is just one way in which I have found people like to knock handmade if they at all can.

Ever since I was a child, I’d always wanted to knit, but it never seemed to make sense to me until one day, when I was in my early 30s, it finally made sense. I grasped it, it stuck in my brain, and I knitted to my heart’s content. I managed to make some very respectable looking dishcloths, and because I knew they were big sellers for a lot of knitters, I put some up in the Etsy shop. Mind you, I’d knitted this particular pattern several times, I’d used the dishcloths for multiple times and multiple uses to ensure they would hold up to use, plus I washed/dried them to see how they would react to that. It took me a while, but I came up with a pattern that was easy and quick to knit, held up well to typical use, and figured out how best to wash & dry the dishcloths to prevent major shrinkage (cotton yarn is notorious for shrinking when washed) and maximize the life of the cloths.

So I was thrilled when someone purchased a set of the dishcloths. I hurried up and shipped them out, along with a thank you note. A few days later, I got what I was dreading. A convo on Etsy requesting a refund on the dishcloths. I thought perhaps my buyer had eagerly pulled them from the box and started to use one and it fell apart. (It happens on occasion.) Perhaps the buyer had chosen to run them through the washer and dryer before using them and had decided that they didn’t like the way they held up after being washed and dried. But the reason shocked me. They wanted a refund because my stitch work had not been perfect. There was a single stitch on one of the three dishcloths that was a bit bigger than the rest of the stitches. The cloths were imperfect and therefore required a refund of the buyer’s money.

One of the things I love about handmade is that it is not perfect. You will find imperfections. A knitted or crocheted stitch that might be bigger or smaller than the others. A hand-sewn seam that might have a couple of stitches that are bigger or smaller than the others. A tiny drip of ink in the wrong spot on a hand lettered card. Little things that don’t affect the use of the item and for the most part, probably wouldn’t be noticed unless you were looking for them or they just happened to catch your eye. In some cases, imperfections can be worked into the item’s design. In other cases, it just adds to the idea of the item being handmade.

But some people don’t see it that way. They want machine-produced perfection. They are so used to the perfection of machine-made, mass-produced items that when they get a handmade item, they expect the same level of perfection. Their argument is that big brands don’t sell their imperfect items and if they do, they certainly don’t charge full price for them. This is true. But big brands also don’t generally have their items being handmade. It takes me much longer to make a dishcloth than it does for a factory to do so. A factory can churn out hundreds or thousands of dishcloths a day. Even knitted ones, using knitting machines. But a person like me who is hand knitting these on a pair of knitting needles… I might be able to do 3 or 4 in a day, depending on how I’m feeling, if my hands are hurting, and whatever else I might have to do that day.

To me, handmade echoes life. Life isn’t perfect. We don’t expect life to be perfect. So why should we expect handmade to be perfect?

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