Saturday, July 23, 2011

The value of handmade.

It happened again today. I was with my parents at our local community market, where our family sells all natural pastured poultry and free range eggs {and grass fed and finished lamb when we have it} raised on our farm. I always set up some of my items on the next table down. I don't really sell a lot at the market- the first week, back in May, was successful, but ever since then things have been slow for me.

Two ladies were looking at my wallets. One of them was holding one, talking about how much she liked it and how she was looking for something like that to fit in her purse. She asked me how much it was, and I told her (I also had a sign next to the wallets with the price). She quickly put the wallet back and walked away from my table.

My first reaction to this is to laugh. Nothing can cause more awkwardness than money. :) But then I get a little angry. People who don't sew, embroidery, crochet, knit, make jewelry, or do whatever kind of crafting or creating that you do don't understand. Because they don't make the items, they don't understand the process. They don't understand that you have to do the research, buy the materials, come up with the design, spend a good amount of time actually making the item, and bring the item to the venue to sell (which, if you sell on Etsy, involves taking item photographs, writing descriptions, advertising the item, and packaging and shipping it when it does sell).

Well, I can't say that everybody doesn't understand. Because some people do. Some people feel strongly about supporting handmade, even if they themselves don't actually craft anything to sell. And I seriously appreciate those people- thank you!

Because before I began sewing and crafting, I didn't get it. I'm not blaming anyone, because I was the same way! I'm a bargain shopper- I've always been. I shop clearance racks and use coupons. I rarely, if ever, pay full price for books, movies, or clothes. Before I got involved in the handmade scene, I probably would have scoffed at a $25 wallet. Because I didn't know how many hours of careful work went into that wallet.

So what's so special about handmade, anyway?

Handmade provides a personal connection between the creator and the customer. Handmade items aren't mass-produced in a factory on foreign soil by a faceless, underpaid worker, with an inspection sticker stuck somewhere inside. Handmade items are, from start to finish, the result of the creativity of somebody. Each stitch (or whatever the case may be) is made with care, and as ridiculously cheesy as it sounds, love. :) People who create handmade items are really excited about what they do. We love our job. We love making something beautiful and high quality, and the best feeling ever is when, hey, someone else loves what we make, too!

So I'm glad that now I realize the value of handmade. Sure, sometimes I see really beautiful handmade items that are out of my budget. But now I don't think, good grief, who's going to pay that?? I think, good. They have a lot of time and effort invested in that, and I know that someone will come along who is able to purchase that lovely item. (Most of the time, guys. Every once in a while I come across really over-priced stuff. For example, once a tiny little embroidery hoop with a small circle of crocheted "mold" or something made the front page of was around $100. Really? But most of the time, I find that people tend to underprice their items rather than overprice.)

Handmade items cost more because they're worth more. It's as simple as that. Crafters can't compete with big box stores and mass-produced items. I can't compete with Walmart or Target's wallet prices. But I don't have to. I'm selling a completely different item and a completely different experience.

So I'm through with apologizing for the prices of the items I make. Because I'm shy and like to avoid conflict, I won't be able to do anything other than ignore or laugh at comments (or reactions) people have to my items. Maybe that's why I wrote this post. Because if I was brave or eloquent enough, this is what I would say to those people.

I Took The Handmade Pledge!

One more little thing- I need to mention that I know that this kind of sticker shock (for lack of better phrase) is mostly connected to different geographical areas and the economy and culture of those areas, and just how people grew up. I live in a small Southern rural area, outside of a small town. Most of the people around here don't have a lot of money, or either their families struggled financially growing up. Selling handmade items in a rural area is a little different than selling them in wealthier urban areas, I think.

All areas have little quirks- things that people are willing to spend more money on, and things that they're less willing to spend money on. My dad faces this exact same thing sometimes with our farm products. People will walk up and say, in a very demanding way, "I'll take one of your chickens." We pull out a chicken and ask what size they'd prefer, and they ask how much they are. Dad tells the price per pound. They say, "Oh, that's more than I wanted to spend," and speedily walk away. Other customers don't even blink an eye at the price, because they know that our chickens are so much healthier and tastier than that pale, chemical-injected chicken you buy at the grocery store that came from a cramped, filthy chicken house. Ahem. :) My dad says that most people are willing to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars a year for pharmaceuticals but won't pay for good, healthy food.

Well, I'm glad I got all that off my chest. :) Now I can sit back with my bowl of awesome watermelon, listen to my scratchy record, and enjoy the thunderstorm we're having. And laugh because, after fiddling around with my record player and accidentally leaving it on the 45 setting instead of the 33, Frank Sinatra sounds like he just swallowed a lot of helium.

Also, yesterday I began my Etsy shop makeover with some new item photos and listing these wallets which have never been listed before. I also have some more items to list this weekend.

Until next time,


  1. I totally understand where you're coming from! Making stuff can be very hard work sometimes, so it's totally worth the price you put on it. It's just so much easier these days for people to go buy cheap stuff, yet it lacks the character and charm of handmade! Keep up the hard work -I'm totally gonna go check out your shop, I'm LOVING that owl wallet!

  2. Amen! :) Sometimes I think my prices are too high, but you're right - a lot more work and effort goes into something handmade than anything you can buy at the store. Loved this post!

    Also, your new wallets look great! The cat and dog one is sooo cute. :)


  3. Your wallets are cute.

    I know the eggs and chicken your parents sell must be good. We buy eggs from a neighbor sometimes.

    Maybe sometimes people are like me, I've been on a really strict budget trying to pay off some bills so I may ask how much something is and then think well, can I really spend the money on me or should I spend it on milk and bread and gas.

    And then people are used to buying cheap not so well made stuff which is a waste in the end cause you have to replace it.

    Just some thoughts.

  4. Hi Kristin, thanks for saying hello over at my blog. I replied to your comment there, but I'm not sure replies ever make it back to the commenters, so I figured I'd say hello over here as well. I have actually been following your blog for a while now. I found it through BurdaStyle - I recognized your picture from a comment you'd made on a contest. I was a bit too nervous to say hello though. I love all of the sewing that you do here, and it's fun to hear about all of the movies and books that fill your life. I need to make more time for reading these days. The problem I have is that I read in binges, which doesn't work so well now that I'm married - if I would just read a little bit at a time, I would be able to get through more books. Anyway, I'm really excited to see what changes you make to your Etsy shop. I'm going to keep my eye on your wallets. I definitely need a new one! Take care and send my love to your family.

  5. Hi Kristin, I just found your blog through your comment on Alica's blog. I think we are "kindred spirits" just a few decades apart in age :)
    I am in the beginning stages of starting up an Etsy shop and really appreciated your comments in the last post about your experiences with Etsy. It sounds so fun to be a home-crafter and be able to sell my creative efforts, but the work that goes into it is more than I expected.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and great ideas.
    I love Jimmy Stewart too!

  6. hello there! and nice to meet you! I understand completely where you are coming from. For better of for worse, we are a culture that values the cheap and easy over a little bit expensive, but great quality. I think people are so used to things being made in china they dont realize what really goes into making a quality item!
    All I can say, as a painter who has done various craft show venues, is that there are different shows that bring out different people and different expectations. I suspect your things would do really well at a venue that showcased handmade goods only and celebrated the spirit of the handmade movement. Last year I was shocked to find out that my worst show was the largest, oldest, most crowd drawing show I'd ever done because the people who came were only interested in cheap and china made blingy products. A few weeks later I did a show that lasted a fraction of the time but raked in 4 times the money, because the spirit of the show was one of appreciation for handmade. So dont let it discourage you! maybe just a change of scenery would do your wallets good :)

  7. I think $25 is not enough for those gorgeous wallets!


Please feel free to leave a comment, I love to read them! :) I reply to each one, so be sure to check back, especially if you asked a question.