Saturday, July 30, 2011

What is a Handmade Quilt?

Ok, deep thoughts here, or maybe just rambling. We'll see.

Today we were having a bit of discussion on the Etsy Forum about what is handmade. Seems as though another quilter's customer was disappointed in a quilt she received that was machine stitched, feeling that it was not handmade. I've never had this happen, but I call all my quilts handmade. I chose the fabric with my own taste. I make them, using my hands to cut the fabric with tools, stitch the fabric together with my sewing machine, and quilting them - also with my sewing machine. Because I do all the work with my own hands and tools, I consider them to be handmade. They are not hand stitched. I can do that, but don't sell most of them because they are special to me, and because I'd have to charge an outrageous sum for them. They are definitely not made in a factory. So I think they are handmade.

The dictionary definition of handmade says: Made by hand, not made by machines. I feel like the machine did not make my quilt. My hands did. My hands used the machine, but without my hands the quilt could not be made. That's handmade to me.

Now, because Google is my friend, I went deeper into the question - what makes a quilt handmade? There are a lot of different answers, and most people readily admit that a handmade quilt is better than a factory made quilt. What is the difference? For many people that difference is LOVE.

A handmade quilt is one that is made with care. The fabrics are chosen with a preference toward quality in a handmade quilt. A factory made quilt is made with the most inexpensive materials. A handmade quilt is sewn together with an eye for precision and a desire for durability. A factory made quilt is sewn together with speed being top priority. A handmade quilt is quilted to enhance the piecing, with a feeling for how the stitching looks and holds the layers together. A factory made quilt is quilted in an efficient manner with the main concern being speed, not quality.

Many people love quilts, and find that an inexpensive factory made quilt fills their needs. They don't care if they use it up and wear it out quickly. And that's ok, because you get what you pay for. Other people are willing to pay more for a quilt that is made with care and will last for many years, perhaps even be handed down to their children.

Some quilters love to hand-stitch and do it beautifully. Some quilters enjoy the speed and freedom of machine quilting. I love both, and can appreciate them for what they are. I like to machine quilt on my domestic machine, some people own or rent a long-arm machine. The results can be very similar, but both methods require skill and practice, just like hand quilting. Just like some people hand quilt in a frame, some in a hoop, and some in their lap. Different methods, but all are quilting and depend on the skills and work of the person doing the quilting.

I think it's wrong to represent a quilt made in a factory as one that was made by hand. I also think it's a mistake to call a quilt not handmade simply because it was made with machine stitching instead of hand stitching. I don't think a quilter should feel defensive because of how they do their quilting. I think quality work should be respected for what it is. Hand stitched does not necessarily mean handmade. And handmade does not necessarily mean hand stitched.

Just my Two Cents Worth!

1 comment:

Cozy said...

I definitely agree with your opinions. I remember when you could not win AQS shows with a machine quilted piece. Since my sister has a long arm machine and I am a hand quilter I have an appreciation for both styles and both are handmade!