I come from a family of makers. One of my tape measures came from Grandma, who sewed; another is from Nana, who taught me how to knit. My mom sews and does needlework and counted cross stitch, and my dad cashed in on multiple years of holiday gifts to get his machine shop so he could make eighth-scale steam engines. My brother followed in his footsteps. My husband works with wood, leather, and has also begun some blacksmithing.
It’s one of the reasons I’m so attracted to handmade...anything, really. When you hold a handmade piece, you’re really holding a lot: the very start, back when the artist was slow and clumsy and probably wanted to quit because the end result just ... didn’t look good. At all. The hours of practice. The investments in better tools and better materials, which of course cost more. More hours of practice on each new tool or new skill. Replacing broken or worn-out tools and buying more materials. Hours upon hours of practice, practice, practice.
If you work on something in public, you’re bound to hear it: what are you making me? How much would it cost for you to make me x? Wait, don’t you enjoy making? Can’t you just...do it for free? I mean, you’re so fast at it. Yes, makers love making. That’s how we got to this point, beyond the first, I don’t know, three dozen really super awful attempts. I’m fast at knitting because I’ve been knitting since the early 90s - when you pay for something handmade, you’re not just paying for the hours put into the actual object, but all those hours upon hours of practice (and failure, and mistakes, and experimenting, and failure, and sweet, sweet success) that went before it. (I mean, there’s a reason you’re asking me to knit you a hat instead of asking me to teach you how to knit, right?)
And all us makers, every one I know, saves the scraps, just in case. I’ve seen it in Beth’s blogs, too. The stones are found by Beth or recycled diamonds, and all the little leftover pieces get saved to be reused, too. Yarn is an amazing medium because just the other week I took a sweater I’d made back in 2015; admitted to myself that, even if I fixed the small hole and pulled thread, it still wouldn’t fit properly; and unraveled the whole thing. I can wash the yarn and use it again. I can even save all the tiny little balls of leftover yarn to embellish a future project or experiment with new stitching techniques, the way Beth saves all the scraps after sawing out trees.
And the cost? Yarnbenders have a designation: “knitworthy.” Some people just ... aren’t knitworthy. The sweater I mentioned? It probably took me around 60 hours to knit. I just finished another with longer sleeves and more intricate stitching that was closer to 80. And - I calculated, because it was for another maker friend comparing sewing to knitting - the yarn on the new one ran me over $200, since I’m willing to invest in the materials for the resulting fine product. Makers get other makers better than non-makers do, even if it’s a different kind of making. We know how much has gone into the beautiful final object in front of us, big or small, and that there are steps in the process the uninitiated have never dreamed of.
Makers rule. They know what it takes to turn a jumble into something beautiful, whether it’s welding, coding, writing, knitting, jewelry-making, yarnbending ... anything. Makers see the beauty and value in other makers’ products, even if they’re not our personal style, because we know how much time and effort and heart has gone into it. We know that, somewhere, there’s a box of scraps, and somewhere else there’s a box of supplies, and yet you’ll still always come up against a project you’ll have to shop for. And the beauty of handmade is that you know someone dreamed of this thing, thought it up and then brought it into existence, and one of the rest of it - the hours of practice or the cuts or blisters - stood in their way.