Handmade by Humans

This post has taken a good bit longer for me to write than I anticipated, but its an important one. I hope that at the very least it will cause you to pause and think. Beyond that, I hope you can leave here inspired and more driven. I’m going to be using myself as an example simply because I can only speak for myself here.

I want to open up a discussion here about what drives us to make, to create, to do whatever it is we do. Why do you go about things the way you do? What does your work, be it quilting, cooking, gardening, writing, or otherwise, say about you? 20150301-DSC_0013

Let’s touch on that first point. What drives you to do what you do? Is it money? Is it a passion for your craft or job? How about your children; do they inspire you to make?

I was recently told in a derogatory way that I was obviously passionate about something I had made. This something is one that I had poured my heart and my time into, working and and reworking until I felt I could put my name on it and be proud of what I had accomplished. So yes, I did and still do feel passionately about that thing.20150127-DSC_0010

I feel that I should love what I’m doing because of why I’m doing it. I’ve wanted to sew since I was a little girl. Walking into my grandmother’s house was like walking into a treasure trove of handmade and antique goods, each with their own story. I so admired my grandmother’s collection of goods, many of which came from her own hands. I vividly remember daydreaming about the days my she would teach me to sew. I imagined us quilting stitches for hours on end engaged in conversation. As a child, I wanted to soak in any wisdom she could share with me on sewing and on life. It was a way for us to come together and for her to pass on all she knew. Sadly, she was taken ill and died before she could ever teach me any of these things. 10958271_390114184495539_1852497616_n

While she couldn’t sit down and impart all of her handmade wisdom, I most certainly inherited her knack for putting a handmade personal touch on just about anything. Fast forward to 2009 when I was pregnant with Layla. I had the urge to sew some goodies for my not-yet-born baby, and one of my best friends gave me the push I needed to dive into the world of sewing. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing, but I bought some super cheap, super ugly clearance fabric from Walmart, grabbed some scissors to cut some squares, and I started sewing. And boy did that shoddily sewn, ugly chicken fabric work some wonders for me. It wasn’t long before I was discovering the greats like Amy Butler and Anna Maria Horner. I was so drawn to their incredibly designs and colors I couldn’t stop. IMG_9700

This brings me to the second point: What does your work say about you? Did you know that in crafting (or working, or being a mom, or whatever you are doing), you are building up your legacy? So invest in it! Leave behind a good one! 20141123-DSC_0302

This is the very point that drives me to learn all that I can, and I have so much I want to learn! When I began sewing, I wanted to sharpen my skill with every project. I never wanted someone to look at my work and assume it was homemade. Now, if we took a walk down memory lane, much of it would look very homemade, but the point is, I sought to better myself. My grandmother left behind such a beautiful legacy for me. She is so much a part of who I am. I love that bits of her were injected throughout her home in the form of quilts, crocheted blankets, upholstery, and even paintings. In her lifetime her home, her domain, was a reflection of her and the care she put into her work. In the time after her passing, her children and grandchildren and others are treasuring those tangible bits of herself left behind.

I commented on a recent post about quilts and other handmade goods being able to tell stories of times gone by if they could only speak to us. Its incredible for me to ponder the cold nights those quilts may have seen my mother and her brothers through. Or those outfits made for special days…. What was going on in the world when she painted that beautiful picture of the old schoolhouse where my grandpa attended? The history, their stories are so incredible to think of, even if they are only imaginings of mine. IMG_465220150201-DSC_0045

I want to leave that kind of legacy for my children. Do you? Do you know your daughter will hang on to that quilt you made for her? That may someday warm your great granddaughter, or perhaps hang in a place of importance as a tribute to you. What stories will your stitches tell? IMG_9699

Does your work reflect that of a careful, thoughtful attitude? This is something I think of often. Its a point so connected to the legacy aspect for me, but its also very practically related to finances. The plain fact is, good quality fabric is expensive. The other components used to make quilts, bags, clothing, and other items are also expensive. So it blows my mind when one can rush through and make something truly temporary. Its really all temporary because nothing in this world will last forever, but I’m talking short term here.

Are you making things that will last? Are you making things that justify the cost of the materials and the time you put into your handmade goods? Are you doing yourself and/or your family a disservice by doing less than your best on that fabric you might have gone over budget on? And please remember, I’m not criticizing you. I want you to really evaluate what you are doing so that you can be a better crafter! We are all at different places, and not one of us started out doing a great job. As a beginner, I used the crap fabric because I was a novice. I knew nothing. In addition, we were making less than $10k yearly and I didn’t have money for good fabric. I hardly had money for bad fabric, so if I couldn’t make the bad stuff good, I certainly wasn’t ready to move up to the good stuff. 20141019-DSC_0066

I found great passion in sewing. That tiny little spark that began as a child, and slowly lit into adulthood is now a raging fire. I so love that I have this great privilege of working with beautiful fabrics and making useful items. For me personally, so much of my felt responsibility is in making not only lasting items, but utilitarian items. If its not going to be used, I don’t see a point in making it. Again, it costs too much in materials and time for me to make something that won’t get good use.IMG_9698

I also want to touch on hobby vs livelihood crafting. There’s a massive difference here. While I do believe the first two points apply to both, I think that necessity separates the two. Both are wonderful reasons for sewing, and where there is seemingly limitless freedom to the hobbyist, there much for pressure for the career sewist. This is something I’m working through right now as my hobby is morphing into a livelihood. I’m not even close to being at that point to be frank, but that is the goal. And its no joke. Its a constant, never ending, work-my-butt-off venture. BUT ITS FUN! And its so incredibly rewarding. 20141227-DSC_001220150109-DSC_000520150201-DSC_0142

Right now my husband’s workload is a fraction of what is was a year ago and of what it needs to be for us to live on one income. I’ve been talking for a couple of years about putting out some patterns that I’ve had in the works and being able to make this blog a useful source of information for crafters and a way for me to make money off of the work I’m putting into it. If you blog, you know its not just a matter of sitting down and rambling on. I put an average of 10 hours into every single post that goes up here, from the planning, to the crafting, to having it photographed, to writing the post. Its a lot of work. The necessity of needing income has lit a fire under my rear to get over my self-doubt and put my work out there. Its not been an easy thing, but I’m glad I had the push of necessity to get me through it. 20140817-DSC_008120140908-DSC_0003

This past fall I released my first quilt pattern. I can’t tell you how incredible it has been to be able to put something out there and for people to purchase and make the pattern! Its terribly fulfilling. This spring at quilt market I’ll be releasing two patterns with Alison Glass. While I’m there, I plan to jump right out of my comfort zone and make some great connections and meet some incredibly talented people in this amazing industry. The next step up is always a little nerve-wracking, but its all about pushing your limits and expanding your horizon, and continuing to be the very best you can be.

All of that is really to say this: What you do is a reflection of who you are. Do you put time and care into your work, or are you only putting in a halfway effort? The results will reveal that. Are you doing what you love- what gives you fulfillment? Sometimes we think the fun stuff has to wait until the end of our working years when we have some money to throw away. Let me encourage you to take a chance now if you truly have passion and skill to drive you. Certainly what works for one will not work for another. Obviously family situations will dictate what your limitation are, but I encourage you to not only do something that you love, but to use the skills you have been given to the very best of your abilities. We are not on this earth for long. Don’t take that time for granted. Do your best, and you will not regret it. Learn new things, and try something you think you can’t do. You may just surprise yourself and find that spark that will lead to a flame. 20140729-DSC_000920140124-DSC_0004

Next week I want to talk to you about sourcing fabric and other items within your means. How on earth does someone on a tight budget afford the good stuff? Hopefully I can give you some good tips!

Now I want to hear from you. Where does your passion come from? What inspires you to create? Let’s talk about this!

-Meredith

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  • So many pretties here Meredith. You do lovely work! How is your friend? The one who is getting the Liberty quilt.
    I just have a need to work with my hands. Love to create with fabric and wool.ReplyCancel

  • I loved reading this post, it really hit home with me. My man and I talk often about why we both pursue our hobbies, mine quilting & his painting miniatures, and I think the pleasure of allowing our creativity to have free reign is not to be ignored. I quilt as a hobby and I have a small Etsy shop and can attest to not waiting until retirement comes knocking before putting your plans in motion, I find great enjoyment working with my customers to make an heirloom quilt that their children will cherish just as I do making place mats for our table at home. For me it’s about broadening my creative horizons, legacy as you say & I simply get a kick out of working with beautiful supplies!ReplyCancel

  • Andrea M

    Well said! People often suggest that I sell what I make. I sew and crochet because I love to (plus it’s a good way to relax and de-stress after a busy day of working full time and having 3 young kids). Nearly everything I make I give a way as gifts (making baby things are so much fun!). I do make things for my self once in a while, but I love gifting the items, whether they are appreciated or not. I love to see the mini quilt I gave my mother-in-law used as a table runner, or the tote bag I made my mom come to my house with her every time she visits, or my infant daughter chew on her lovey blanket I made her. Those images plus the personal enjoyment of the craft, make it worthwhile and incredibly important to me. Keep up the beautiful work, and thank you for encouraging crafters to think about why they create – it’s such an important part of the process!ReplyCancel

  • what a thoughtful article! i’m looking at the patchwork pouch I bought from a few months back and it says “meticulous, beautiful and happy”!

    eReplyCancel

  • Hi Meredith!
    I’ve been a reader for a while now and have loved seeing the quality of your work and the lighthearted passion you put into it. It always seems like your quality control is impeccable and that you have a balanced and stress free way of accomplishing what you set out to do. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I just posted my first blog post this week, with it being Kids Clothes Week, and your post really touches on some of the things I’ve been juggling with trying to learn to sew on my own and also pushing to get projects accomplished, sometimes at the cost of quality. In the last few months, with the assistance of some wonderful Oliver + S patterns :), I’m starting to have a more balanced and PATIENT! mindset to sew because I love it, and sew because I need to (my kid caught up to our hand-me-downs source who is 2 years older!). I’m also learning when to accept that I’m a student of sewing and when to get out the seam ripper and commit to a quality garment. I haven’t attempted quilts yet, but I loved your Anna Maria feather quilt. I hope to attempt one sometime before Christmas. You’re inspiring and your taste in fabric combinations and commitment to quality is top notch. I’m sorry you got some poor feedback. It’s a rare legacy these days to believe in taking care of what we have instead of just treating everything as disposable and to be so disciplined as to mindfully work even the smallest of tasks with a sense of artistry and craftsmanship. I look forward to your next post as it is 100% applicable to where I am with sewing!ReplyCancel

  • What a lovely well articulated post. I’m definitely in the category of creators where some thing I make are temporary but always for a reason, which is why I’m glad you pointed out that no style is wrong as long as consideration is put into it. I’m in a fortunate position where the cost of materials is “just money” and it’s my time that is more valuable. I will tinker with an idea to learn something from it and possibly not have a high quality product yield from that experiment. To me, that’s not only acceptable; I encourage that out of myself because that’s how I’ve always grown creatively. A series of mini failures is better than any school lesson I’ve learned and then from that craft room education I am able to take what I have discovered with my own two hands and apply it thoughtful to something more lasting and truly meaningful.

    One lesson that touches on this topic is also to know when it’s okay to cut corners and “just finish” and when it’s time to really rip out those seams and do it over. I think it’s fascinating hearing different creators take on where that line is for them!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly O.

    I create as therapy. And I love to belong to a community of quilters that get what they need from their craft as much as I do from mine for varied reasons… I saw a quote the other day that I love and I plan to have it made into a sign for my sewing room….
    “They are all there in that quilt — my hopes and fears, my joys and sorrows, my loves and hates. I tremble when I remember what that quilt knows about me.”
    Truthfully, my quilts are a part of me.ReplyCancel

  • Wow! I REALLY needed to read this today. Thank you so much for such true and sincere words. I am just starting out on this blogging/crafting journey and am in the process of seeing how viable it is for my family for me to pursue something like this full-time.

    I feel so humbled by your words of using the best that you can and also doing your best work. I tend to rush through projects because I have so many bouncing around my head that I want to move on to the next thing, but I still need to do my best, because I really do want to create that legacy for my children. My inspiration came from my husband’s grandma and I love seeing my kids wrapped in creations that her hands made. I need to slow down and love the process of creating not just the finished product. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

  • […] I want to you get from this post is really the same tone I set out to communicate in “Handmade by Humans”: be purposeful in the things you do. Don’t clutter your creativity with unneeded things. If […]ReplyCancel

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