A few weeks ago at ravelry I was checking my usual haunts to look at the various projects and discussion boards, when I came across a comment that struck me (to say the least) as odd.
A fellow crocheter was lauding the work of a polymer clay artist (whose work is exquisite), and praised the work by saying that it didn’t look “handmade.”
Coming from a crocheter, this sort of praise is more than a little puzzling as all crochet is “handmade.” Were people to determine the worthiness of a crocheted object by it’s ability to appear to be a manufactured good, the object in question would always come up short.
It could be that this crocheter has stumbled on a truth; that crochet is the fiber crafting equivalent of a stepchild precisely because it cannot be made by a machine.
This ability to create crochet by hand with one simple tool has made it a cottage industry workhorse, and this was particularly true during the period known to us on this side of the Atlantic as the Irish Potato Famine.
While the people of Ireland suffered huge losses to death and emigration, they were also tenacious, and the craft they perfected (now known as Irish Lace) was a valuable aid in creating jobs for women to supplement a family’s income:
As can be seen in this detail of the above photo:
the stitches of the lace (while exquisite) lack uniformity and are more textured than is typical of a manufactured good.
It is easy to tell by a cursory visual inspection that this piece is “handmade.”
For me, a handmade object is not an anathema but is an authentic expression of the ineffable (but identifiable) qualities that make us human, and it is this human element that gives a “handmade” piece its power and charm.