So what is the difference, and just what does handmade mean?

Google “definition of handmade” and you will get lots of results, most of which are along the lines of “made by hand, not by machine”. The general implication/perception is that the handmade item is superior to a machine made item.

Go to the website and search out info on product labelling and you will get:

“Product labelling: the law

You don’t have to show particular information on the label for every kind of product, but if you include it you must be accurate. There are special rules for some products, and for retailers.

Labels must not be misleading about things like:

  • quantity or size
  • the price
  • what it’s made of
  • how, where and when it was made
  • what you say it can do
  • the people or organisations that endorse it”

So when a product is sold as handmade the information given should not be misleading.

However, take a look at many websites offering handmade goods and you will see varying levels of handmade. Depending on the size of the business, there can be a real mix and match of how processes are completed.

Many of the processes that are involved in producing an item are easily completed by machine, others less so.

Processes include:

  • Splitting (thinning) down the leather
  • Cutting the leather to a pattern
  • Edging (bevelling) to remove sharp edges
  • Skiving (thinning) edges for seams
  • Staining and polishing the edges
  • Stitching
  • Final polish and finishing touches

Larger workshops often have teams of workers doing specialist tasks within a production line. They are also likely to have machinery to do many of the processes: a clicker machine or laser cutter for cutting the leather, machines for splitting (thinning down) the leather, skiving and polishing the edges and then stitch using a machine.

If a part of the process is by hand, it can be argued that technically the product is handmade, although a good part of the production may have been completed using machinery.

A traditional craftsman working in a small studio with traditional hand tools will cut the leather using a traditional saddlers knife, sharp blade or a plough gauge, bevel edges using a hand-edging tool, skive using a knife or blade, polish using a bone or cloth, and stitch by hand.

This is closer to the definition above, and what people often perceive how a handmade piece is made.

So when you are looking to purchase a luxury leather item, you have a choice to make in terms of what you are looking for.

1 –items from a large workshop will typically be batch made with a high level of assistance from machinery. The quality should be consistent, and the time frame to produce it is shorter. However the product may be more generic and you lose the individuality.

2 – items from a craftsman will typically be made by hand, using only hand tools. If stitched by hand, it will be much stronger and won’t unravel as machine stitching can. The time frame will be much greater, but you will get a truly unique and easily customised item.

I know what choice I would make, do you?