Does This Look Handmade?

What makes something look handmade? And is that a good thing or a bad thing? Those are the questions Helena and I are asking your opinion on for the next episode of the Clothes Making Mavens Podcast. Sometimes I worry if someone asks me “did you make that?” — why do you ask, is there something wrong with it?? is usually my first thought. On the other hand, friends are now asking me almost every day if I made what I’m wearing, regardless of whether I actually made it or bought it at the store, so I guess that’s a vote of confidence in my sewing skills. The question for many of us is whether we want what we’re wearing to have a ‘handmade look’ to it. And what does that mean, exactly? Does that bring to mind the thought of “Becky-Home-Ecky” projects? Or gorgeous, one-of-a-kind creations that no one else has? Do you embrace both?

Why don’t you leave me a comment or a voicemail and tell me what you think? You can call 401-64-MAVEN, or click below to use your computer’s built-in microphone to leave a message. It would be so cool to include your voice on our podcast!

Here’s a recent handmade creation of mine. And it has an absolute dead giveaway sign that it’s handmade.

NewLook 6210 dress in Art Gallery Tiny Dancer fabric in Midnight

The pattern is New Look 6210, View D.

I was in the mood for an easy-going summer tank dress with a racerback which is why I picked up this pattern. But for some reason I chose to do the v-neck version with a fuller back instead. Maybe because I find v-necks are more flattering on me than u-necks, but I seem to forget so easily that sewing v-necks is the bane of my existence! It’s always a struggle to get the point of the v looking good.


I also didn’t realize just how much positive ease is built into this pattern — it came out huge. When I first popped it on for fit I lamented to my husband that I had made myself a Soviet-era Russian house dress. A sack, really. I had to hack away at the sides, the back, the shoulders — everything — to get it to fit. Here’s one weird hack I used on the back to try to give the dress a bit of waist definition:


I considered adding darts, but instead did a couple of pleats, folded in toward the centre back seam and stitched across.


It’s not perfect, but it improved the overall shape of the dress dramatically, and adds a bit of interest. I don’t even care that it looks a lot like THIS, from Kurt Vonnegut’s book Breakfast of Champions:


But that little hack is not even the handmade dead giveaway! If you’ve ever hemmed a knit with a twin needle before, I *KNOW* this has happened to you, too. I stitched around the armhole with a twin needle (the original armhole band having long ago been hacked off for a better fit — and please, no, don’t ask me why I didn’t adjust the fit before sewing on the armhole band, thanks), and then got to work trimming away the excess fabric as close to the twin-needle stitching as possible. You know how this ends. SNIIIIIIP!!! Feels like the scissors just bit into something they shouldn’t have bit into. You know that feeling. Yes, I cut a chunk out of the dress itself just under the armhole:


I think that little hole could be considered a true mark of handmade-edness, no? Lucky for me, I don’t think it’s terribly noticeable so I’m just rollin’ with it.


The fabric is Art Gallery Tiny Dancer knit in Midnight, which I ordered from (no affiliation). It’s got white dandelion puffs on a steel-blue background with dashes of bright spring green in the centre of the dandelions. It was the spring green that got me hooked on needing this fabric, but I was a bit disappointed in it in person. The fabric is good quality, but the base fabric is white with the blue printed on top so when it stretches some white shows through. Also, the blue isn’t as saturated as I would like; it’s kind of a dull greyish-blue. A sharp navy would’ve made me like this much better. This was my first time ordering from and I was very pleasantly shocked to find the order on my doorstep within 24 hours. This was coming from Georgia, USA, and I live in Toronto, Canada. Wow. Shipping rates were actually reasonable, too. I did have to pay duty to the good old government of Canada on delivery but access to fabrics I can’t find around here and such a quick delivery time was worth it.


Next summer I will try this pattern again to make a striped racerback tank dress, but I’ll be sure to adjust the pattern before cutting out to remove the positive ease.

So long summer! It’s been nice sewin’ ya.


Have you caught the latest episode of the Clothes Making Mavens Podcast? Listeners tell us about their proudest sewing moments, Helena and I chat about where we get our sewing inspiration from, and Maris drops some knowledge about some sewing machine presser feet you could be putting to good use.

Clothes Making Mavens Podcast Episode 5

If you’d like to be featured on our next podcast, don’t forget to get in touch and tell us your thoughts on what makes something look handmade! Can’t wait to hear from you. 🙂


14 thoughts on “Does This Look Handmade?

  1. For me the giveaway for handmadedness (that’s a real word) in a bad way is a badly finished hem or neckline…. my go to for a slim fitting knit dress in the back is fish eye darts, I love the fit of the Maria Denmark Audrey dress for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Sarah. Badly finished hems and necklines — yes, I have a few of those, too! Thanks for the tip about Maria Denmark. I hadn’t heard of her before and I just purchased the Karen Drape Dress and added it to my list of things to sew.


  2. I think it’s the individual details that you would never see in RTW garments like linings, buttons, fabric combos, top stitching – the little sweet details that make the Yeah I Made This deserving of an exclamation point rather than an ellipses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I have absolutely snipped a chunk of fabric out of my garment when trimming a double needle finish, more than once. Depending on the severity, it can be devastating. People ask me all the time if I made what I’m wearing. I consider it a compliment because I am known in my community as an accomplished seamstress. But I do know “homemade” can have bad connotations. Many years ago I taught high school sewing (when it still existed) and often a student would announce “I ain’t wearing no homemade clothes.”

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your dress back doesn’t look at all like Kurt’s *, but it is hard to shake that imagery once it’s in your brain. I once had a phone case from the brand speck, and their logo was seriously : (*). I felt like I had to apologize for showing people Kurt Vonnegut’s * every time I took a photo.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For me, a dead giveaway that someone made their clothes is if they used quilting cotton as a fashion fabric. And I know this is a very divisive topic among sewers. I generally streer clear of quilting cottons for homemade garments, otherwise I think you do end up with that Becky-home-ecky look.


  6. “Yes, I cut a chunk out of the dress itself just under the armhole:”

    How fortunate you are in your RTW offerings! I sew about 90% of my wardrobe, but my husband is a shopping FIEND! How many holes, ripped out/falling out seams, falling down hems, wonky seam allowances, bagged out/crooked scoop or vee necklines, on and on and on have i seen over the years.

    And here i thought the ‘dead giveaway’ it was homemade was that it fit you well and looked like it was well made enough to last through the wash 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you make an excellent point, Stephanie. For garment sewers of a certain skill level, a great fit and good quality craftsmanship (craftswomanship?) denotes homemade.


  7. The Hems are always a giveaway in my personal sewing, I neither get a perfect twin-needle-row in knits nor a nice blind hem in wovens. No matter the feet and gadgets I try they are always wonky and visible.
    Otherwise I would say thread, buttons and fabrics combinations where the colour-matching is a little off.
    And in my part of the world (central Europe) there is a trend to sew with crazy patterned and crazy coloured knits, especially among beginners who mainly sew for kids and seeing these knits on kids and moms tells me it is handmade. (And then I chat them up, because I love talking about sewing, even if their taste is not my taste.)

    Liked by 1 person

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