Handcrafted vs. Handmade

handmade vs handcrafted leather belts

The difference between ‘handcrafted’ and ‘handmade’ is widely debated in the fashion world, with the two terms often blurring into one. What is clear, is that with the meteoric rise of the artisan trend, consumers are looking out for these two buzzwords more and more when making their shopping choices. Whether you’re searching for shoes, belts, bags or jewellery, you’ll have noticed these two words weaved into product descriptions, often being used interchangeably. But what’s the difference between something that has been handcrafted as opposed to something that’s been handmade? We’re delving into the handcrafted vs. handmade debate, and taking a closer look at the tools and techniques behind Colville Leather products in the process …


What does 'Handmade' mean in the fashion industry?

Let’s start with the term ‘handmade’. This is where elements of production are done by hand, but some machinery is used. Unfortunately, this phrase has been somewhat used and abused in the fashion industry of late. So much so that it’s difficult for consumers to know exactly what they’re getting with a so-called ‘handmade’ product. To what extent has machinery been used? How much skill has gone into making the item? These are just some of the questions left unanswered for consumers.

When it comes to handmade leather goods, there are several parts of the making process where machinery might be used rather than traditional hand tools. Take stitching, for example: a sewing machine could be used rather than having the stitches sewn by hand. And when it comes to cutting, there are two ways to do this: by hand, or by a process called die cutting. Whereas a handcrafted item would have all its leather pieces cut by hand, something that is handmade might have seen a die press machine used, with a metal die based off a digital image.

Crucially, the problem with goods branded as handmade is that it’s difficult to tell exactly what’s been done by hand and what’s been done by a machine. Insofar as machine processes certainly have their place in the modern world, it’s important that fashion companies do not exploit the term ‘handmade’ and mislead consumers. 

What does 'Handcrafted' mean?

‘Handcrafted’ on the other hand, refers to things that are made entirely by hand, using only traditional tools and techniques. This describes our beautiful Colville Leather items. We lovingly handcraft each and every product, devoting time, passion and expertise. Want to see for yourself? Check out this film that celebrates the traditional artisan techniques involved in the handcrafting of an Oak Bark leather belt.

Handcrafting our products means that each finished item has been nurtured from start to finish under our watchful eyes, with our very own hands. It means we can ensure an unbeatable quality in every belt, wallet and bag we make. It means that our products have the sought-after authenticity that consumers are looking for in a leather item, with a rich sincerity that’s not been tainted by any machines. We choose to make our items entirely from hand to remain faithful to the leather artisans who came before us. We have a duty to continue this ancient craft and exhibit the longevity and beauty of traditionally made leather accessories. 

Our tools – the foundation of our craft

Here at Colville Leather, we do things ‘the old-fashioned way’. Without our traditional tools, we would be lost. They enable us to turn hides of leather into the most beautiful and charming of creations, each product unique in its own special way. Let’s take a look at some of the tools and techniques we use to handcraft our leather goods. 

The edges of leather can be very sharp as a result of the cutting process. We use edge bevellers to round off the edges of the leather, making for much safer, more practical products. We have a range of bevellers here in our workshop, depending on the thickness of the leather and how much bevelling is required. 

handcrafted leather belt using edge beveller

A rivet press, which also handily doubles up as a hole punch for belts, is used to set rivets. We use a range of different sizes depending on the job at hand.

handcrafted leather belt using rivet press

Every stitch on our products is done by hand, and boy is it a precision art. We use wing dividers to mark out set distances, such as the space between the stitching line and the edge of the leather. 

We’ve got a pricking iron to mark out where our stitches need to go, but how do we make sure the pieces of leather are secured in place for stitching? That’s where our stitching pony comes in. Clamped to the work bench or placed between one’s legs whilst sitting, it holds pieces of leather together to ensure precise stitching. 

Every item we make bears the Colville Leather maker’s mark as a special seal of approval. This is stamped using a tool called the arbour press. We’re proud of the accessories we produce here in Totnes and see every stamp as a mark of the passion and skill that goes into making them. We hope this maker’s mark serves as a reminder to people of the ancient tradition of craftmanship that is in danger of being forgotten in this acquisitive world of fast fashion. 

Take a look inside the Colville Leather Devon workshop and find out about some of the other traditional tools we use.

We hope we’ve shed some light on the difference between goods that are handcrafted and those that are handmade. We’re proud to handcraft all our goods here at Colville Leather, and hope you’ve enjoyed the insight into this hands-on, authentic process.

If you are interested in finding out more about our products or the creative processes behind them, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us via our website, or leave a message for us on social media.

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