At this time of year leading up to Christmas we find many craft fairs with local artisans who work very hard with their handmade items and have to compete with items made in China. We can find that in many shops too.
According to Smart Retailer magazine, “Today’s shoppers want to connect with the history of the product, its maker and the company that sells it. It’s one of the reasons so many people are turning away from Chinese-made chain stores and want to enjoy the personal feel of corner shops and craft fairs with personal handmade items that tell a story.”
Carol Loshek, owner of The Cottage Cupboard in Winona, says: “I would say that 95% of our products are handcrafted or repurposed. We add things bought here and there to complement the decor, which makes up the other 5%.”
Below are some of the handmade crafts on display at The Cottage Cupboard from 22nd to 24th September as they tell their story.
JoAnna Gilmore from Winona: “I feel like there’s a big difference between handmade items and items made in China. The quality, durability and uniqueness of the handcrafted items are at a higher level.
Gilmore says when you purchase handmade items, you’re often supporting individuals living in your community.
“Items made in China are mass-produced, which takes away the uniqueness of the items,” says Gilmore. “Personally, I don’t make large batches of the same item. Often I only create a specific article. When I create a few of the same items, they differ in color, size, or style. I dictate what I make by what I make on hand or by what catches my eye at thrift stores, flea markets, on websites, or in stores.”
Gilmore says she also enjoys repurposing furniture and everyday objects like buttons, fabrics and vintage items to create her items.
“Pillows are included with all my sales but change with each sale,” she says. “Making items for sale is fun and allows me to use my creative thoughts to produce something that others might enjoy. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to sell my wares at Cottage Cupboard (in Winona).”
Mary Nelson, owner of Mary’s Custom Quilting in Winona, says, “For about a year I’ve been making zippered bags out of vintage linens, fabrics, lace, rickrack and crocheted trim. I especially like to combine vintage fabrics and lining bags with the embroidery for a nostalgic look.”
Nelson says she often searches and finds embroidered linens at thrift stores, estate sales, and garage sales. While many are stained or worn or holed, if the embroidered portion is still beautiful – “I hate it when beautiful needlework gets thrown away” – she will take the usable bits and turn them into cloth bags.
“Even if the embroidery isn’t great, there’s often a nice crocheted edge that can be cut away and sewn into a project,” says Nelson. “Browsing the store for the raw materials for my zip bags is almost as fun as creating them. I have given many of the bags as gifts, often putting a gift card inside or just using the handmade bag as a gift.”
She sells them three times a year: seasonally during Cottage Cupboard in Winona and at the Winona County Historical Society gift shop.
“It’s fun to be next to my long sleeve quilt business and a pleasure to see the creations that come to mind,” says Nelson.
Customers respond and return as loyal customers when they know you have one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces that each tell a story.
The maker of a Chinese-made pumpkin, candy corn, or snowman at the local craft fair or chain store cannot tell us a personal story about the item or their business. So if you’re buying something handmade, every time you use that cushion or spread that quilted runner out on the table, you’ll be reminded of a wonderful visit and the artist who made it.
Sandy Erdman is a Winona-based freelance writer and board-certified appraiser focused on vintage, antique, and collectibles. Send comments and story suggestions to Sandy at