Part of what facilitated this is this year for the holiday season, I have pledged to only give handmade things-- either by me, or by someone else. I am making the majority of my gifts, but I had something very specific in mind to personalize a hat I am knitting. No details until after the holiday, though-- don't want anybody to guess what they're getting! There is no way I could reproduce what I wanted myself, not having the equipment, but I found EXACTLY what I wanted, but better, at an Etsy shop. I could spend YEARS picking out just buttons on that site...
So why handmade?
Well, for several reasons.
First, the economy is kind of down the drain lately, and despite what we keep hearing, spending MORE at chain and corporate stores is not going to "stimulate the economy." Much like trickle down, it's a big financial myth. By putting money into something, you no longer have the money yourself, and unlike investment, where the money grows, money spent on consumer goods just cycles around, never increasing in worth, but in fact, decreasing as inflation steepens. At least by purchasing goods that go directly from producer to consumer, a larger chunk of the money spent goes into circulation, where with large corporate stores, your dollars are split into lots of costs, such as labor, marketing, insurance, and so on.
Second, the impact of handmade goods is so much less than mass produced items; not that there aren't chemicals used in handmade items, but the energy resources and type of processing handmade goods go through is on a much smaller scale, and though super-glue fumes may not be the safest, they're quite a bit better than some of the byproducts manufacturing disposes of into lakes, rivers, and our air.
Third. I can't say for sure, but I'm pretty sure most people who choose to make their gifts by hand, or provide handmade gifts for others to purchase, are enjoying the process. While not quite a cottage industry, people who are good at one skill market or give it to others who have a need for that skill, or the product of the skill. The result is a fair trade of money, goods, or services for a job well and happily done-- nothing like the sweatshops that are supported by the demand for cheap and quick consumer goods. When you consider the working conditions that such a market creates, who wants to pass that karma along with a heartfelt holiday gift?
It's nearly impossible in today's world to live a lifestyle that is 100% sweatshop free, and economically and ecologically sound-- but with the biggest spending period of the year, making a conscious effort to put the dollars someplace where the impact is less makes the exchanging of gifts even better... And really, giving and getting gifts is part of the love of the season, along with lots of yummy food and twinkly lights.
I love me some twinkly lights.