At our library, we encourage staff to play for at least 30 minutes per week. In fact, we want to make play so much a part of our culture that a pocket of playtime is often built into our schedules because studies have shown that play is beneficial to overall well-being for people of all ages. But as adults, play might be hard to define. I’ve found that arts and crafts, a tried-and-true kids' activity, is just as fun as an adult.
“But I’m not an artist,” or, “I’m not that creative,” you might say. With these five hobbies, you don’t need to by wildly talented or original to enjoy a crafty playtime. No one ever needs to see your creations except you (although all my suggestions make wonderful gifts and home decoration). I picked these pastimes because, based on personal experience, they’re fun even if you stick to beginner project and they won’t break the bank.
Do you have a million magazines lying around the house? Old tickets, playbills, or other paper souvenirs that you don’t want to get rid of, but don’t know what else to do with them? With a pair of scissors, a glue stick, and a good surface to build on, you can bring these saved items out of their dusty boxes and into a vibrant work of art. You can preserve a wonderful day or tell a new story. Collage pieces also make wonderful gifts; just sign the corner and put it in a frame, and you can give your friend or relative a one-of-a-kind piece to hang on their wall.
If You Can Cut, You Can Collage, by Hollie Chastain
The Collage Workbook, by Randel Plowman
For as long as I can remember, my mom has crocheted baby blankets for her colleagues who are having children. Some were a single color made out of a cozy chunky yarn, and others were more complicated patterns made with multicolored, textured cords. She would crochet almost constantly: in front of the TV, in the car, during downtime at work. She could pack up her project in minutes and whip it out just as quickly.
This sort of flexibility makes crochet a great hobby for busy folks. You don’t need a workstation or tons of supplies, just affordable needles and yarn. Basic stitches are simple and pretty, so there’s no need to get fancy unless you want to. Long or short, stacking the rows on top of each other is rhythmic and soothing. And you’ll have a cozy scarf or blanket to show for it!
Big Hook Crochet, by Emma Friedlander-Collins
Freeform Crochet with Confidence, by Carol Meldrum
Cross-stitch and embroidery
Decorative needlework is what I like to call the “grandma-turned-glamorous" pastime. I used to imagine cross-stitch as blocky letters and old-fashioned flowers, but cross-stitch and embroidery have since taken popular crafting by storm. Instagram features countless stunning needlework accounts, which serve as incredible inspiration. Some of them are intimidating, but other than learning some needle lingo, cross-stitch and embroidery don’t have big learning curves. Cross-stitch, which comprises mostly blocky stitches, can be as simple as you want it to be. For the more adventurous, embroidery offers a freeform approach and endless possibilities. Carry this hobby into your fashion and refresh old clothes by embroidering shirts, jackets, headbands, and more.
Colorful Stitchery, by Kristin Nicholas
Rebecca Ringquist’s Embroidery Workshops, by Rebecca Ringquist (also available on hoopla)
Mini Hoop Embroideries, by Sonia Lyne
Cross-stitch to Calm, by Leah Lintz
As the most accessible hobby on this list, hand lettering requires only paper and pen to get started. It’s sort of like calligraphy, except without the expensive fountain pens. Of course, you can invest in high-quality fine art supplies, but it’s far from necessary. Hand lettering is another practice that has exploded on social media. My stepsister (@letteringbykaren on Instagram) started hand lettering as a hobby a couple of years ago and has since turned it into a flourishing online presence and an Etsy shop. Before lettering, I don’t think she would have called herself anything close to artsy.
Keep this one simple by just lettering inspirational or important quotes for yourself. Send personalized snail mail on holidays and birthdays, or create gorgeous gifts people can hang in their homes. Hand lettering is as easy or challenging as you want it to be.
Happy Hand Lettering, by Jen Wagner (also available on hoopla)
Brush Lettering Made Simple, by Christal Elizabeth
The Art of Creative Lettering, by Becky Higgins
The Big Awesome Book of Hand & Chalk Lettering, by Dina Rodriguez
Perhaps the most intimidating of my hobby recommendations, watercolor can admittedly be difficult for those of us who love precision and second chances. It can also be meditative and restorative when you go in with reasonable expectations for your skill level. Who says your painting needs to look like anything in particular? If you love color, then don’t worry about reality and just paint a gorgeous abstract piece. Instructional books and videos will be incredibly helpful for watercolor, because many techniques, although not difficult, are a little weird. After the initial investment in decent brushes, watercolor paper and paints are quite affordable. Keep a watercolor sketchbook of quick works, or take the time to create frame-worthy pieces.
The Watercolor Course You’ve Always Wanted, by Leslie Frontz
Paint Yourself Calm, by Jean Haines