If you’ve been quarantined at home during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s possible you’ve been lucky enough to have some extra time on your hands. Stress has fried most of our attention spans, so productivity, like launching a side hustle or writing a novel, seems out of the question.
That leaves one way of filling time: a good, old-fashioned hobby, as if it’s the literal past. Not just the Sims or side hustles disguised as hobbies, but genuine, cottage-core-adjacent hobbies. You may have seen one of your friends take one up; maybe you laughed. At first. Then you saw how fulfilled working with their hands and enjoying a finished product made them, and you relented.
Of course, that doesn’t mean every ambition sticks; plenty of us have started a project, only to realize we are are bad at it, it’s too hard, or it fundamentally sucks, Several weeks into quarantine, we caught up with budding hobbyists about what they took up, why, and whether they’ll keep it up.
Pasta-making takes too much arm strength
I ordered a pasta making kit at the beginning of lockdown because I thought it would be a nice thing to learn, and also there was no pasta at the store. It arrived like 3 weeks later and I was eager. Tried doing it and was shook that it needed so much upper body strength - the rolling of the dough is endless, and mine wasn’t sticking together, I thought I was going to have to throw it away. It looked like chonky white worms when I boiled it, but it tasted good and had that nice fresh pasta al dente quality! Made them again and this time the dough was sticking together as I used more eggs than recommended and they still looked like white worms in the pot but fuck it, I love my wormy “tagliatelle.” Will be making it again when I feel like doing an upper body workout. –Indre, 28
Crocheting isn't as fun as OnlyFans
At the beginning of lockdown I ordered 15 balls of yarn and started crocheting a blanket. For a while all I did was crochet while watching everything in the Star Wars universe, but half a blanket later I had fallen out of love with crochet and couldn’t bring myself to even look at it. Learning Chinese was also short lived, I downloaded some apps which I never opened. My new (more lucrative) hobby is attempting to start an OnlyFans, which is harder than I thought when I have to constantly hide my screen from my boyfriend’s mom while I upload pictures of my naked body, but I spent a productive afternoon yesterday organizing every single one of the nearly 400 nudes on my phone and laptop ready for posting. –Bluebell, 26
Embroidery requires too much patience
I took on embroidery right at the beginning of isolation, as my housemate is amazing at any sort of creative activity that takes up countless hours and lots of focus, she has big cottage-core energy. Anyway, for some reason I thought that embroidery would be a perfect activity for someone who can barely read three pages of a book due to constant overstimulation. I think I managed to get a quarter of the way through an embroidery of a peach before I decided to put the piece in my drawer and never pick it up again. Essentially I have the attention span of a goldfish and the special attentive nature required for embroidery is not something I possess. –Isabella, 21
A mountain biking disaster
In order to remain sane and stay healthy during quarantine, I decided to take up riding my mountain bike daily. One Saturday, I was feeling adventurous and decided to ride a trail along the Bonneville Shoreline. I got to a part near the end that was very steep and rocky, then went over my handlebars. I heard my forearm snap, and could see the bone poking out. Luckily there were some nice people on the trail intersection below that came to my aid and called for an ambulance. After hiking out and meeting them on the street, I was taken to an emergency room less than a mile away. Five hours, multiple drugs, and one COVID test later, I was taken into surgery. Both bones broke, so fifteen screws and two plates now reside in my dominant arm. it was the most painful experience I've ever been through. –Jake, 32
Fashion is harder than it looks
I've always wanted to learn how to sew, so I bought some fabric and a pattern online. I genuinely had no idea how hard it was! After borrowing my mom's sewing machine, I tried to get going and spent the first two days struggling to get it to work. I didn't measure it very carefully, so I've just about finished it after two months, and it's super tight around the neck. It's made me realize how wildly underpaid fast fashion garment workers are, because it's NOT easy. I’ve had a few temper tantrums and there were a few times I was literally screaming at the sewing machine and had to FaceTime my mom constantly to ask her help. –Daisy, 29
High mechanical keyboard ambitions
I'm a writer/performer and my wrists were getting destroyed by typing. Someone recommended a mechanical keyboard, I googled around for recommendations, found the Reddit community, and fell down a rabbit hole of custom cases and limited run key caps. You can buy DIY kits, and as I’m pretty handy I thought after watching a load of YouTube tutorials that soldering seemed easy enough.
How wrong I was: I burned off the soldering pad on the first USB connector, and the rest of it has been sitting on my desk, glowering at me, ever since. I love the idea of building my own pink, small keyboard, but after that I think the soldering part should probably wait? –Tina, 36
*Kickflips over pervasive boredom*
After being too scared to learn to skate for about 10 years, my boyfriend convinced me to try by buying me a board. I’ve embarrassingly fallen on my ass too many times and have grazed my foot while trying to do an ollie standing still. For someone with terrible balance, I’m surprised I’ve managed to stay on the board for more than two seconds.
I think I’m going to keep going with it, though, as it feels weirdly empowering as a woman to be able to do it at all. I’m sure my falling over is a lot funnier to anyone watching than to me, but I think it’s always funniest when I’m excited that I’ve managed to do something on the board but then that just leads to me slipping off. –Santhi, 25
Coloring: too hard
When the imminent lockdown was being predicted I decided to get an adult coloring book to keep me entertained as I thought it would be a wholesome and sensible way to waste some time rather than staring at a screen all day. I colored in one page which took so long and so much concentration and effort that I haven’t picked it up again since. I have settled back into staring at a screen all day and feel totally fine with that. –Cerys, 26
I started with embroidery (it was terrible), moved on to resin art (quite ugly really), and settled on a pancake breakfast delivery service. I bought supplies to shift 30 boxes, set up social media for it, took and edited hundreds of pictures, and launched a week and a half ago. The plan was to deliver the original 30 over a month and see what happened, but I underestimated people’s desire for pancakes! We sold out in a few days, and have now got stock for 140 more boxes. Biggest lesson I’ve learnt so far is to not set up a delivery service if you can’t drive, as I’ve been cycling around in the rain at 7 a.m. every day! –Sorcha, 22
I bought a ukulele a while back, but put off practicing and making a meaningful effort to learn until a couple of weeks ago. I like that it’s small and portable and not too loud so I don’t have to worry about disturbing my roommates, but I can take it out on the porch, too. It was more challenging than I thought it would be, but spending time learning something new, without any pressure to be great at it, has given me a low-stakes way to focus on something outside of the stress of the situation. I think I’ll be able to stick with it even after life gets busier again. –Aura 37
Learning to breathe underwater
I started scuba diving because the island I live on, Gili Trawangan, is known for its diving, but I’ve been putting it off for six months due to the whole “learning to breathe underwater” thing. The island is currently closed to tourists, but one of the dive shops is still open so I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and take advantage of one-to-one teaching while also helping them with a bit of income as everyone’s currently living hand to mouth. So far I love it and I’ve actually enrolled onto an advanced course next week. It’s brilliant and has helped a lot with my Corona anxiety because it’s hard to stress about the world when you’re 30 metres underwater. –Georgie, 24
Selling custom pillows
In March, after growing more concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, I realized I’d be spending much more time inside, so I decided to sew some decorative cushions for my flat. Friends and family liked them so much that a few wanted their own, so after making some as gifts, I decided to set up a Chloe’s Cushions Instagram account and Etsy store. I find sewing to be (mostly) therapeutic, and for me, nothing beats the feeling of finishing an item and thinking ‘I made this!’. When I’m sewing the cushions, as I’m so used to making this specific style now, I enter a flow state. It’s almost like practicing a form of mindfulness for me. –Chloe, 27
Starting a new podcast
For like a week I thought I wanted to be a Twitch streamer so I bought a mic and a capture card and everything, but then I realized it maybe wasn't for me. I wanted to use the fancy mic for something, so I thought a fun limited podcast for the duration of quarantine would be nice. I made a logo, set everything up and have had a really nice time talking to amazing women about Star Wars. I even made some friends along the way! –Millicent, 22
Repainting old furniture
I’ve been wanting to paint the shabby garden table and chairs that someone had given my parents for a while now. I’ve never done any type of wood restoration before but was excited to have an outdoor project. I sanded down the six chairs and the big table with an electric sander (which is so satisfying to use) then used a matte wood stain. The whole project took about three weeks and it felt great to make it look brand new again. Between that and baking all the time, I feel a bit like an Amish person, but it’s nice to do something with your hands. –Bex, 24
Jewelry-making (and selling)
With the crisis, I’ve been put on furlough from my legal recruitment job and haven’t been working. I wanted to do something creative and have some structure, so I ordered some jewelry making kits and started making earrings! My fiancé́ encouraged me to set up a page where I could sell pieces. I genuinely did not think people would be interested but they really have and I’ve almost hit 50 orders in just under two weeks! It’s made me so much happier and has given me a purpose every day, it’s nice to have a structure to my life again. It’s so fun and something I’m wanting to continue with once I do go back to work. –Victoria, 25
Learning bass guitar
I’m a film critic and currently studying a full-time Masters, so I needed an outlet without screens. I failed at yoga and sourdough, but my boyfriend is a drummer and guitarist, so I asked to borrow his bass one afternoon. I’ve got a musical ear, but I’ve never played a string instrument. He got me practicing techniques and patterns to get used to the method, which took time as I’m missing two fingers on my left hand/fret hand. After a few sessions, we started on songs, so my emo heart demanded to learn some Green Day, which took a few hours. It’s taught me a lot of patience and discipline, and it’s great to have learnt a new skill that isn’t for profit or exposure. –Elle, 23
I’ve been spending a lot more time than usual on Instagram’s discovery page during quarantine, and from there have stumbled into the wonderful world of art process videos. My personal favorite is block printing videos, because there’s something so calming about watching an artist carve designs into a rubber block in fast forward. I eventually decided, “I could do that!” and ordered some supplies (curbside pickup, of course). After a few ink-stained shirts and stabbed fingers, I feel like I’m finally getting the hang of it. –Katy, 27