Not to brag, but I am really good at having hobbies.
To be clear, I’m not saying I’m great at all the hobbies I take up…just that I’m good at pursuing hobbies. Probably because hobbies combine three of my favorite things: learning new stuff, buying new stuff, and — according to my 16 Personalities assessment — a relentless obsession with self-improvement.
Listen, though: Hobbies are great! They provide you with a sense of accomplishment, teach you about yourself, introduce you to new people, concepts, and facts about the world, and give you something to do besides getting into Facebook flame wars.
So if you’ve been thinking that it’s high time you took up a hobby, here are all of the hobbies that have worked out well for me in recent years, plus tips for starting each one.
A couple of notes:
- I consider myself a creative person but not a particularly *artistic* person, so when I talk about things being easy or difficult, that’s where I’m coming from.
- The costs listed below are intended to give you a general idea of what it will cost you to start each hobby, and are based on the tutorials I’m suggesting + the bare minimum amount of supplies + what I bought/paid + what I think most reasonable people would buy/pay. You can obviously spend more or less depending on your budget, the supplies you already have access to, your Michaels coupons, etc.
OK GREAT, MOVING ON!
1. Bullet Journaling
I’ve kept diaries and pen-and-paper to-do lists for the better part of the past two decades, so it makes sense that I’d fall in love with bullet journaling. It’s both a creative hobby and a practical one, and it’s very self-guided; you can spend as much or as little time on it as you want.
Good for: Anyone who wants to be more organized, people who love paper, anyone who feels stuck/is trying to understand themselves better/wants to find their voice, people who keep buying beautiful journals but then never actually using them.
Cost: $12–$20, depending on what journal you choose
Where to start: WTF Is a Bullet Journal And Why Should You Start One? An Explainer. Also check out the Bullet Journal Junkies Facebook group for advice and inspiration from a very friendly community!
As I said, I’m not particularly artistic, so I didn’t go into this hobby expecting any amazing results; I mostly just wanted to learn some watercolor basics, make things that my mom and friends would tell me looked good, and entertain myself. Mission accomplished!
Good for: People who took one art class in high school and weren’t completely terrible at it, people who look at cute illustrations on Instagram and wonder if they could do that.
Cost: $15–$25 depending on the supplies you get.
Where to start: There are loads of free tutorials on YouTube, but I’d suggest Yao Cheng’s Beginning Watercolors classes on Creativebug. (Though I actually started with her intermediate class because I’d already done a watercolor class on Brit.co.) Creativebug offers a free trial and then it’s $4.95/month after that, which gets you a credit for one new class each month + ongoing access to all your old classes. (You’re able to keep the class from your free trial forever, though.) The class I did was really well shot, and I love how organized everything is on the back end; the video is divided into chapters and you can easily access high-res versions of the paintings Cheng does in the video if you want to take a closer look.
Note: With this and all online video classes, give yourself permission to pause them so you can practice whenever you need to, and don’t feel weird about needing to rewind and rewatch things until you understand them. Depending on what kind of learner you are, you may even want to watch an entire online class all the way through before you start trying the tutorials.
Embroidery looks impressive, but making cool things is surprisingly easy. As my friend Alanna says, if you can doodle, you can probably embroider. Sure, there are true artists who take it to a whooooole other level (like this one and this one), but I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve been able to do.
Good for: People whose love language is gifting, people who like subversive feminist art, people on a budget and/or with limited space to work, people who want to pretend they are living in a Jane Austen novel.
Where to start: This Creativebug class is good for learning a bunch of basic stitches. You may also be able to get everything you need from YouTube, and I was able to learn other techniques (like making roses) from photo tutorials on Pinterest. The “Females Are Strong As Hell” project is based on a design created by the extremely talented Jen Riggs (check out her Etsy shop here), and was really quite easy once I’d learned to do a simple back-stitch.
I grew up watching my grandma cross-stitch and it always seemed so complicated. When I finally asked her to teach me to do it this past spring, I learned that while it can be complicated, it also can be SO EASY AND OH MY GOD WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO TRY IT? That “100” is the first thing I ever did and it wasn’t hard at all.
Good for: The same people who might like embroidery, but especially people in that group who are perfectionists and/or who don’t think they’d be good at coming up with or sketching out their own designs. And in my experience, basic cross-stitch requires a higher level of focus and concentration than basic embroidery.
Where to start: If you don’t have a grandma, I’d seek out a friend or IRL class so you can learn the basics. If that’s not an option, definitely give some YouTube tutorials a try! (Also, if anyone has recommendations for good places to learn online, please share in the comments!)
5. Making Paper Flowers
Learning to make paper flowers felt like a very ambitious undertaking, and I was extremely surprised when I tried my first tutorial and it…actually sort of worked?! (You can see video of me making a giant paper flower like the one pictured above here.)
Good for: People who like making things with their hands, people who want a creative hobby to do while they watch TV, people who like decorating and event planning, anyone who loves beautiful things.
Where to start: Paper to Petal, a great resource and downright gorgeous book, and this Martha Stewart tutorial, which is what I used to do the flower shown above. You can also find tutorials for several different styles of flowers in this post, and read more details on my experience learning to make them plus more recommendations on supplies and getting started here.
6. Hand-Lettering/Brush Pen Calligraphy
Hand-lettering is relatively easy and very unfussy — it doesn’t require a ton of supplies, space in which to work, or cleanup. I also find it extremely relaxing!
Good for: Anyone who is ready to graduate from the adult coloring book trend, people who like looking at cute stuff on Instagram and Etsy, people who do other types of crafts and would like to be able to add handwritten elements.
Cost: $10–$40, depending on what tutorial you start with and how much you want to invest in supplies. If you’re on a budget, get a couple brush pens for $2–$3 each and a graph paper notebook (~$5), use the free worksheet linked below, and you’ll be in good shape!
7. Traditional Calligraphy
You know…good old-fashioned, nib-and-ink, yeah-I’m-pretending-I’m-a-Founding Father-right-now-so-what, that-font-that’s-on-everything-in-gold-these-days calligraphy!
Good for: People who are fancy AF, anyone who is planning a wedding, people who love paper and stationery, people with a decent amount of patience, people whose favorite American Girl doll was Samantha Parkington.
Where to start: Here’s How To Actually Get Good At Calligraphy & Hand-Lettering.
BTW, there’s a ton of overlap between hand-lettering, brush pen calligraphy, and traditional calligraphy, and you can kind of approach them all as one hobby (which is what I did), or just choose the one that you think makes the most sense for you!
8. General Handwriting Practice
Perhaps you are one of the many people who feels like your handwriting sucks. Great news: You can change that! Practicing your handwriting requires far less investment than calligraphy, is rather practical (even in this age of communicating primarily via emojis and GIFs), and goes nicely with journaling and embroidery pursuits.
Good for: People who like the idea of brush lettering and calligraphy but want something a little easier, people looking for a simple and straightforward hobby, people who are getting married soon (think of all the thank you notes!), and anyone who regularly finds themselves apologizing for their handwriting — like, just do something about it already, whydontcha?
Cost: $0–$11…unless you don’t own or have access to a printer, in which case, like…$150?
Where to start: This post from Kara at Boho Berry and this post from Kim at Tiny Ray of Sunshine (both of which give you access to free practice worksheets). Also this article. And if you really want to do the damn thing, you could get this book/workbook ($10.84) on Spencerian penmanship. The book is written in a Q&A format that takes some getting used to, and the level of detail it goes into is low-key bananas, BUT it’s a classic for a reason, and all the worksheets are included! Also, despite the fact the book has zero chill, the lettering itself is remarkably straightforward and clean.
Now get out there and make cool stuff!
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