Idle hands are the devil's playground
November 16, 2012 12:24 PM   Subscribe

Repetitive hobbies/crafts that use your hands that are NOT knitting/crocheting?

I like to wind down on work nights by watching TV. But I can't just sit and watch it--I need to be doing something else on top of it. Lately it's been piling on even more screens to look at: I either slowly surf around on the internet on my laptop, semi-catch up on my RSS feeds, or I play mindless games on my iPhone (like solitaire).

I'd rather not be looking at 3 different screens at once, so I'm looking for something crafty to keep my hands/mind semi-busy while in front of a TV. The key thing I'm looking for is something I don't have to put 100% of my focus on to make progress. I realize knitting/crocheting is probably the perfect answer here, but I just have not been able to get into it for some reason. But it's perfect on paper: comfortingly repetitive, doesn't require deep concentration, you can do while sitting in one place all while being pretty neat and orderly about the whole activity...

Anyone have any alternatives I could look into?
posted by dede to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Needlepoint and rug hooking on pre-printed canvases are probably the easiest crafts.
posted by orange swan at 12:27 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

play guitar (or another instrument).
posted by mannequito at 12:28 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

-cross-stitching and similar embroidery crafts
-quilting (maybe too complicated, though)
-those hooked yarn rugs
-beaded or woven bracelets or other jewellery
-mending torn clothing

Depends why you didn't like knitting though since these are pretty similar activities. On a different track, maybe chopping/peeling vegetables that will keep for a while in the fridge?
posted by randomnity at 12:30 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Previously - needle felting! Depending on your personal taste, you can do pretty things, or not so pretty things. I've also been doing flat felting on thrifted sweaters and accesories - but, like, the Kraken rather than lambs.
posted by peagood at 12:42 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Folding laundry
Leafing through magazines
Brushing cats
Paddle ball
Push ups/sit ups
Organizing your sock drawer
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:43 PM on November 16, 2012

Hooked rugs, but the ones that are like, crocheted together? There are a lot of tutorials and you make them using old sheets and a toothbrush.
posted by chaiminda at 12:44 PM on November 16, 2012

Flint Knapping
Rosary making
Loom beading
chainmail making
posted by Jahaza at 12:45 PM on November 16, 2012

Play solitaire with real cards!
posted by jeudi at 12:50 PM on November 16, 2012

Seconding chainmail and noodling on an instrument.
Friendship bracelets/macrame
Origami, especially something simple like paper cranes or units for modular pieces
posted by henuani at 1:02 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Paracord! Use the boondoggle stuff you learned in summer camp!
posted by tommasz at 1:07 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mending clothes is not all that creatively gratifying, but is made more tolerable by watching t.v. I think it's satisfying to get things back into my wardrobe that have been waiting for a button or whatever.

Cut paper snowflakes? Maybe not all that neat or repetitive, but doesn't require all that much attention.

String beads or popcorn to make garlands?

Not crafty, but satisfyingly fiddly while watching t.v. - eat a pomegranate one aril at a time.
posted by fussbudget at 1:10 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to like to do polymer clay stuff while I was watching TV. Some parts of it require a bit of eyeball attention, but kneading and working the clay is very tactile and relaxing.
posted by drlith at 1:11 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you don't mind dropping things a lot, how about contact juggling? Or maybe learn to twirl your pen?
posted by DingoMutt at 1:12 PM on November 16, 2012

Paper Cutting.
Paper Quilling
posted by dawkins_7 at 1:28 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

making chain mail?
posted by rmd1023 at 1:54 PM on November 16, 2012

Spinning (fiber - either with a drop spindle or a wheel.)

You will likely have a happier time if you can find someone to get you started, but drop spindles are a cheap entry point, spinning doesn't require a lot of mental attention, and it's very satisfying to end up with stuff-you-have-made.

On knitting: not to push it, but there's lots of kinds of knitting. I love the idea of more complex patterns, but I'm happiest for TV/mindless knitting if it's really simple I don't have to think about. (or where the interest comes from either the yarn changing, or me doing very simple color changes like stripes, where I only think about it every few rows) Once I figured that out, I started doing a lot more knitting.

I had friends who did the massive complex lace patterns - and that, it turns out, is mostly not my thing.
posted by modernhypatia at 2:06 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]

Kumihimo (like friendship bracelets)
posted by rivenwanderer at 2:19 PM on November 16, 2012

I used to do all kinds of stuff with plastic canvas. It's way easier than needlepoint or cross stitching, I think. I'd probably go back to if I weren't up to my neck in knitting and crocheting.

Also, you can try hand applique. It's a little intensive at first, but once you get the hang of it, I think it's easy enough to do in front of the TV. IMO
posted by patheral at 2:47 PM on November 16, 2012

lace tatting? haven't actually tried it yet, but it looks fun.
posted by freeform at 5:37 PM on November 16, 2012

Coloring. I know that sounds like a little kid activity, but there are some amazing adult coloring books available. Search Amazon for Dover coloring books.

Did you try both knitting AND crocheting? I have to be in different moods to do each one. Knitting is a much more time consuming activity. Crocheting moves a lot faster, which actually makes it a bit more gratifying, because you see the product sooner.

I wouldn't recommend cross stitching. I've tried to do it while watching stuff (I too am a multiple screen viewer) and you have to pay pretty close attention to the pattern. Embroidery is more free form, if you want to give that a shot instead.
posted by dithmer at 5:50 PM on November 16, 2012

Needlepointing, because everything is pre-printed. You can buy kits that come with the yarn.
posted by radioamy at 6:42 PM on November 16, 2012

Cross stitch for sure or weaving.

If you really want to zone out, last year I hand-beaded a bunch of Christmas Tree ornaments while zoning out to musicals and Bollywood films and barely missed a moment. Your fingers learn how to do it without your eyes!
posted by troublewithwolves at 7:27 PM on November 16, 2012

Kind of 2nd'ing guitar.

You can get a decent used guitar cheap. At first it will take a lot of concentration and it can be hard to play and watch TV at the same time since it will make some noise (though an unplugged electric would probably be fine.

On the other hand, 30-45 minutes of practice each day might be a good thing to do right when you get home to help you relax and create a mental break between work and home.
posted by VTX at 7:45 PM on November 16, 2012

Cross stitching does not work for me for this (for I, too, am incapable of idle hands while TV-watching). Cross-stitching usually requires active counting and repeated referral to the pattern, which means I can concentrate on stitching or watching tv, but not both.

Kumihimo, however, looks very likely to suit at least me for this purpose. Repeated motions, rather than active counting. I'm putting a kit on my Amazon wishlist for Christmas!
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 8:33 PM on November 16, 2012

I cross stitch or complete crosswords, specifically diagramless crosswords because then you get the zen of colouring in the boxes in between the words.
posted by goo at 3:21 AM on November 17, 2012

Modular origami.
posted by sixswitch at 8:21 AM on November 17, 2012

Cross stitching does work if you have a simple, block colour pattern - take a look at Emily Peacock's designs, which are very modern and very simple. I can't watch things with subtitles when cross-stitching, but otherwise it's perfect.

Also, hama beads. No, really. You can use any pattern suitable for knitting, needlepoint or cross stitch (if full stitches only) and make coasters. I made a nyan cat for a friend of mine and it was surprisingly soothing.
posted by mippy at 10:37 AM on November 17, 2012

Buy tons of awesome Lego.
posted by Namlit at 10:43 AM on November 17, 2012

Rubik's Cube?
posted by trialex at 1:33 PM on November 18, 2012

Make a quilt top out of English paper pieced hexagons. I love making those things while I watch TV.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:50 PM on November 18, 2012

If you want info on Chainmaille, memail me!
posted by PlutoniumX at 12:38 PM on November 19, 2012

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