Help me hobby!
July 9, 2016 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a new hobby and I have no idea what to choose so I'm looking for suggestions.

I'm looking for something that will help me switch off and that provides enough progress to keep me engaged. Ideally it would be something that I could largely self learn (at least to begin with) and that doesn't require spending a lot of cash to get started.

I know these parameters are pretty vague but I'm utterly lacking in inspiration!
posted by roolya_boolya to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
you can teach yourself to knit (I did) and then initial outlay is minimal (though it quickly becomes a very expensive hobby if you get into nice yarns), it's great for sitting on the couch and watching tv while still feeling like you're being productive.
posted by cakelite at 1:02 PM on July 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

Yep I came to say knitting as well! I taught myself to knit a few years ago, and there is a ton of useful info on the Internet to learn with. The thing I most love about knitting is I can challenge myself and learn knew things if I want to, or I can do something mindless on the couch if I want to zone out. It's pretty inexpensive to get started (a pair of needles and a ball of yarn), and the biggest expense for me has been quality yarn and quality accessories.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:17 PM on July 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

If you have space propagate plants from cuttings. Low cost / high return, instructions all over the internet and libraries love gardening sections.
posted by Freedomboy at 1:18 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

To go in a different direction, if you're into (or up for getting into) techie stuff, electronics projects are (IMHO) more fun and accessible now than they've ever been in my lifetime. Something like a Particle Photon gives you tons of possibilities, and there are lots of tutorials and articles online. You can get started without a ton of money. Particle has a starter kit for $30 and a much more complete kit for $90 (you can probably save some money by buying the stuff in the kits separately, but when you're just starting out it's hard to know what to get; the kits save you the trouble).
posted by primethyme at 1:21 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I suggest perusing your local community rec offerings or community college courses. Even if you don't take a course, this might give you ideas of resources in your area.
Cross stitch or embroidery can be self-taught and I've had fun making pillowcases and silly gifts for friends (like did you know there's dirty cross stitch kits for sale? Good times.) I also like paint-by-number kits to pass the time. You can buy inexpensive kits on Amazon. Lots of people brew beer or make wine as a hobby. You could try making bitters or nice, unique flavored syrups for cocktails or drinks. Pre-kids, my husband and I used to like making jams or pickling veggies and making relishes. There's also soap making, you could roast coffee beans or maybe even try bee keeping. Have you ever tried batik? Really beautiful art and I imagine you could teach yourself the basics.
You could take a good look around your place and think about if there's a furniture piece you'd like to refinish or re-upholster.
posted by areaperson at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is there a bike collective in your area? You can usually volunteer at such places and learn to fix bikes as you go. Low barrier to entry and twenty years later you'll still be learning.

I don't know if it's a plus or a minus, but once people know you know how to fix a bike, well, it's sort of like being 'that person who knows how to fix a computer.'
posted by aniola at 1:27 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Become the best cupcake baker in the world. There are so many interesting varieties to choose from! And, once baked, they can be handed out to your local public service people.
posted by myselfasme at 2:00 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm not very good at hobbies, as I get discouraged too quickly and give up. Container gardening is perfect if you're anything like me – there's enough to chance (so when things go wrong, its not all your fault!) that it's almost impossible to get discouraged, especially once your $1 pack of seeds sprouts as if by magic. You can spend as much or as little as you want on it, too.
posted by thirdletter at 2:03 PM on July 9, 2016

Model Rocketry.
Rock Climbing.
Cooking / baking.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:14 PM on July 9, 2016

I suggest crochet. I found it easier to pick up than knitting, and the initial outlay was cheaper (one crochet hook is less expensive than a pair of knitting needles, you don't need a special type of crochet hook to make a seamless tube, and dishcloth cotton for a beginner's project is very cheap). I haven't been crocheting for that long - two months, maybe? - but I can already do it by feel while watching TV and I've already crocheted a useful object (a lovely beret!) just based on techniques I know, without having to refer to a pattern. There are plenty of fancy stitches and techniques you can learn and use, and it's a very versatile craft re. making fancy shapes, using different materials (you can use wire or garden string, not just yarn, depending on what you're making). It's also easier to undo mistakes in crochet than it is with knitting - which, if you're anything like me, is a godsend. And, of course, it's very easy to see your progress and you do (hopefully) get a useful object at the end, which is what keeps me going.

The only drawbacks I've found are that there are more knitting patterns available than crochet patterns and crochet does use a little more yarn to produce the same area of material. Also, yarn can get expensive if you go for the really good stuff.
posted by Rissa at 2:31 PM on July 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's not self-guided, but I have met awesome people and had amazing times through square dancing. Just got back from the annual IAGSDC (International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs) convention in Toronto, and I'm walking on air.

I suggest that no matter your sexual orientation you find a gay club, that branch of square dancing is more accepting of solo dancers, is more energetic and has better flourishes (and is generally socially less conservative). But plenty of us find it compelling enough to fly to other countries to do.
posted by straw at 2:36 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm trying out origami after seeing a great documentary on Netflix. All you need is paper.
posted by poxandplague at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Crochet is great, possibilities are endless and it's more forgiving than knitting for a beginner (it's easier to go back and fix if you make a mistake).

Cross stitch or embroidery is another hobby where it's easy to pick up the basic stitches and to expand a simple pattern into something more striking and unique.

Origami is easy at first, again with the option of becoming much more complex and advanced. I second the documentary I assume poxandplague is talking about, I think it's called Between The Folds.
posted by drunkonthemoon at 3:34 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I sewed some little monster dolls. Cut up old clothes or whatever is around. Needle and thread. See examples online. Then they are these cute little guys to look at. You can learn how to get more elaborate, or make non-monsters, as you progress. Totally relaxing and amusing.
posted by soakimbo at 4:05 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I took up painting water colors and did it for a couple of years. Never did it myself, but in my area, there are opportunities to get some cheap instruction at adult ed classes or the like.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:08 PM on July 9, 2016

Making beaded jewelry is pretty simple. People at bead stores and/or library books should help you get started. Earrings are a bit easier than necklaces for a beginner.
posted by azalea_chant at 4:26 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another idea is macrame. It's trendy right now, so if you enjoy it I bet you could sell your pieces on eBay or etsy.
posted by areaperson at 4:30 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I sewed some little monster dolls. Cut up old clothes or whatever is around. Needle and thread. See examples online.

Stupid creatures.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:32 PM on July 9, 2016

I haven't subscribed to this, but I think New Hobby Box looks very interesting for people who want to sample things. They've done lock-picking, needle-felting, candle-making and other interesting looking things.
posted by not that girl at 5:16 PM on July 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I picked up crochet 6 months ago and am still obsessed. I've tried knitting a few times but it never clicked, and I too love being able to rip out mistakes easily. I also drop stitches a lot while knitting and never had that problem with crochet.

Caveat is the same as mentioned above: nice yarn is expensive. But for crochet specifically you can get into household accessories, amigurumi (stuffed animals), and doilies by only buying cotton and acrylic yarns which are cheap.
posted by serelliya at 5:17 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gardening if it's not already part of your life. You can start small, grow a few things. Herbs are great and useful.

I like to hobby in a useful way so I make projects for myself. For example, I like watercolors but I am unmotivated by the idea of a blank piece of paper. So I started making personalized, individual children's books for friends who are having children. It takes forever (but you can be assured the child will probably learn to read after you finish anyway) but I'd do one page a week and put a lot of soul into it.

I got really into hand-making cards. Sometimes I'll make a couple dozen cards with different designs and save them for occasions and gifts throughout the year.
posted by mmmleaf at 7:36 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Juggling is lots of fun - I picked it up when I was living in a small town and running most of my errands on foot, so I could practice as I walked. Do a little research first to make sure you're getting the basic technique right so you don't have to re-train yourself later.

Spinning yarn is good on its own, or it can make a convenient companion to kitting/crocheting/weaving. I designed and 3D-printed a drop spindle after someone gave me a bag of fiber and found it a relaxing, meditative task similar to knitting. The learning process, for me, involved reading a couple of tutorials and watching a couple of videos, and then spinning until I got it.
posted by sibilatorix at 10:25 PM on July 9, 2016

Calligraphy - get a cheap pen like Pilot Parallel or a dip pen and nibs. Watch calligraphy videos on line. Pleasantly surprise your friends with notes or start keeping a journal of your day, writing cool sayings on posters for your walls, etc. From there it's easy to branch out into ink mixing, teaching others calligraphy, whatever you want to do.

Soap making - get a silicone mold (ex:, which looks awesome with grey or silver mica), some colorant blocks or mica and some meltable soap base (I use BrambleBerry's and they have a nice sampler kit You can make a whole batch of bars in 5 minutes (microwave base, add colorant, pour into mold) and they make great gifts. Escalating later to cold press or hot press soap is totally possible but also unnecessary. Branching out into lotion, hair/beard oil or other cosmetics is easy and uses a lot of the same supplies and techniques.

Wood carving only requires having and understanding how to use a knife - sticks are available for free in most places, or cheaply from hardware stores (make sure the wood isn't treated!). Definitely don't neglect the knife safety if you do this, though.

Do you know how to cook well? If not, it fits what you've asked for. The initial cost doesn't have to be high (a single nice tri-ply Tramontina skillet from Wallmart is cheap and all you need to get started), and you can tailor your recipes so that you use a lot of common, cheap ingredients. At the end you have great food and save money! Serious Eats is a great blog to follow, because they explain why their recipes work. The gnocchi recipes are super easy and excellent.
posted by Ahniya at 10:41 PM on July 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Magic tricks.
posted by jrobin276 at 11:30 PM on July 9, 2016

Needle felting is easy and fun. I got this kit from Amazon as well as some small yarn bundles for about $30 total. There are lots of online videos that show how to make easy felt creations. The process is creative, repetitive, and forgiving. Also satisfyingly stabby, if that's your jam.
posted by dreamphone at 10:09 AM on July 10, 2016

Drawing! All you need is a pad of paper, a pencil, sharpener, and eraser, and to watch some YouTube tutorials. You'll be amazed at how deeply involved you can get trying to translate an apple sitting on your table into lines on a page. And you'll have a physical record of your progress too.
posted by ejs at 11:23 AM on July 10, 2016

Nth-ing knitting! I taught myself, and it doesn't require a lot of money to start with. It's engaging, good for your brain, portable...
posted by sarcasticah at 6:08 PM on July 10, 2016

Love pretty much all of the DIY projects at Honestly WTF - they got shibori, pom pom thingies, marbling etc. – all really beatiful
posted by speakeasy at 12:12 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Learn to fly.

No - I'm serious.

Because if you study the books well, and start out flying gliders, it's actually pretty inexpensive for what you're doing.

You can always spend more on powered flight later.
posted by Thistledown at 10:04 AM on July 11, 2016

Electronic music! (Don't worry if you don't have any musical background – this is just for fun, and you can accomplish a lot by simply following your ear.) You already have a computer, right? These days, you can record and mix an entire album with a mouse and keyboard. I also have a bunch of hardware synths and whatnot, but they aren't strictly necessary – I just happen to like real knobs and having a room full of blinky lights.

I have no real musical talent (despite having been involved with music, off and on, for years). But it's a fantastic form of play – just noodling until you find a melody or a beat or a bassline that you like, then looping it and finding some chords to put on top, etc. It's a great way to let my anxious, rational brain unwind, and just explore sounds for a while.

Everyone's going to tell you to use a full-fledged DAW like Ableton Live, but that's way too complicated if you're just starting out. Find some simpler, more limited freeware on Google, and tinker with that until you have a feel for what's going on.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2016

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