Put these hands to work
August 29, 2017 8:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a simple, practical hobby or activity that involves making something with your hands and is compatible with my disabilities.

I used to crochet. I enjoy it quite a lot but I live in a hot climate now and crocheted things aren't as useful. I'd like to find another hobby that has similar characteristics:

  • easy to begin - materials easily available, not much learning required before you can start
  • easy to put down and pick back up again at any point in the process
  • doesn't require a lot of mental energy. some setup or occasional mental input is fine, like following a crochet pattern, but I'd like the majority of the activity to be simply physical, like the repetitive stitches and rows of crochet (though not necessarily repetitive, just relatively mindless)
  • can be done sitting down without much hand strength or stamina
  • ideally produces something practical or at least decorative/giftable

  • posted by bizarrenacle to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (26 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
    Rug hooking might be an option if you like the look. I finished a small project (maybe 6 x 6 inches, done on an embroidery hoop) while watching TV in a few short sessions, and it was very easy to pick up and put down again. I used an ergonomic crochet hook, and the woven burlap material used as the base had large enough holes that I could find them by feel rather than looking super closely. Nice and mindless.

    The kit I used was for a trivet, but they also make great pillowcases, wall hangings, and funnily enough, rugs!
    posted by betafilter at 9:34 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

    QUILTING QUILTING QUILTING I have been slowly making a quilt for a year it is super easy.
    posted by corb at 9:44 PM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

    Cross-stitch? There are lots of fun kits available online and at craft stores. The ones with pre-printed pictures on the cloth don't even require counting, it's more like a paint by number with thread.
    posted by ananci at 10:01 PM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

    Sashiko! Great for all sorts of useful things, from decorating simple summery peasant blouses to making table runners and place mats.
    posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:20 PM on August 29, 2017 [4 favorites]

    Chain maille jewellery?
    posted by eloeth-starr at 11:18 PM on August 29, 2017

    Maybe you could learn to crochet with thread or the stuff that's heavier than thread but lighter than yarn and I can't think of what it's called. You'd use the same basic skills, but the final product would be doilies and lightweight lacy stuff instead of afghans and mufflers.
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:38 PM on August 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

    You could try crocheting holders, baskets and rugs instead of blankets/sweatery things. There's alot of cool ideas out now. I've been looking at alot of coil and crochet projects where you stitch around rag or tshirt strips.
    posted by Rube R. Nekker at 11:52 PM on August 29, 2017

    The Underpants Monster, I think you're referring to tatting? A friend of mine gave away a beautiful set of handmade wooden tatting shuttles lately. I don't tat at all and have no intention to start but those shuttles were beautiful!

    posted by whitelotus at 1:15 AM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

    Some gorgeous wooden tatting shuttles with mother of pearl inlay I found randomly on etsy. Not going to start tatting...


    There's macrame too.
    posted by whitelotus at 1:30 AM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

    I'm on a crochet binge with queen-size blankets. Maybe lacy designs that are rolled up at night and stored in pillowcases for body pillows? The white zippered Mainstays microfibers at Wal-Mart are what I use for washing the sizing out of the yarn before giving the blankets to friends and family. A second colorful one would make a nice bolster for the head or foot of the bed.
    Also -- yarn choice. Caron is thinner diameter than Red Heart or I Love This Yarn, so the weight and thickness of the blanket or throw would be less. I don't use cotton or wool, but would they be a less-sweaty choice than acrylic?
    This summer has been unseasonably cool (80s? In August?) But it does get nasty when I start slip-stitching the blocks and panels together and crocheting the borders. A good air conditioner and a ceiling fan help. Other family members can just put on sweaters!
    posted by TrishaU at 2:47 AM on August 30, 2017

    Also -- amigurumi is fun. These are some crochet Cthulhus I made for my daughter. She keeps one at her desk at work.
    posted by TrishaU at 2:53 AM on August 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

    Amigumari and heavier thread crochet are harder on hands because of the weight and tighter tension than regular crochet. Pure cotton is just less forgiving, but I do see people crocheting open weave bags, t-shirt knit yarn for soft fabrics for home baskets etc that are simple useful things in the tropics. Honestly with the air conditioning, light weight cardigans are still a big deal, baby blankets widely loved and I'm in Singapore knitting a giant wool-cotton blend blanket that my kid sleeps under while it's still on the needles. You probably can adjust your crochet to the weather and patterns.

    I also like making cardboard boxes when I'm in that mood, small measured boxes to for a particular space in a drawer. Making notebooks is similar, just basic needle threaded ones from scrap paper. They're useful and can be made in batches, and the individual actions are soothingly repetitive and exact. Needs to be done at a table though. Felt embroidery is enjoyable too, and if you can set in a zipper (YouTube has good tutorials) you can turn out lots of small bags sized for gifts or possessions with embroidered personality and inner lining. Or turn them into felt boxes.
    posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:43 AM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

    Yes, tatting! Also, dollhouse miniatures?
    posted by Melismata at 3:44 AM on August 30, 2017

    These are all great suggestions, thanks! And by all means if anyone else has ideas I'm all ears. I think I might go for beading though. Haven't got a sense of the learning curve yet but seems to fit the criteria and I like the kind of things you can make.
    posted by bizarrenacle at 3:49 AM on August 30, 2017

    What type of crocheted objects were you making before? A lot depends on things like the size and weight and scale of the projects, along with how useful they were.

    I know a lot of people who crochet who make potholders, dish-clothes and those tiny baby-tuques that they put on newborns in their first hours that they hand out free at the hospital, which are all things you could still crochet despite living in a hot climate, but those are small and possibly un-exciting projects if you are looking for the satisfaction of seeing a larger piece of patterned work developing.

    If you like the idea of doing a larger piece of work that develops as you put in hours of time, as when you crochet an afghan with vari-coloured yarn, or with a detailed pattern you could look into doing plain stitching, embroidery such as blackwork, drawn-work, quilting such as trapunto (not piecework), using lightweight materials suitable for the climate.

    If your favourite projects are small useful woolly articles like socks and baby sacques, then switching to small hand-stitched projects like smocking might work if you like to put lots of detail into your projects. But if your projects are more simple keep-your-hands-busy churn them out plain socks and sacques, then consider simple plain sewing of things like tote bags, laptop sleeves, children's clothes - things that don't require much except back stitching and get their details from the patterns in the fabric.

    If what you like best about crocheting is the material then you want to look for materials to work with that will give you the same aesthetic pleasure. So do you crochet with wild colours? Textured homespun that breathes the muted colours of nature from natural dyes? Have you considered spinning with a drop spindle?

    What are the crafts that people in your area traditionally do? For example, do they do straw plaiting in order to make straw hats? What are the traditional granny crafts that the old Nonna in the corner did? She must have done something to keep her hands busy, while running her daughter-in-law's lives like a Sergeant-Major.
    posted by Jane the Brown at 3:51 AM on August 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

    That's a lot of great points to consider, thanks. I had only made a couple things but even in a cold climate, I was running out of things I actually wanted to make, so it seems like time for a change anyway. Investigating local crafts is a great idea. I think they di beading here, we'll see.
    posted by bizarrenacle at 3:55 AM on August 30, 2017

    I love stuff like this. I'd suggest knitting (you can do small stuff, and see if there are organizations near you that need things like scarves or socks), embroidery, quilting, cross-stitch, beading, making beads out of fimo. You might want to spend some time poking around instagram and seeing some of the things other people make and getting ideas for what you might want to try, there are some extremely cool artists posting there.
    posted by bile and syntax at 5:01 AM on August 30, 2017

    I used to enjoy making braided or knitted rugs out of t-shirt yarn (until I moved and no longer had space). You can also crochet it, but I never learned to crochet.

    You can use worn-out or stained t-shirts to make yarn, which is nice in terms of spending less money on supplies. Here is how to cut continuous t-shirt yarn.

    Here is a t-shirt yarn braided rug tutorial. I struggled with keeping the braid flat and un-twisted, but you'll probably be better at it than me, with lots of crafting experience (I have very little). You can lace the braid together manually (slow, but invisible) or sew together using a sewing machine on zig-zag stitch (much faster but visible, and takes a HUGE amount of thread, like a normal spool will be gone in 1-2 turns). There are loads of lacing tutorials online; I needed to watch/read several before I "got it."

    Alternately, you can crochet or knit t-shirt yarn into rugs.
    posted by snowmentality at 5:20 AM on August 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

    Crocheted beaded jewelry is a thing. It's tricky to learn because wire doesn't move as easily as thread, but the results can be gorgeous.

    Also, arigurumi animals?
    posted by Mchelly at 7:58 AM on August 30, 2017

    Paracord knotting.

    There are two main pieces of equipment that one might own: a bracelet jig and a monkey's fist jig. Neither is essential and both can be replaced with some patience and improvised setups. I used a lot of binder-clips before I made my own bracelet jig.
    posted by Sunburnt at 9:37 AM on August 30, 2017

    The Underpants Monster, I think you're referring to tatting?

    No, it's definitely crochet. My sister does it; she uses a regular, if small, crochet hook.
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:20 AM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

    Kumihimo - Japanese braiding - might be fun. Here's an image search . There are loads of youtube tutorials. You can use a hand-held disk or a more table-like jig called a marudai -- I have seen marudai suitable for use from a chair or tabletop. It's less ergonomically intense than knitting or crochet, because you can move your arms instead of your wrists.
    posted by janell at 11:06 AM on August 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

    My wife made creche figures with needlepoint on a plastic grid.
    posted by SemiSalt at 1:12 PM on August 30, 2017

    Needle felting.

    I do knots in stuff like paracord, and for a lot of projects you are really pulling hard on it. Spool knitting, though, is easy on the hands.
    posted by wenestvedt at 8:05 PM on August 31, 2017

    I learned to handspin on a drop spindle this year. There are some basic kits out there, or you can take a class. Once you get the feel for it, you can make some pretty great thread: for example, I learned how to spin silk from "hankies", and now I have handspun silk embroidery floss to play with. Silk is, despite sounding super fancy, easier to work with than other fibers because the "draft" (fiber length) is super long. Cotton, not so much.
    posted by media_itoku at 3:09 PM on September 4, 2017

    We used to make drop spindles from apples in Bluebirds.
    posted by The Underpants Monster at 4:20 PM on September 4, 2017

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