Help me choose a handy household hobby
August 31, 2018 5:11 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a new hobby and/or develop a household skill, and it should have as many of the following characteristics as possible:

- make me handier at home (fixing things, refinishing or refurbishing things)
- not require big equipment that is permanently set up (I have a townhouse with a 1 car garage that has some room but also has a car in it) . I have a home office with some space.
- I do not have a yard and my green thumb housemate has container gardening covered
- has training that is easy to find in a class setting (I live in a large US city with many lifelong learning programs) or online resources (YouTube videos are fine, but I don't do as well with just print). My very handy grandpa has passed away so unless I luck out and find a mentor, in person isn't possible.
- start up cost of less than $500, lower than that even better
- provide a satisfying result
I am already good with cooking and baking.
What should I do, hive? Fix lamps? Reupholster chairs? Learn framing? What have you learned to do around the house that you love?
posted by pointystick to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Sewing skills are ridiculously useful. Even if you have no interest in making clothes, it's great to be able to make curtains, pillowcases, bags... And of course, being able to repair clothes is great.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:21 AM on August 31, 2018 [27 favorites]

Bike repair. Buy a beater on Craigslist, strip it down and rebuild it. It'll take some investment in tools but you should be able to do it for lower than $500. It'll improve your tool use, which will make you a more handy person in general.

Alternately, small engine repair. Find an old lawnmower on the curb and learn to get it going.

Both of these things can be learned from books, YouTube, or classes.
posted by bondcliff at 6:13 AM on August 31, 2018 [4 favorites]

Seconding sewing. A more specific, but useful skill may be chair caning. I don't know how many beautiful old chairs have been discarded just because no body knows how to fix the seat.
posted by klarck at 6:27 AM on August 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

Furniture repair, particularly the arts of stripping, sanding, staining, sealing, and strengthening joints. Start with small pieces from the flea market/thrift store.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:47 AM on August 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

I do volunteer work as a Repair Cafe coach. When I think about what people come in with, it is lamps, clothes, small electrical appliances, furniture. Less common are electronics, mechanical devices, and some art and artifact repairs.

Rewiring lamps is super easy. The cost and space and material requirements are low.

Small appliances are not far behind, but it is a vague ad-hoc journey. You may accumulate a lot of specialized tools.

Clothing repairs are wonderful. Try it on for size [heh].

Woodworking can be done in a small space [if the items are small] and [for the basics] on a budget. I find it very satisfying, and the demand is high, as people have deep sentimental attachments to furnishings.

Maybe go to a Repair Cafe or similar in your city and see what is happening?
posted by Glomar response at 6:55 AM on August 31, 2018 [8 favorites]

Woodworking. Don't call me crazy yet. I learned in an adult education class taught by a shop teacher at a local high school. My outlay in costs were for wood and tuition in the class. After learning the tools, the class was effectively an open work space. Projects/wood weren't stored there, but they didn't take up a lot of room. While in the class, I built 1 tables, a blanket chest, and a chest of drawers, all of which are still in use.

You might also consider not just reupholstering furniture, but refinishing it as well.
posted by plinth at 7:01 AM on August 31, 2018 [3 favorites]

Sharpening knives. Makes a huge difference for cooking. Your friends will be grateful if you sharpen theirs, too!
posted by The Toad at 7:23 AM on August 31, 2018 [8 favorites]

Seconding refinishing and reupholstering furniture!
posted by jgirl at 7:25 AM on August 31, 2018

Soapmaking. Requires a few ingredients, pots and rubber gloves. And very satisfying.

Nthing sewing or any other hand crafts like knitting or needlepoint.
posted by Melismata at 7:43 AM on August 31, 2018

Sewing -> Learning how to make slipcovers. There are some very good tutorials on YouTube and you can practice on pre-washed muslin. Look for a secondhand machine at a repair shop.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:19 AM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sewing and quilting. You can get a good sewing machine for under $500, there are classes in person, there are tons of people making good youtube videos. With quilting even if you don't have something turn out perfectly, it'll still be extremely functional.

Alternately, knitting has low startup costs and is also very useful.
posted by bile and syntax at 8:25 AM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Definitely reupholstering. You could potentially turn it into some actual money, too, by snapping up terrible upholstered chairs with good bones at yard sales, redoing them in cute fabrics, and selling on consignment. Nobody knows how to reupholster and it's super expensive to have done professionally, so those chairs generally just go to waste.
posted by HotToddy at 8:37 AM on August 31, 2018 [5 favorites]

Welding / brazing / soldering. Learning to use a small torch on material once thought of as being somewhat immutable can be quite empowering.
posted by Bron at 9:19 AM on August 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

Did your Grandad leave you any tools or equipment, or an old item that you'd like to repair? That might spark something.

I have gotten my feet wet with book-binding (so I can fix my books and other paper things my kids own), jewelry (so I can fix things from my young daughter's keychain toys to actual jewelry to eyeglasses), wood-working (so I can fix furniture and garage items), knot-tying (just for fun) and now I am investigating soldering (so I can...wait for pyrography. And fix things around the house, too!). None of them require a ton of tools, and I acquire things as I go; I usually start with cheap Chinese tools (rom or Ebay or Amazon, and then upgrade to better stuff if/when I get better.

Spoon-carving is fun, if you can get hold of decent-size fresh (green) wood: dry wood is waaaay harder.

Knot-tying, which used to be called macrame -- is a lot of fun especially if you enjoy the math/topography of the knots.

Brewing hard cider or mead (from honey) is cheap and fun, if you drink alcohol.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:32 AM on August 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

How about some kind of food security hobby: canning, fermenting, sprouting, raising poultry.

In a bit of a different direction is setting yourself up for designing print items: birthday cards, calendars, labels, posters etc. It's pretty neat being able to make personalised cards for your loved ones. I also get a kick out of making my own customized uno cards and the like.
posted by eisforcool at 10:44 AM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Learn to sew, then put larger pockets in women's clothing.
posted by Wild_Eep at 11:50 AM on August 31, 2018 [9 favorites]

I mean, maybe this is not a traditional craft per se, but - Gobelins creating, if you're on more of an artsy side? Jewelry? Pottery?
posted by Salicornia at 1:14 PM on August 31, 2018

N-thing knife sharpening. It can be pretty zen, requires skill that you can improve on, and its eminently useful - I'm appalled at how many other people's cooking knives are woefully dull.

If its something you're going to stick with, it's worthwhile to spend a little more on equipment. I have a Shun 300/1000 block, which goes for about $100. Alternatively, angled stick sharpeners like Spiderco's Sharpmaker (sub $100) is very easy to use, effective, and good for touchups and it'll also do serrations.

I know that some of my local cutlery/ kitchen stores offer knife sharpening lessons, but I suspect there'll be a lot on youtube.
posted by porpoise at 1:31 PM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the wonderful ideas! These are all great. I'm going to take on several of these and also have ideas for the future too.
I already embroider and have access to sewing supplies (a friend is gifting me a starter machine which is wonderful) so that's first, and probably slip-covering and re-upholstery stuff next.
I had never heard of repair cafe so that's also a possibility.
Knife sharpening had never even occurred to me as something I could easily learn to do and get set up to do myself! I love to cook so yeah, that will be a thing.

posted by pointystick at 8:57 PM on August 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

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