Whether you like baking bread, folding origami, knitting sweaters, or have no idea what to do with all this extra time on your hands, now is an especially good time to pick up a new hobby — or rediscover an old favorite. On a hunt to find more ways to keep ourselves busy, we’ve spoken to dozens of hobbyists, both professional and amateur, to help you get everything you need to start getting crafty and keep busy at home. Each guide is fit for beginners and adapted with self-isolation in mind, so you’ll be able to start your new hobby right away and (hopefully) keep yourself occupied for hours on end.
With bread-making on the rise, in-stock flour and yeast have been hard to come by — but if you are able to find some from an unlikely source, writer Andrew Parks calls baking bread, “quite addictive … You’ll be left wanting to rock just one more loaf every time one is wrapped.” Once you’ve got your ingredients, Parks shared the kitchen gadgets and ingredients he uses to bake the perfect loaf of bread while stuck at home, such as this three-piece bread proofing basket, complete with “a linen nonstick liner for a smooth outer crust and a plastic dough scraper that conforms to the curves of your mixing bowl.” Read more here.
For those who’ve grown tired of baking sourdough boules (or just want something sweet to go with them), jam-making is a similarly relaxing, hands-on activity — that’s shelf stable and frozen-fruit friendly too. We talked to six jam experts, including cookbook authors, recipe testers, and jam-company founders, about the tools they recommend for an at-home canning operation, including this Strategist-tested kitchen thermometer, beloved in the jam world for its “speed and accuracy.” Read more here.
If you’ve burned through your candle collection while stuck indoors, we asked artist Janie Korn, known for her inventive candle creations, to teach us how to make sculptural candles at home. To make this smiley (and totally burnable) toadstool, she recommends detailing with this Stockmar modeling beeswax set, which is “supersmooth and looks almost like plastic, which gives it this nice glossy finish that contrasts well with the heavily textured beeswax.” Just cut your shapes, warm them with the blow-dryer, and press them on. Read more here.
London-based artist Kate Cadbury has been pressing flowers for most of her life, so we asked her to walk us through everything you’ll need to do the same this spring. “The best flower to press is one that literally just opened up; one that’s been in bloom for a few days will be less vibrant. The fresher the plant, the fresher the color,” she says, recommending daisies, pansies, and violas. As for the other supplies: a stack of books, parchment paper, and glue — all of which you’ll likely already have at home. But if you’re looking to press bigger species of plants, Cadbury recommends this handmade wooden flower press, made of high-quality birchwood and available in a variety of finishes. Read more here.
Perhaps the most basic of the bunch, origami requires only two tools that you likely already have at home: scissors and paper. If you’re thinking about folding your first flower or frog, there are lots of resources available — from the comprehensive, free step-by-step diagrams offered by OrigamiUSA to helpful instructional videos from Taro’s Origami. To find out which supplies you’ll need to fold your first piece, we asked origami artist Talo Kawasaki, the co-designer of the American Museum of Natural History’s annual origami holiday tree and the resident origami teacher at Resobox, for his go-to kits, paper, scissors, and more advanced origami tools. For beginners, he recommends this kit that comes with “very clear diagrams and a DVD tutorial for extra help,” along with some more advanced folds that are “worth the challenge.” Read more here.
Out of all of the niche hobbies she’s ever tried, scrapbooking is one of the ones Strategist writer Chloe Anello has kept at the longest. If you’ve been looking for something more interesting (and hands on) to do with your photos, other than sticking them into a frame or photo album, Chloe shared her favorite scrapbooking products, including this “little machine [that] cuts different designs into paper that you can’t easily create with scissors” that will “take your scrapbooks to the next level,” she assures. Read more here.
“Like yoga or meditation, drawing has been a powerful tool for me in managing stress and anxiety during all of this self-isolating,” says Strategist writer and part-time illustrator Liza Corsillo. If you’re thinking about picking up drawing, “Other than not judging yourself, the hardest part of getting into drawing is deciding what to draw,” Liza advises, so she recommends starting with static, everyday objects and bringing them to life with these calligraphy chisel-tip pens, which are “great for graphic comic-book-style drawings, filling in large areas, or just zoning out and drawing a bunch of satisfying stripes across the page.” Read more here.
Watercolorist Ashley Longshore, who’s collaborated with Bergdorf Goodman, New York Fashion Week, and Miley Cyrus, calls watercoloring “a medium that can be as beautiful as it is simple.” She shared her favorite watercolor supplies for beginners, including this travel-friendly Kuretake Gansai Tambi palette, which she loves for its wide color range and rich pigment. Read more here.
Beading expert Susan Alexandra, creator of the eponymous, celebrity-approved accessory line of acrylic-beaded jewelry, bags, wallets, and pet accessories, started beading when she was 12 years old and has “probably 2,000 beaded items, total, if not more.” We asked Alexandra which beads, charms, string, trays, and pliers she recommends for DIY at-home jewelry-making, including these “supersharp and efficient” wire cutters with an ergonomic grip. Read more here.
We asked actress and longtime needlepointer Parker Posey to share everything a beginner needs to know and buy to get started with needlepointing. While on-set, Posey gifted Cameron Diaz and Selma Blair these needlepoint eyeglass-case kits from Etsy and reports “they picked it up and enjoyed it.” Read more here.
Casual entry-level knitter Mia Leimkuhler knitted this big, chunky sweater in a matter of weeks — and you can, too, she assures. This kit from Wool and the Gang, geared toward beginners, comes with everything you need — yarn, needles, and step-by-step instructions — and requires minimal construction. “Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give my handmade sweater is the fact that it doesn’t look handmade,” she says. Read more here.
For an even longer-term project, there’s quilting, which is surprisingly beginner friendly with lots of available online guides, tutorials, and videos. We spoke to 13 experts — including textile artists, designers, patternmakers, and teachers — to figure out exactly which tools the quilting beginner needs to get started, such as this how-to book which features beginner-friendly designs using minimal piecing and large swaths of fabric. Read more here.
If you’re more of an IRL learner (or looking for something a little less DIY), online-learning platform MasterClass offers 82 famous-expert-led classes, such as Kelly Wearstler, RuPaul, and Steph Curry, covering topics like cooking, acting, and physics. To find out if these MasterClasses, at $90 per class, are actually worth it, we spoke to eight people (including bloggers, writers, and founders of tech companies) about their experiences. Takeaways varied depending on the subject and expert, but almost all recommended arts-focused courses, such as Texas-style barbecue taught by “hilarious” pitmaster Aaron Franklin, who one MasterClass tester calls “the Seth MacFarlane of cooking.” Read more here.
If you’ve been thinking about learning, relearning, or practicing a language during these next few months, we spoke with six language experts to find the best programs and resources for your at-home language learning, including tried-and-true Rosetta Stone, which “combines learning methodologies, like practicing vocabulary and listening to audio from native speakers,” unlike other game-based apps. Read more here.