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Unplug and Relax with These 5 Classic Hands-On Hobbies

Small wood knives among wood shavings, a circle of colorful thread skeins, two lit blue pillar candles
AUGSUN/Caydo/Hearts & Crafts

Some old-school hobbies are still the most fun! If you’ve ever wanted to make something beautiful and unique with your hands, but didn’t know where to start, this is the guide for you. It’s easier than ever to find a hobby that will allow you to tune out of the fast-paced world for a while.

We’ve included five creative hobbies below that have stood the test of time. All it takes to learn something new is a little instruction, time, and the right supplies.

Calligraphy

A case of colorful pens and brushes, sitting open
Mont Marte

The art of beautiful, elaborate handwriting has been increasing in popularity in recent years, especially with the advent of bullet journaling and other lettering crafts. It’s surprisingly simple to get started with calligraphy, even if your regular penmanship leaves something to be desired!

Instead of trying to figure it all out yourself, your best bet is to start out with a beginners’ how-to book. The Ultimate Guide to Modern Calligraphy & Hand Lettering for Beginners by June & Lucy has everything a beginner needs to know. Instead of jumping straight to the lettering, the book starts with simple stroke drills, then moves on to lettering and words, and it all comes with plenty of worksheets to practice until you get it right.

The Ultimate Guide to Modern Calligraphy & Hand Lettering for Beginners

A hand-lettering workbook with tips, techniques, and projects.

Calligraphy requires particular tools, and that means special pens to create the beautiful brushstrokes and different thicknesses that are hallmarks of the style. Beginners will want to start with these MISHULOVE black pens. They come in an eight-pack, with eight different nibs and widths, so you can practice all different types of lettering as you improve your skills.

MISULOVE Hand Lettering Pens

Modern calligraphy brush pens with eight different nibs.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll be itching to try out your skills in a variety of styles and colors. This Mont Marte calligraphy kit is just the thing. The 32-piece set includes several different pens, nibs, ink cartridges, and more, plus a booklet with ideas and exercises to keep sharpening your skills.

Carving and Whittling

A line of wood-handled knives with small silver carving blades
AUGSUN

Woodworking isn’t just about making fancy furniture and other large projects. The art of small-scale carving, or whittling, has been a popular hobby for decades. Requiring precision, time, and attention to detail, it’s a great hobby for someone who wants to work with their hands to create something interesting and beautiful.

The tools you work with are the most important part of wood carving, so start with a varied set of blades, like this AUGSUN carving set. Designed with beginners in mind, the set includes 12 different carving knives made of carbon steel, plus extras, like a whetstone, ruler, sandpaper, and wipe cloths.

Whether you’re practicing your carving skills or actually working on a project, you’ll need a reliable base of wood to start with. These unfinished blocks of basswood from CANUSA are ideal for many projects. Basswood has a fine, smooth texture with plenty of give, making it easy to work with. Its light, unfinished color is also the perfect base to finish or paint later.

Because wood carving requires a lot of detailed work with blades close to your fingers, it’s a good idea to have some protective gear. Grab a pair of NoCry cut-resistant gloves to protect your fingers from the inevitable blade slips. Made of polyethylene, spandex, and fiberglass, these gloves provide protection, while allowing you to maintain a solid grip.

Leather Tooling

A variety of wood and metal tools for leather working laid out side by side
BUTUZE

Leather tooling or leather crafting is the art of carving and molding leather into creative, beautiful pieces. You can take up this hobby on a relatively small scale, and make things like wallets, belts, and so on. It’s a craft that requires a unique combination of skills, but it can also produce finished projects you can actually use.

Start with a good guide on the subject. Get Started in Leather Crafting by Tony & Kay Laier is an ideal book for beginners. It offers expert tips on the basic techniques, before moving on to the more detailed and complex possibilities. It includes projects that will allow you to practice all your skills.

A leather crafter is only as good as their tools, so you’ll want to have a reliable and versatile set from the start. This BUTUZE leather crafting kit contains 60 individual pieces, including a variety of blades and stamping tools, specialized needles and threads, a seam ripper, work mat, and more.

You’ll want to choose good pieces of leather to work with, like this 2mm square by Jeereal. It’s available in over 20 colors, from classic neutrals to more vivid hues. The 2mm thickness makes it sturdy enough to create many items, including notebooks, wallets, purses, and more.

Bourbon Brown Tooling Leather Square

The ideal thickness for most projects.

Needlepoint

A rainbow of thread skeins, arranged in a gradient circle
Caydo

There are quite a few variations of needlepoint, from straightforward embroidery to classic cross-stitch and more. However, all of these require some of the same supplies.

The beauty of needlepoint comes from its intricate designs and stunning thread colors. So, you’ll want to pick up a good supply of colorful embroidery floss, like these skeins from Caydo, right away. Each “thread” of floss consists of six individual strands, which you can separate to produce the desired thickness for the stitches you’re working on.

To stitch properly, the fabric for a needlepoint project must be held steady and pulled taut. That’s why you need bamboo embroidery hoops. These stretch the material between two rings of sturdy, but flexible, bamboo. You then tighten the screws to hold the area you’re working on as taut as you need.

Needlepoint requires some specialized materials. Grab a pack of Dritz embroidery needles, rather than trying to stitch with your regular sewing needles. Specialized embroidery needles have larger eyes so you can thread them with multistrand embroidery floss.

Dritz 56E-7 Embroidery Hand Needles, Size 7 (16-Count)

These special needles will accomodate embroidery floss.

For traditional embroidery, you have more choices in terms of fabric. Any thin-to-medium material should fit in a hoop and provide a good canvas for you to stitch. If you’re interested in cross-stitch, however, you’ll need this kind of canvas. Also known as Aida cloth, this stiff material has small holes for cross-stitching, and, in some cases, it’s even stiff enough to use without a hoop.

Candle Making

A hand pouring wax into a candle mold with a wick held steady by a piece of metal
Hearts & Crafts

Have you ever considered making your own candles? It’s easier than you might think, and it’ll make your home smell wonderful. All you need are a few materials and plenty of patience.

The most important element, of course, is a good wax. You can choose from several types, including beeswax, soy, and paraffin. We like Hearts & Crafts’ soy candle wax kit, as it tends to burn cleaner than traditional paraffin. Plus, it contains all plant-based ingredients without a bunch of additives.

Although some wax kits (including the one above) come with wicks, you might want to pick out your own. If you’re starting out with smaller candles, you’ll probably like these EricX Light 6-inch wicks. Made from cotton and already waxed, they’re a fairly standard type of wick, with a tab at the bottom for stability.

You’ll change the wick size and length based on candle size. As you move on to different shapes and sizes, be sure to research which wick sizes are recommended to avoid tunneling.

The best thing about making your own candles is choosing scents! These P&J Trading fragrance oils come in several scent combinations, from Spa-Ready Botanicals to Rustic Naturals, and more. We especially love these six “home” scent blends. Your house will smell like you’ve been baking all day!

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »

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