As we’re quarantining, many of the hobbies and activities we love are no longer possible. We have more time at home than before (more than most of us want), so it’s a good time to cultivate or take up new home-friendly hobbies—like my favorite, sewing.
My mom is a professional seamstress, running a workroom for custom window treatments, so I learned to sew at a very young age. It’s now my favorite hobby, and I do all kinds of sewing: knitting, embroidery, cross-stitch, etc. I even made my junior prom dress!
If you’re a sewing beginner, or want to try something new, check out these ideas. No sewing machine? No problem. All projects are machine-less, and you can easily order the materials online for ease and safety in this pandemic.
Knitting is one of my favorite handmade hobbies. The repetition of the stitches is so soothing, and I get immediate satisfaction from seeing the progress of each stitch and row. I first learned to knit when I was in elementary school, but I didn’t pick it up again until about two years ago.
The first pattern I used was a beanie with a rolled brim and pom pom, a great entry point for beginners. I’ve experimented with different yarns, stitches, and pom poms, and now I even take custom hat orders to sell. They’re also a great gift and can easily be made for any age and size.
As with any kind of sewing, knitting can be as simple or as complex as you want. These three patterns are great places to start. It helps to have a visual guide when you’re learning to knit, and there are tons of YouTube tutorials that can walk you through the stitches.
The Sheep & Stitch channel has great videos for beginners, such as this cast on tutorial (how to add and count the first row of stitches, this knit stitch tutorial (the primary knitting stitch), and this purl stitch tutorial (the second most common stitch).
What you’ll need: knitting needles (see instructions for whatever pattern you choose for sizes), yarn, scissors, and stitch markers (small circular rings that you place between stitches to count them).
Cross-stitching is a fun and easy way to make colorful designs to frame, as ornaments, or for other decorative uses. As the name implies, cross-stitching involves a single stitch that creates a small square cross. The designs are an arrangement of little cross stitches.
Cross-stitching is typically done on aida, a firm fabric with square grids (similar to the layout of grid paper). Each square has holes in the four corners for the cross stitch. You can also use linen or any evenweave fabric, but for beginners, I’d suggest using aida since the squares are more distinct.
Cross-stitching takes a lot of attention to detail, but it is easy to follow, like a color-coded drawing. Once you get the hang of it by using someone else’s pattern, you can even make your own custom designs with grid paper—check out this tutorial to learn how.
What you’ll need: embroidery needles, aida or linen fabric, a hoop (to hold the fabric in place), and thread.
03. Hand Sewing
If you want to learn the basics of sewing, choose a hand sewing project. It’s a great skill to have in general to save money on small repairs like ripped hems. It can also help you decide if you want to invest in a sewing machine to move on to more complex projects.
Hand sewing is very versatile and can be used for all sorts of projects from clothing and accessories to curtains and stuffed animals. There are many kinds of sewing stitches that are used based on what you’re making or mending.
Some of the most common are the running stitch, used for mending and gathering (creating ruffles), the backstitch, a tight stitch similar to sewing machine stitches, and the slip stitch for hemming to create nearly invisible stitches.
What you’ll need: iron, fabric, needle, thread, scissors, and seam ripper (to take out any misplaced stitches!).
Compared to the structure and simplicity of cross-stitching, embroidery is more intricate and flexible. There are many different embroidery stitches: straight stitch, back stitch, french knot, running stitch, chain stitch, and more.
If you’ve never done hand-stitching before, I would advise starting with cross-stitching before getting into embroidery. When you get the hang of cross-stitching, you can move on to embroidery. Because it’s more complicated, it’s easier to get frustrated as a beginner.
These three embroidery kits are simple designs. Embroidery can be applied to a broad range of fabric and materials. You’ll often see embroidery on items like jean jackets, bathroom towels, napkins, pillows, baseball hats, and tapestries.
What you’ll need: embroidery needles (small needles with sharper tips and longer eyes—the holes through which the yarn runs—in comparison to normal sewing needles), yarn, scissors, and fabric.
05. Rug Hooking
With rug hooking, you can create area rugs and entry mats—or decorative pieces if they’re too pretty to walk on! Rug hooking is easy to do and has impressive results, making the final product look like it was much harder to make than it actually was . . . you made that! No way!
Rug hooking isn’t dainty like the other kinds of hand sewing. You’re working with heavier material (burlap, linen, or rug warp), working with a bigger hook tool, and using wool strips for thread. It takes just one stitch, using the hook to push the wool down and up through the holes to make little loops.
What you’ll need: hook, frame, fabric, scissors, and wool strips.
If you’re feeling creatively curious in quarantine (or after), try your hand at sewing. It’s a time-honored skill that you’ll be able to use for the rest of your life to make gifts, clothes, home decor, decorations, and whatever else your inner seamstress comes up with!