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The New Quarantine Hobby I’m Never Giving Up

From making stained glass to growing sourdough starter, 14 people share their new passions—and some great ideas to fill your own quarantine days.

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Woman taking home baked meal out of oven
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Got some extra time on your hands?

How many times have you said you’d love to try something new…someday, when you had the time? Well, the day has come, as many people around the world now find themselves with nothing but time, thanks to quarantine restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. It turns out that when you have nothing else to do, you get pretty creative! Check out the cool hobbies that people have been taking up and you just might be inspired to try some of them yourself.

quarantine hobby
Courtesy Jeremy Greenfield

I’m pickling cabbage

Right before going into quarantine at their home in Brooklyn, New York, Jeremy Greenfield and his wife had dinner with a good friend. She served a “make your own bowl” meal, with a surprising topping: quick-pickled cabbage. Jeremy loved it so much that he decided to try making his own at home. “Between limiting trips to the supermarket and having to make our own fun, we’ve been cooking a lot, and especially trying to find ways to make ingredients last. Quick-pickling is a great way to do that,” he says. “Now it’s become a staple in our fridge. This week alone, I’ve eaten it with mashed potatoes, paella, as part of an arugula salad, as a salad on its own, and as a midnight snack.” Bonus: Fermented foods like pickled cabbage have a ton of health benefits.

Try it at home using a regular glass jar, or if you need a little more help, get the Easy Fermenter from Nourished Essentials.

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ukelele hobby
Courtesy Vivian Papagiannis

We’re starting a family ukulele band

Playing the ukulele was a dream for Vivian Aguilar’s daughters, and in fact, the Denver-based mom had just scheduled lessons for them when the quarantine hit. Her girls were crushed, so she decided to find a way to teach them at home. “We started watching YouTube tutorials, and I discovered my daughters are more receptive if I am doing it with them. Plus, it’s easier to teach them if I know as well, so we all decided to jump in and learn together,” she says. “We ‘schedule’ lessons two days a week, and we are really enjoying it. I’ve now ordered two other ukuleles so we can all jam out together.”

This Kala ukulele starter kit includes online lessons and a tuner.

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knitting hobby
Courtesy Nicholle Carriere

I’m doing a “knit-along”

Knitting has long been a hobby of Nicholle Carriere. But finding herself stuck inside her home in Edmonton, Canada, with lots of time on her hands inspired her to try a new style of knitting using colorwork. “A couple of Norwegian knitters, Arne and Carlos, started a ‘quarantine knit-along.’ They give instructions for successive parts of a project, but you don’t know exactly what it will be in the end,” she says. Every day, they post a pattern for a small block, each requiring colorwork. “Since it’s on a small scale, it seemed more doable,” she adds. “It’s turned out to be a lot of fun, the end result is lovely, and I get to use up scraps of yarn that were just taking up space.” Plus, she’s made quarantine friends with the community of knitters who are participating around the world.

Need help getting started? Check out this 20-piece Stitch Happy Starter Kit.

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Daryl O’Connell sign language
Courtesy Daryl O’Connell

I’m teaching myself sign language

As a child, Daryl O’Connell read a book about Helen Keller and was immediately fascinated not just with her life story but also with sign language. As she got older, learning sign language stayed on her bucket list, but she kept putting it off for a later date. Then, she suddenly found herself in quarantine with a lot of free time. “I think sign language is just a beautiful form of communication, but it’s also great stress relief,” Daryl says. “I have so much stress worrying about working from home, watching the news, seeing people suffering, feeling stuck, [and hearing] overwhelming stories of financial hardships, and I need a release.”

She recently started watching a few YouTube tutorials each day, and she’s already mastered the alphabet. “I would love to one day be able to join a sign language conversation with someone,” she says. “That would bring me joy. Right now, I miss feeling joy, but I can hope for it—and I will.”

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sour dough
Courtesy Rachel Lockett

I’m growing sourdough starter

Baking bread is a major way that Rachel Lockett deals with stress. But there was one type she’d never attempted before: sourdough. “It’s very time consuming because you have to make ‘the starter’ (the leavening agent that replaces packaged yeast in the recipe) and then feed it regularly, in addition to normal bread-making tasks like kneading and rising,” she says. “Quarantine has given me the time to focus on daily feeding and the time it takes to bake the sourdough bread, but also the time to research and learn more about the science and the history behind it. It’s fascinating, and I plan to keep my ‘quarantine starter’ going and make sourdough bread from it for months or even years.”

Need help getting your starter started? Try Saratoga Jacks Sourdough Live Starter.

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mask making
Courtesy Carey Reilly

I’m personalizing everything with a Cricut

Never heard of a Cricut? It’s a tool that allows you to personalize almost anything, but don’t mistake it for a simple label maker. You can create and personalize all kinds of products, including quarantine masks—which is how Carey Reilly discovered it. “I was inspired by watching people make face masks online, so I started making them with my Cricut. But now I want to make personalized T-shirts, mugs, and other things, too,” she says. “I am not typically a very patient person, but this quarantine has helped me with that, as I am able to sit down with a glass of wine, relax, and learn the machine and how to create.” It’s going so well that she’s even considering opening an Etsy store with T-shirts that have funny sayings.

Get started with the Cricut Explore Air 2 beginner bundle.

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cross stich
Courtesy Raina Yee

I’m cross-stitching a heat map

Pregnant with her second child while in quarantine, Raina Yee wanted to create a piece of artwork for her baby that would be both beautiful and meaningful. “I got the idea from knitted temperature blankets—[which use] a bar of different color to represent the temperature each day—but I don’t knit, so I decided to do it with cross-stitch,” says the Boston mom-to-be. “I hadn’t designed a cross-stitch before, but I’m a data analyst by trade and I knew that I could approach it with the numbers. I keep track of the daily weather highs and lows, and then use Excel to basically create formulas in a grid. I now have programming code that I wrote to automate a bunch of it.”

Raina is enjoying it so much that she’s started offering customized heat-map cross-stitch patterns on her Etsy shop, Tanglewear.

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Marste McDonald piano
Courtesy Marste McDonald

I’m learning to play the piano

When she found herself overwhelmed with anxiety over the current coronavirus situation, Marste McDonald knew she needed to do something to help protect her mental health. “Playing the piano is perfect because it requires total focus and coordination—it’s kind of like moving meditation,” she says. Her mom taught her the basics as a kid, so she pulled out her old how-to books, and using those, along with YouTube videos, she spends half an hour each day learning and practicing. “I realized that this is something that’s really been missing from my life, so I’m using this time to make practicing a habit again, and I plan to keep it up after the quarantine ends,” she adds.

Adult beginners can learn the piano with an introductory book and free streaming lessons. Learning an instrument also happens to be one of the ways you can get smarter in your spare time.

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painting rocks
Courtesy Katie Huffman

I’m rock-painting with my kids

Quarantine means a full house for Katie Huffman, who lives in Arvada, Colorado, with her mom, husband, and three children. Having younger children adds an extra challenge to learning new hobbies, as they always want to be involved, so she picked one they could do as a family. “My mom is an amazing artist and has been teaching us rock-painting techniques, encouraging us to take our time and really be creative,” she says. “We can paint pictures or write inspirational words or even turn them into animals.”

They sketch out an idea first, then paint each rock in several stages. After they paint the rocks, they place them in visible spots around their neighborhood to cheer people up. “It’s a great way to bond as a family and spread kindness and compassion without spreading germs,” she says.

To get started, try the Alex Rock Pets kit, which is great for both kids and adults.

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stained glass
Courtesy Shelley Schooley

I’m making heirloom stained glass

“I was cleaning out my barn and unearthed a stained glass project my parents began and quit years ago, and this seemed like the perfect time to try my hand at finishing it,” says Shelley Schooley of Austin, Texas. “I love to create things of beauty in many forms, and this one is a real challenge. Not only do I have to learn stained glass techniques, but it also involves using new tools.” She’s been teaching herself using online tutorials and the instruction manuals that came with the tools. The only other members of her household are her parents, who have been helping, adding a generational aspect that bolsters the memories and the meaning of the project, she says. “I’ve discovered I really enjoy finding new ways to use discarded bits of glass and I look forward to doing more projects once quarantine ends,” she adds.

If the real deal feels too intimidating, get a simple kit to paint your own “stained glass” mandalas.

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Courtesy Dennis Legori

I’m jamming out on the electric guitar

“Ever since I was a kid in school, I’ve always thought I was bad at music, but when this quarantine started, I decided I wanted to do something out of my comfort zone, so I decided to learn to play the electric guitar,” says Dennis Legori of Columbus, Georgia. He bought a guitar and found some online tutorials for beginners. “I have the time and patience now to really practice, and it helps that there is no pressure,” he adds. “It’s actually really good for stress relief. I don’t have any rock-star ambitions and just enjoy the sounds coming out.” Even better, he says he’s realized that he’s not as bad at music as he thought he was and is looking forward to continuing to play long after quarantine ends.

Want to join the band? Try this basic electric guitar for beginners from Zeny.

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Courtesy Beth Rose

My son and I are learning to juggle

Beth Rose, of Coral Springs, Florida, was looking for a way to spend some quality time during quarantine with her teenage son, Ethan. He loved the yo-yo she bought him, so they started talking about other similar tricks that he’d like to learn. “He mentioned a juggler we’d seen at a museum years ago and brought out a juggling book from his bookshelf,” she says. “After reading through it and watching a YouTube video, we grabbed some tennis balls from the garage and started practicing.”

Because there’s no pressure to be anywhere or do anything by a certain time, Beth says they’ve been able to take their time and be silly in a way they wouldn’t have without the quarantine. “It’s just been a really fun way to spend time together and learn something new,” she says.

Even the most uncoordinated folks can learn how to do this with a Juggling for the Complete Klutz set, which comes with an instructional book and three balls.

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Courtesy Nora Guy

I’m making videos about vintage makeup and dresses

Nothing helps you learn a new skill like teaching it to others. That’s what Nora Guy discovered when she decided to recreate classic vintage looks and then post YouTube videos documenting the process. “I found that during quarantine, I had all this unfocused creative energy at the end of the day, and I needed an outlet for it,” she says. “I love vintage style and already have a number of items in my closet, so I figured why not try it?” She taught herself the hair and makeup by watching online videos and then put her own spin on it. “Making my own videos not only allows me to perfect my makeup and costume techniques but also my videography and public-speaking skills,” she adds. “I’ve learned so much!”

To try this yourself, check out Etsy, which is a gold mine of vintage clothing and patterns.

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Courtesy Betty Nordengren

I’m learning French

“My husband is Haitian, and his whole family speaks Haitian Creole and French. I’d love to be able to communicate with them better, so I decided to use my quarantine time to learn a new language,” says Betty Nordengren. She went with French since it was easier to find apps and tools to learn French than Haitian Creole. This project has become extra meaningful to her, as she has had to quarantine apart from her husband; he is an essential worker, and she has had COVID-19 symptoms (although, no test was available to confirm it).

“With the combination of the sickness, missing my husband and my son, and feeling like I lost control of my life, I felt like setting my mind on learning French was one thing I could control,” she says. “Whenever I feel sad, I study a little. Now that I’m feeling better, I study more. It is a hopeful feeling to be learning new skills when the rest of life spirals out of control.”

Learn a new language for free with the Duolingo app, and then polish your skills with this book on conversational French. Before you start, though, make sure you know the scientifically proven secret to learning a new language.

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Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen is a health, lifestyle and fitness expert and teacher. She covers all things wellness for Reader’s Digest and The Healthy. With dual masters degrees in information technology and education, she has been a journalist for 17 years and is the author of The Great Fitness Experiment. She lives in Denver with her husband, five kids and three pets.