Recently I’ve been noticing a shift in the way people relax and have fun. It’s not a monumental sea change, but there’s an undercurrent of long-overlooked hobbies trying to push their way to the surface – and nobody’s trying to stop them. In fact, we’re embracing the old and shunning the new more and more every day.
I’m talking about granny pastimes. Cross stitch, knitting, brewing our own beer, arranging our own flowers. In a world where we can have anything we want, exactly as we want it, right now, why are we suddenly pumping more money and effort into doing it ourselves?
Let me put this in perspective for you. A knitted scarf from H&M costs around £10. A good set of knitting needles and enough wool to make the oversized, long scarves of today’s catwalks costs around £8. Considering the time, patience and YouTube tutorials needed to get from beginner to knitwear pro, it’s obviously not about the money.
We’re paying to go and pick strawberries in the summer (even though Tesco has a 2 for 1 offer on), we’re melting beeswax we bought from a vegan produce site and moulding our own candles. Pottery classes are popping up all over every city, despite Wilko’s extensive range of bowls and vases.
Is it social conscience? Maybe. There’s now a heightened awareness around where things come from compared to a few decades ago. We can no longer ignore that our clothes are made by children in sweatshops, that our broccoli travels half way across the globe and puts Farmer John from Somerset out of business.
But are we really that moral? Even those of us who ditched plastic in January turned a blind eye when we needed cream cheese for a dinner party recipe right at the last minute. When it comes down to it, the majority of us will choose convenience over conscience, as long as it doesn’t have too big of an impact.
Another possible explanation for the rise in kitsch-y DIY hobbies is, of course, social media. The days of parading objects and material possessions to your followers are still very much alive, but there’s a general tilt towards doing rather than having. It’s as if we’re becoming wise to the facade of ‘owning expensive item = happiness’. We now need to see the happiness, see the joy on Laura’s face as she runs through the vegetable patch, picking her halloween pumpkin, hand-in-hand with her equally ecstatic boyfriend. I see Laura doing that and suddenly, I’m not having fun! These Nike slides don’t up my status unless I can prove that I’m a whimsical and interesting person, too!
Of course this doesn’t quite explain why I spent my entire Saturday cross-stitching the words ‘DON’T BE A DICK’ onto a small piece of aida (if you follow me on Twitter, there’s proof on my cover photo). I did that because I wanted something that I made in my house. I can’t paint or draw or make furniture, so I followed an easy, step-by-step process that gave me something tangible and home-made at the end of it.
The other reason I tried my hand at cross-stitching (and perhaps one of the more plausible explanations for why so many of us are creating things we can buy) was that I wanted something to do other than sitting on my phone and watching TV in my spare time. We’re all glued to our screens for a significant chunk of the day, and users of these relatively new technologies have long been seen as ‘cool’ and on-trend. But it’s not quite so cool anymore to be watching TV all night, or sitting on your phone whilst you’re at a party. We’re starting to get itchy, to envy those bygone days of our grandparents where hobbies were manual or intellectual. The rise of mindfulness has pushed us towards engaging with single-focus tasks, being in the moment and feeling calm. Again, of course, all of this is perpetrated by what we’re seeing on our Instagram feeds.
Increased engagement with non-technological activities is, in my opinion, no bad thing. The chance to slow down, take note and engage with my environment is something I relish, and would certainly do more of if I could just put down my bloody phone.
Do you partake in any ‘granny hobbies’? What are your motivations?
Let me know in the comments.