If you are like us, in the past few months you have probably ended up watching every TV series you absolutely need to watch on Netflix, cleaning your apartment from top to bottom, and completing every video game behind you. We understand it: Social distancing can get pretty boring.
So if you have a lot of time to kill, why not learn something completely new? With some basic supplies and online resources, it is possible to learn many cool and sometimes useful skills, such as knitting, calligraphy, or even taking care of a bike.
We are (obviously) a tech site, so we do not claim to be experts in all the hobbies we recommend below. However, we are good at finding a lot of very specific and nerdy information online. Therefore, whenever possible, we have tried to include links to the online resources that we found most helpful. If there are hobbies that you have picked up recently or that you just think are super interesting, let us know in the comments.
Bicycles are relatively simple machines, but there's a lot to learn if you want to do your own maintenance and repairs.
Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
I have been a cyclist for years, but until recently I have never thought too much about what I actually did. I inherited a bike from an old family friend and only thought of maintenance when the tires were damaged or the chain literally stopped turning.
Not surprisingly, this is not the best way to take care of your bike. While stuck at home, I decided to learn how to do basic bike maintenance, how to repair flat tires, clean and lubricate my chain, index my gears, and (soon) even completely replace my bike's chain.
Depending on the tools you have at home, some upfront costs may apply. However, if you stick to it, you can save money in the long run by not having to pay a professional mechanic to do basic work. Not to mention the time you save when you can repair your own flat tire the next time you get one while you're on the go.
If you want to get started, I found Park Tool's YouTube channel to be incredibly helpful. Your videos are well produced and fairly complete, but be warned that the videos will inevitably encourage you to buy and use a lot of Park Tools' own gear. If you do a little more research, you should get a good idea of what you can do without. – Jon Porter, international news writer
I learned knitting from my stepmother's mother over 20 years ago. I still have a beautiful Afghan hound on my bed that she knitted. (Hi, Suzie!) In stressful times I find knitting soothing.
I don't do anything difficult. No tips, no inlays, just a little wiring when I feel like it. The idea is that I should be able to just knock out row by row while looking at something else; For example, I'm most likely to knit during a zoom meeting. So I have the basics: garter stitch, stockinette, ribs, moss stitch. The things you can do with the autopilot.
That's probably why I'm knitting so much – it's nice to fidget while my brain is concentrating on something else. Zoom meetings tire me; It is difficult to figure out when to speak without interrupting someone. When there is no clear structure or an obvious reason to speak, I usually shut up. (During a friend's birthday party, her sister asked if I would make a phone call. I knit in silence. I muted to say hello, then muted, then went back to knitting.)
Lately I've been knitting a surprise for a friend's one year old son. It would be cheaper – and definitely easier – for me to buy a machine-made version of what I do. I essentially pay extra money to create something that is not "perfect", but what I really buy is relaxation.
To start knitting – it's not difficult – you can read this tutorial from Purl Soho that will show you how to start it. Then you can start knitting. If you want, you can learn the other main stitch, the purl that the store is named after, and just walk into town. Purl Soho also offers excellent free samples when you are looking for a project. If you want to cast a wider web, Ravelry, which has a soothing old-world feel, is a huge archive of knitting projects. There are also forums if you need help.
You need materials. If you want, you can order them online. You can also see if there is a local craft or yarn store that you can support. Good yarn is expensive; For your first project, it's probably best to use the cheap stuff. – Liz Lopatto, deputy editor
We're not saying you'll knit the 2017 top gif soon, but it's okay to dream big.
Picture: Anna Hrachovec
I had a friend – hi Caitlin! – Teach me knitting last year so that I no longer play Dead Cells while watching TV. (Yes, it was so strangely specific.) I love it because it's so forgiving – if you screw it up, you can unravel the yarn and start over. My biggest early challenge was buying needles. I had no idea how many there were for different types of projects, and I didn't want to waste a lot of space and money on a new hobby or get stuck for the rest of my life knitting flat rectangles.
The best strategy for me was to create a difficulty curve. Start with simple scarves that use two classic needle points. (You can buy cheap bamboo multipacks to have a few sizes on hand.) Then get some double-pointed needles for knitting small round things like fingerless gloves and gloves. I bought a cool, interchangeable circular needle set for larger quarantined projects, but there is no reason to jump on a huge kit right away.
Ravelry is incredibly helpful here. It's basically a knitting shop where you can search by needle size and thread weight to find projects that you can actually do. It also keeps a good updated list of local yarn stores that are still shipping during the pandemic. If you order something more expensive, ask the store to wind it up for you – it is often sold in strands that you cannot knit directly from, and if you are like me and forget this step, a bad DIY effort can turn into one nightmarish tangle of yarn. – Adi Robertson, lead reporter
An inexpensive karaoke speaker contributes significantly to the lock.
I am by no means a talented singer, but I am also a kind of diva and have no qualms about inflicting my bad-luck baritone on someone unlucky enough to be unlucky enough to be within range. In early March, when it looked like this lock would take a while, I made the cautious decision to throw a few bills on a Samson Expedition Express portable PA system with a microphone. Since then there has been karaoke night in my living room every week – much to the bad of my neighbors, I'm sure of it.
After consulting with a friend who is a wedding DJ, I chose the Samson Expedition as my favorite jam machine. It has great sound, bluetooth pairing and is available in different sizes depending on how hard you want to rock. I also realized that all "official" portable karaoke machines on Amazon were (a) hellishly ugly and (b) pretty pointless. YouTube is full of bootleg karaoke tracks, and there's really no reason to be interested in a karaoke experience with Walled Garden – especially if many of them need a monthly subscription to the goodies.
It's a fairly flexible setup: you can either play the YouTube audio through the speaker, or just use your TV's own audio (if it's loud enough) and just leave the PA system for the vocals. Coupled with a cheap disco light, you can almost pretend to be in a smoky karaoke room in K-Town with a plate of inlaid daikon and some cold soju in front of you while your friends whine about "Kiss From a Rose". I am sure that one day we will all be back. In the meantime, however, a soft couch, homemade bread and “Let It Go”, as sung by a four-year-old in an Elsa dress, have to suffice. – Andrew J. Hawkins, lead reporter
The idea is simple. You take something and put it in a glass.
Photo by William Poor / The Verge
Terrariums (and other things in glasses)
A few weeks ago I went for a walk, collected things and put them in glasses. Pebbles, branches, pieces of moss, stream water, as you call it. I don't know exactly why – I think it had something to do with being stuck at home and sneaking a little bit of the outside world back into me. Whatever the reason, I basically decided to build a terrarium.
A moss terrarium is easy to manufacture and maintain. There are plenty of guides to get you started, but all you really need is a jar, a bit of moss, a substrate on which the moss can grow, and a spray bottle for moisture. You can always get fancier by adding charcoal for filtration or by targeting more picky plants. But just start and in 30 minutes you will have a mossy little greenhouse on your desk.
Theoretically, the goal is to create a sealed, self-sufficient ecosystem that requires no attention. For me, however, the fun is in attention: dealing with the aesthetics of the rocks and sticks; Give him a splash and watch the following moisture cycle. Auditioning new types of moss that I find between cracks on the sidewalk. It is a therapeutic mix of art, craft and observation. My life is currently standing still, so it is comforting to see how small changes unfold in a controlled environment.
In the meantime, the container situation on my desk has gotten stranger. Right now I'm growing a spring onion in a shot glass, watching a piece of seaweed break down in a jam jar, and testing how long it takes for driftwood pieces to get wet and sink. For science. Or so. – William Poor, science producer
You have to provide your own pithy quotes.
Photo by Chaim Gartenberg / The Verge
I have an objectively miserable handwriting, as I was told by any number of teachers during my school days. But when it turned out that my time indoors would take a while, I decided to change that by learning calligraphy.
The reason was simple: I wanted a hobby that I could do something with, and more importantly, after spending all my work and free time staring at one screen or another, I really wanted something that would keep me from that Luminaires of different sizes hold rectangles. Calligraphy turned out to be the perfect solution.
As I've learned in the past few weeks, calligraphy is an easy to start and hard to master thing. If you want to dive in, Reddit's Subigdit "Calligraphy" is a good place to start, or you can just do a YouTube search – there are tons of guides and resources.
All you need to get started is a stack of paper and a pen (I used Pilot Parallel pens, which are easy to use and do not need to learn how the entire pen-and-ink-glass system works). There's definitely a learning curve – you're effectively learning a whole new way of writing, so the angle and direction in which you hold your pen becomes much more important.
But it's incredibly relaxing. The work repeats itself (especially when drilling basic pen strokes or when learning the letters for the first time), but it has a calming effect and the mixture of structure (in the letter forms) and creativity (when choosing layout, colors and personal flair) really helps me to relax at the end of the day. And all it takes is a pen, some paper and some time. – Chaim Gartenberg, news editor