Column, Lifestyle, Looking Back

Old fashioned hobbies

By Mary Ellen Shaw

We pretty much know that in this day and age “screen time” takes up a good portion of a person’s day…even in their spare time. But how did people spend their free time back in yesteryear?

Hobbies filled the spare time of many people. Today’s technology has changed our hobbies, even when it comes to cross-stitch and embroidery. I do both of those on fabric with a pre-printed design. The cloth goes into a hoop so it will be held tight. Just thread the needle and you are ready to begin. The ink in the design washes out and only the threads forming the design remain. If children are learning this art it’s best to start with cross-stitch. Making an “x” with thread is an easy way to be introduced to this hobby. Choose simple projects so they can be completed rather quickly and boredom wouldn’t set in. Seeing the finished product is part of the fun!

When I am doing a craft show people ask me if I did my items “by hand.” I didn’t know there is any other way! However, the old fashioned method from yesteryear has been replaced by an embroidery function on a sewing machine. I don’t even know how to use one! That will never be my way of stitching. This “hobby” has a whole new meaning when a machine takes the place of your fingers…

Making potholders on a loom was a fun thing for kids to do back in the ’50s. I used to make them on a square metal loom using cotton loops that came in a bag. You stretch the loops over the pegs of the loom. A weaving hook is used to go over and under the strands. My mother had enough potholders to last a lifetime!

Knitting seems to have made a “pandemic comeback.” It was much more popular long ago than it is now. If you would like to engage in that hobby, start with something easy, like a scarf, and work your way into more complex projects. A study was done that found people who knit felt calmer and happier. Now that we are allowed to have more social contact there are knitting groups where someone is always willing to teach to others the skills that they have learned.

Crocheting was a favorite hobby of my mother. She tried to teach me but I never caught on to it. It was not relaxing for me, like it was for her. I still have some lace doilies and a tablecloth that she crocheted. They are a work of art and a wonderful forever connection to her.

Calligraphy is an old fashioned hobby that takes a lot of patience. One of my coworkers used to do it and it was truly a work of art. I remember she used to get asked to create invitations and cards that were one of a kind.

Gardening can also be classified as a hobby. More people grew their own food years ago than they do today. But that hobby was resurrected during the pandemic. There is something soothing about watching seeds turn into flowers or veggies. Tending to a garden gets us away from “screen time” and gives us fresh air and exercise. With shortages in grocery stores of items that might be your favorite food growing your own is a great solution. You can do consecutive plantings and get more than one crop, even in Vermont’s short growing season. Selecting veggies that can be frozen will extend your enjoyment into the winter months.

Jigsaw puzzles are another hobby that was definitely more popular in yesteryear than in today’s world. But the pandemic also brought back that hobby. My husband, Peter, has always done puzzles. When Covid hit and people were spending more time at home jigsaw puzzles helped to fill their days. This made it difficult to find the puzzles he wanted. It’s a hobby that you can do “solo” or as a family. One of my friends keeps a puzzle on a table of its own and family members can work on it whenever the “spirit moves them.”

If there is a lesson to be learned from the pandemic it’s probably that slowing down and getting back to the basics is a good thing. Let’s hope that the enjoyment of simple pleasures will continue when we get back to “normal.”

Mountain Times Newsletter

Sign up below to receive the weekly newsletter, which also includes top trending stories and what all the locals are talking about!