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Close up on a person's hands as they crochet something from purple wool.
Photograph: Imani/Unsplash

Lockdown hobbies that you’ll actually stick to

Learn a new skill with our top suggestions that you won’t lose interest in

Written by
Alannah Maher
&
Time Out editors
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There’s no time like a lockdown to get stuck into a new hobby, right? In the throes of the first stay-at-home orders in 2020, we all had big ambitions of totally transforming ourselves into multi-lingual, master-baker, Olympic-level gymnastic novelists who could sew an entire wardrobe in a quiet arvo. But if you totally forgot to keep up all your iso side hustles the second restrictions started lifting last May, you're certainly not alone.

Now Sydney is settling into lockdown 2.0, the real question is, what newfound interests will you actually stick with this time? Do you have craft supplies taking up space in cupboards that leave you stuck on the question “Does this spark joy?” every time your living space is due for a clear out? Yep, us too. If your sourdough starter curdled into a freaky science experiment and crawled away after your first loaf, this list is for you.

We’ve done some investigating into the hobbies that might actually maintain the attention of your distraction-prone brain, even after lockdown ends.

Recommended: How to maintain your mental wellbeing during lockdown.

Five hobbies that you won't give up on

Crochet
Photograph: Alannah Maher

Crochet

What you’ll need: crochet hook, wool, access to YouTube. Optional: someone older, wiser and experienced in crochet to call on. 

For years I have promised to learn the skill of my foremothers, but time, patience and the attention span to do so have evaded us. When I found myself isolating at my parents’ house for two months last lockdown – with countless balls of wool, oodles of time and my mother’s expertise at my disposal (along with some helpful YouTube videos narrated by a gentle Midwestern woman) – I finally took the plunge to learn the art of crochet. My first granny square didn’t come together easily. The claw-like hand position didn’t come naturally, the commands of ‘yarn over’ and ‘chain three’ didn’t compute with me. How do you make corners out of soft wool? That first misshapen square took a few days to complete. A couple more in, a change of crochet hook, and the practice eventually became natural, even meditative. Before I knew it, I was churning out perfect little (mostly) uniform granny squares in about 15 to 20 minutes a pop. With another lockdown ahead of me, it’s time to take that green bag full of squares and turn them into something dashing. Soon, I bet I’ll be turning out baby blankets (and a crochet bikini design I’ve dreamed up) to my heart’s content. I look forward to many more long nights of hookin’. Are you more swayed by knitting than crochet? Check out this beginner's knit kit from Cardigang. (Alannah Maher, Lifestyle Journalist)

Contemporary Dance
Photograph: Sydney Dance Co/Pedro Greig

Contemporary Dance

What you’ll need: a subscription to Sydney Dance Company’s Classes on Demand ($29.95 per month). And/or, just play some classic bangers on YouTube. 

I am a deeply uncoordinated person. It is almost certain I will come to an untimely and embarrassing end while getting up from my desk. There have been several near-death near misses already, as I rise, trip and plummet-run headlong into my bookcase. So it makes no sense for me to try anything that involves supple coordination and grace. Dance is not my friend, other than daggy living room solo moves. But I donned neon singlet and shorts (because, dance) to take up the challenge of Sydney Dance Company's virtual studio. More Zumba on Zoom than anything that would pass muster on stage in one of Rafael Bonachela and co’s performances, it was still a lot. One hour of interweaving some pretty basic shapes with freestyling to pop tunes, as led by the irrepressible Charmene Yap – an SDC dancer for 10 years who is a rehearsal associate – had me in rivulets of sweat. The water breaks were not long enough for my heart attacks, and one calf seized up and I hit the deck around 45 mins in. I am not fit. I am not a dancer. I also vaguely tried some of the Australian Ballet’s free video tutorials, but that dance style is less likely to stick with me. Other than in my living room, alone, spinning around. In lockdown, I realised pretty quick that the best way to reclaim some weekend joy was to flick on classic bangers on YouTube and get spinning around my living room like Kylie in her golden hot pants every Friday night. I'm not sure if Sydney Dance Company would recommend the wine-glass-in-hand move, but it sure as hell brightens my nights. And getting sweaty dancing really does get those happy endorphins flowing. (Stephen A Russell, Sydney Arts Editor)

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Pickling
Photograph: Reka Biro-Horvath/Unsplash

Pickling

What you’ll need: sturdy glass jars with lids; spices such as caraway seed, dill seed, black pepper, juniper berries or cumin seeds; water; salt; vegetables for fermenting.

Take some veggies and transform them into something entirely new with some deceptively simple, briny magic. The practice of taking a mason jar, otherwise unloved vegetables and a handful of spices and creating something delicious, whisks me away to a TikTok-perfect cottagecore fantasy. Just chuck me a gingham dress and a wicker basket and throw me to the self-sustaining pastoral colony already! But daydreams aside, it was actually my dad’s penchant for pickling that truly piqued my interest in the briny arts. He found it as a way to make use of the knobbly cucumbers and other veggies spilling out of his backyard veggie garden faster than they could be eaten. And now, you cannot leave my parents’ house without a jar of delicious, good-for-your-gut preserves being thrust at you. If there’s anything more satisfying than layering up a sandwich, burger or plate of nibbles (or stirring through a simple salad) with the tart and sweet zing of pickles, it’s knowing that you made those flavoursome morsels yourself. With some expertise from Sydney’s own pickling and preservation authority, Cornersmith, it’s pretty easy to get started. The website has lots of recipes, and the one for kitchen scrap fermenting is a great starting point. Just make sure you sterilise your jars first. If you really want to commit to a more delicious and sustainable kitchen, order a copy of Use It All: The Cornersmith Guide to a More Sustainable Kitchen ($32). (AM)

Doing the Splits
Photograph: Marta Wave/Pexels

Doing the Splits

What you’ll need: a subscription to the Splits in 30 Days app, 20-30 minutes every day.

During the very first, nationwide lockdown from March 2020, I decided to learn the splits. Having done no more than a handful of dance classes in my life, flexibility was not my strong point, but it was always something I thought would be fun to do. I downloaded an app that claimed to be able to teach me the splits in 30 days...well, it took more like nine months, but I can now do the splits on demand. I found I was able to stick with this goal because it was something I, personally, had always wanted to do and because it suited my lifestyle (i.e. it only took 20-30 minutes of my time everyday, when I would be exercising in some form anyway. If you're looking to pick up a new skill or hobby, I'd definitely recommend choosing something with those two factors in mind. (Nicola Dowse, Melbourne Arts Editor)

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Meditation
Photograph: Supplied/Soul Alive

Meditation

What you’ll need: time and patience (those will be easier to find once you start looking for them, we promise). Optional: subscription to Soul Alive, $9 a week or $29 monthly.

When we think of hobbies we tend to think of things that require a box of materials that you use a honed skill to turn into something new to show off on your mantlepiece or to gift to someone else (be it a cake, a terrarium, or whathaveyou), with a satisfying outcome. You might not think of meditation as something that fits under that umbrella. But join me in a metaphor, if you will: the box is your mind, filled with all the thoughts and anxieties that are jumbled within it; meditation is the tool or skill that you use to recalibrate it; and your more relaxed and adaptable new mindset is both the satisfactory payoff and the thing you have to show off. It can be hard to know where to get started, but what if you could channel the hours you lose in existential states of disassociation and into a relaxed and focussed state of mind that can even lead to euphoria? You can. One way you can get started is with the guidance of Soul Alive, a Sydney-based businesses and Australia’s first livestreamed meditation service. It aims to help introduce meditation in a convenient and relatable manner. While founder Luke McLeod (who hosts many of the guided meditation with his deep, soothing voice) honed his skills at a meditation centre “in the foothills of the Himalayas”, Soul Alive also ditches the stereotype that the only way to meditate is whilst sitting on the top of a foggy mountain, tied up like a pretzel. With short, livestreamed sessions that are easy to slip into my Google Calendar, an on-demand library of practices curated for sleep, stress, energy and focus – even my unconditioned mind is learning to unplug and take stock, and I’ll be damned if I’m not motivated to keep it up. You can sign up for a free one-week pass here(AM)

Or, try one of these creative kits and virtual classes

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