I was reading Marianne’s article in which she ponders whether she has too many hobbies and thinking about the hobbies I have. Does reading count? Without wanting to sound too pretentious (oh who am I kidding, I really don’t care), reading feels as essential as eating or breathing so I don’t think it counts as a hobby. I like cleaning and tidying, but again they’re rather mundane, so probably the only real hobby I have is making patchwork cushions. Look, here’s one:
I have a big basket full of scraps of old material – pieces of sofa covers, blankets, dresses that are too small or tatty to wear and other random rags – and I cut them into squares and stitch them together. I’ve never made anything more ambitious than a cushion because I do it all by hand (a result of me deciding I’d rather have a Mulberry Alexa than a sewing machine for my 30th birthday – sorry mum!)
Patchworking is fun because you can do it while lolling on the sofa watching Columbo a classic Fred and Ginger movie and it’s nice to recycle fabric rather than chucking it in the bin, while making something pretty and personal (seeing all those shreds of my past stitched together in a decorative way, and sometimes giving a cushion as a gift, feels really good.) But I don’t do it as often as I’d like.
I once made a cake to take to a friend’s baby’s birthday party and I made some sausage rolls for New Year’s Eve and I must admit both times I felt spectacularly smug and the hot, stressy morning spent in the kitchen anxiously watching the oven was totally worth it. However, most of the time I tend to throw money at the problem and buy booze or flowers.
But this week I went to a party thrown by Cath Kidston to celebrate the brand’s 20th birthday (and the launch of the corresponding book, Coming Up Roses) and an evening filled with candle-making and cake-decorating made me think seriously about the pleasure pay-off that you get from putting time and patience into making something yourself.
And look who was at the party too: SIAM! We sat together like proper little competitive type A girls, side-eyeing each other’s increasingly flamboyant efforts at icing these cakes.
The amazing Lily Vanilli taught us how to do this and make crystallised flowers with admirable patience – she is SO cool.
This may seem painfully obvious to others, but to me it was a revelation: crafting isn’t necessarily about producing a spectacular end result or saving money (although both of those may happen), it’s about the process. The physical act of putting effort into creating something is incredibly satisfying, because you don’t have to do it if you don’t want to. Does that make sense?
What I mean is, we spend most of our time fulfilling obligations to someone – our boss, partner, friends or family – and I know I generally have a faint feeling of guilt that I ‘ought’ to be doing something useful – writing a novel, cleaning the fridge, whatever. To stop all that for a moment and sit down to do something arguably pointless but fun like making a rose out of buttercream icing feels decadent but worthwhile.
I’m curious about how long it takes to get really good at a hobby; does it get harder the older you are to start something like learning a language or a musical instrument? I would love to paint watercolours (yes, after watching the documentary on Prince Charles and his watercolours – I am this impressionable) but I’d probably be rubbish at it to begin with and give up because I didn’t have the patience to persevere.
That’s not the point of a hobby though, is it? You’re just supposed to relax and enjoy the act, not worry about the end results.