Tech-Free Hobbies for Small Spaces - Bookshelf Memories

Tech-Free Hobbies for Small Spaces

There’s an old saying that came from Kenneth N. Taylor when he paraphrased the Bible, stating that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. That was in  1971. Over half a century later, we’re busier than ever, doing things we rarely enjoy, worrying about things that we have little or no control over, and spending what little time we do have as downtime, streaming, or scrolling on digital screens.

The  Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) reviewed the effects of screen time on children and youths, and could only contest that assertions of toxic harm from overuse of technology is “overstated”. What’s apparent is that the negative effects of digital devices seem to stem from “lost opportunities for positive activities”  - socializing, exercise, and sleep. Hobbies can and do contribute to socializing and depending on the activity, if it’s a therapeutic hobby, it’s going to improve sleep too because enjoyable leisure activities improve psychological and physical well-being.

The tech revolution has transformed what we call enjoyable leisure activities. Photographers spend more time editing digital photos, more gamers are online competing rather than playing board games, cards, or trivia games, and knitting and sewing are becoming lost skills. Before TV sets emerged in the 1950s, the most popular hobby was gardening. Even if you didn’t have a garden, people would use allotments, or manage the gardens of elderly neighbors. Regardless of space limitations, there are still plenty of hobbies that are easy to pick up, do not involve technology of any sort, and provide the all-important therapeutic downtime to relax, unwind, and focus intently on something enjoyable.

5 Creative and Artistic Hobbies that Require NO Digital Technology

1. Making Stained Glass

stained glass with tree design

Mg Blackstock (Flickr) | CC by 2.0

Stained glass can be a hobby as much as it can be considered a trade. Smaller scale projects like making suncatchers to bounce a rainbow of colors across a room can be done without much of a learning curve. If you can solder, you’re good!  This is one for those who don’t care about manicured hands because you are going to get cuts and callouses, and your hands are going to be rough!

Stained glass projects do not involve dying glass. Glass panels are stained when they're in a molten state. You don't dip panels in solutions to change their color. Instead, you buy the glass in the colors you want and you solder them together with a gel flux. Quite a few tools are required, including safety gear - that's paramount. You'll need a soldering iron and the gel flux to use with it, running pliers, and grozer/breaking pliers, and glass cutters to get clean breaks and oil to help it glide over the glass. A grinder is used to roughen the glass so that it’s easier for the foil to attach to it. Different sizes of copper foil are used to attach multiple pieces of different colored glass by soldering them.  

Naturally, with all the tools required, stained glass as a hobby is one of the more expensive choices. Thankfully, many areas have local stained glass classes with the tools provided. If you feel this is something you’d like to have a go at, check to see if there are local classes near you before you begin buying an inventory of tools only to use it once and decide it’s not for you.

2. Bleaching tee shirts

bleached tee shirt design with custom art print

San Mateo County Libraries (Flickr) | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Many of us have more tee shirts than we need. They’re a common Christmas and birthday gift. Lots of them get stained, discolored, and tossed away when they could be easily repurposed with a little bit of artistry. When you spray bleach on a tee shirt, the splatters change the color. For some, that’s as far as they go with the hobby. Create what looks like splashes on tee shirts.

Once you master the application techniques, there are all sorts of creative designs can be made. It’s much like how custom tee-shirts are made, only far more artistic because it’s more than just applying a vinyl decal. Splashes of different colors can be created by spraying bleach on the tees from a distance. Patches can be made by spraying distinct patterns up close, such as a square or circle in the center of the tee shirt. If you want a custom print, you can prepare in advance by ordering a custom vinyl decal that can either be rolled on or ironed on.

3. Bead Art or Bead Sprite

bead sprite of the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine

DeviantArt | DrOctoroc | CC BY-NC-ND 3.0/a>

In hobbyist communities, bead art is called bead sprites and it’s made with Perler beads. The art is made by putting Perler beads onto peg boards and then fusing them together with an iron. There’s much too it, however, in terms of what you can make with bead art, it’s colossal! You can stick to the flat designs or opt for the more challenging 3D bead sprite projects. If you liked Lego, you’ll likely find making art with Perler beads to be an enjoyable and creative experience. Patterns are available for both 2D and 3D models. The beads are available in all different colors, and it is possible to create 3D miniature objects or people, animals, and other objects that can be added to a beginner book nook kit to include pixelated art.

4. Miniature painting

miniature portrait

Here at Bookshelf Memories, we discuss miniatures a lot in the context of bookshelf décor. In this instance, miniature painting is entirely different. It’s not the miniatures that would necessarily be included in book nooks, such as a miniature portrait to display in an ornate frame in a dark academia themed book nook, but rather, a miniature painting of anything. Historically, in Europe, the first on record were those of the King of England, Henry VIII, and the King of France, Francis I. These were traditionally done with watercolor on vellum (a fine animal skin) and stored in a protected casing such as an ivory box or a locket. To this day, you can still get lockets with apertures to hold tiny cutouts of photographs.

Miniature painting dates back before those times though and that’s part of what makes this an interesting hobby. It is a rich part of history emerging from medieval times when the term used was limning, which is Latin for illuminating. It was used originally to add colorful illustrations to handwritten books. In that respect, miniature painting with watercolor and calligraphy (a popular Japanese crafts activity) are a combination of two hobbies that go well together, and neither need much space. In that respect, miniature painting is the lowest-budget hobby around and you only need a small table, watercolors, and brushes. No tech, not much space, and little expense to start.

5. Home Brewing

home brewed kombucha

For those into craft beers or enjoy wines, home brewing could be your culinary hobby. If you want to keep it alcohol-free, make kombucha. It’s a flavored carbonated drink that’s the result of the same fermentation process. The only real difference is that you’re putting in a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) into the mix, limiting its alcohol content. Kombucha is considered to be non-alcoholic because it only contains trace amounts. It can contain up to 0.5% alcohol to be considered alcohol free by the The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

A distinct advantage to homebrewing is the control over the entire process. You can make wines and craft beers with whatever alcohol volume you want. Wines tend to be under 10%, unless you take you time with the process. For making your own wines, use wine yeast, sugar, and fruits. The sugar reacts with the wine yeast, producing the alcohol content. The fruits are there for flavor. Lager and ale yeasts are used to make home-brewed beer and lager. You don’t need much equipment to get started, but you do need to be patient. This is a hobby that doesn’t take up much time making the drinks, however, while the drinks are fermenting, you could be researching the ingredients to try on your next batch of homebrew.