Pandemic restrictions are keeping people at home. Because of the changes in lifestyle, many have more time and are looking for ways to banish boredom. That has added or renewed interest in a variety of hobbies.
Linda Gardner of Aurora has returned to a youthful hobby of composing puzzles. “My mom would have the puzzle on the glass dining room table so we could each work on a color or the best part of all, the edge,” she recalls. “She and a neighbor used to exchange puzzles. Some were really cool – they were about ½-inch thick made of wood.”
Fast forward to the pandemic. “When the governor advised working from home, I was slow at work. I went into the basement for something and saw a jigsaw puzzle that had been there for at least 20 years. I brought it upstairs and started on it.”
The 1,000-piece puzzle of macaw parrots hooked Gardner. She has done at least 15 puzzles of similar size since March 2020 and has another 10 at the ready. Gardner does her puzzles on a tall café table while listening to music.
“It’s become an addiction,” she says. “My mom and I are exchanging them. I’ve sent two to my daughter in California.”
“I’m trying to only buy from local stores,” she says. “I bought several at Mulholland and Sachs at Eton then a few more at Playmatters. I bought some at Discount Drug Mart, too.”
Gardner is not alone in her puzzle interest. Todd Bahler, buyer, at Ohio-based Discount Drug Mart says, “When COVID restrictions began our stores got wiped out of puzzles, board games, card games…more than any Christmas season we’d ever had. It took a month or two to get replenished, and the sales level has continued. Everyone is still staying inside and needs something to do.”
“One of our big success items is an Ohio State University puzzle,” he says.
Knitting has also seen an uptick as a pandemic hobby, even former First Lady Michelle Obama has taken up the art. In Northeast Ohio, Liz Tekus, owner of Fine Points in Cleveland’s Larchmere District says she’s seen a lot of new and returning customers browsing her curated selection of fine yarns.
“We are seeing people who are cleaning closets and find abandoned knitting projects,” she says. “They’re getting them out and revisiting them. Sometimes they need yarn to add and complete a project. So, they come to us.”
In addition to keeping people busy, knitting is considered therapy. “Knitting is like meditation. It produces a sense of calm and does wonderful things for body and brain,” says Tekus. Among the most popular projects are shawls and wraps.
Fine Points is offering Zoom classes, knitalongs and mystery boxes to hobbiests. The store, which recently moved into a one-story space near its former location, has shortened hours during the pandemic. Customers who desire can use curbside pickup or shipping.
Kelly Clark of Chagrin Falls is a knitter and gardener who recently added fermentation as a pandemic hobby. She attributes the decision to having more time at home.
“Fermentation is a way of doing food preservation, so it goes well with the gardening. Plus, I’m science-oriented so I like the ‘bio-chemistry experiment’ aspect of fermentation,” she says. Naturally, she’s toyed with beer, wine and mead. She’s also branched into yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. She recently fermented hot peppers with peaches to puree into hot sauce.
Clark has learned a lot from books, especially from author Sandor Katz, and from trial-and-error. “Fermentation can be part of your daily or weekly ritual. A lot of the projects take only a small amount of time, but need some regular attention over the course of a couple days,” she says. “You can get into the habit of attending to your current fermentation project (or projects) at a particular time each day, or be more flexible.”
Like many people, Audrey Hudak of Cleveland Heights, has found her pandemic hobby in the kitchen. “I have dietary restrictions and have always done a lot of home cooking,” she says. “In March, when the pandemic became serious, cooking brought me comfort. At first, I made soup because the weather in March and April 2020 remained cold. I used my cute, teal Dutch oven and I bought new soup bowls from Crate and Barrel.”
Creativity took over and now her repertoire includes butternut squash soup, chili, chicken tortilla soup, chicken and rice with curry, beef barley, white chicken chili, tomato soup, chicken and dumpling soup, West African peanut stew, cucumber gazpacho and so much more.
“I am dairy-free and replaced dairy in recipes with non-dairy options,” Hudak notes, “I use the “Joy of Cooking,” “Go Dairy Free” by Alissa Fleming, and various Internet blogs.”
“Homemade soup is a perfect pandemic meal,” she says. “You can be classic or creative. You can customize for dietary restrictions. And, you can make a big pot and eat for several meals.”