I’ve been looking for an indoor, living-room-friendly hobby to do at night, when I get home from work. Something that makes me present in the world of people and things, leaves my brain free for conversation with my lovely wife, and doesn’t involve reeking hydrocarbons. Kate’s knitting is the Ultimate Hobby Activity, as far as I’m concerned; it’s a skill that takes a lifetime to master, occupies her hands, allows her to talk, and results in making really beautiful, lasting things. And she can do it pretty much anywhere.
Has to be a Man Hobby? Nah.
I briefly considered whether I was going to include “must be traditionally male” as a requirement for hobby selection, but the “traditionally male” requirement seems to be antithetical to the “no smoke or smells” requirement. That leaves scrimshaw, I suppose, but I don’t want to have to put away a rack full of incredibly sharp chisels every night, when I’m tired and clumsy. And then I’d have to pick whalebone shavings out of the carpet. Plus, how many pairs of mermaid boobies do I really want to carve?* So if my new hobby involves painting watercolors of fuzzy kittens while we watch “Dancing with the Stars”, so be it.
Knitting is out
I tried knitting, but unfortunately that filled me with rage. I respect the hobby and the people that do it, and I recognize that if I worked my way through the learning period it would probably get better, but frankly it seemed like all the worst parts of fly-tying, combined with all the worst parts of learning the piano. I’m sorry, Michelle, I think the baby sweater project is officially a bust.
Juggling? Prestidigitation? Card sharping? Knot-tying?
I also tried: learning more contact juggling (the kind of stuff you see David Bowie’s character doing in Labyrinth), but it’s just too SCA-nerdy for me these days. Card shuffling is out for the almost same reason; I no longer want to look like a David Mamet Grift Cadet (when a teenager, I thought I looked incredibly cool spinning a quarter over my knuckles. Oh, who am I kidding, that was just last year.) I asked for the big book of knots for my birthday, imagining that I could spend my time churning out monkey-fist keychains of tarred twine, which I could sell on Etsy (oh, hey look!) . Clearly, I was now grasping at tarred straws. Plus, knot-tying turned out to be worse than knitting; some of those knots involve pinning twenty-five strands of rope to a board as you move forward carefully, and then you realize OH GOD I’M MAKING A MACRAME OWL.
So then, remembering an incredibly awesome First City Troop footstool that my grandmother made, I decided to try needlepoint. Here’s my first attempt, which is almost finished! It’s a rudimentary picture of Tikaro, the stuffed pig made by my aunt Sylvia:
It now needs to be stretched back to a square shape, but I’m pretty happy with it. I like how needlepoint is a lot like pixel art, and I like how you’re using natural materials — wool yarn, cotton canvas, starch, and masking tape — and I like how in some ways it’s exactly opposite to computer work. Want to fill an area with color? No “command-A, Edit > Fill, preserve transparency”. Nope, it’s three evenings of basketweave stitch, and each little session is either tighter or looser depending on how you were feeling that night.
I paid lip service to not needing to be Traditionally Male, but anyone whose first project is a kind-of fake heraldic shield is right in the middle of the Venn intersection containing both Male and Nerd. And SCA. Oh, well, next one will be a fuzzy kitten with a ball of yarn. Or a screaming eagle. One of those.
* This is a trick question.