Written by Lauren Geall
As Stylist’s junior digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.
As the UK surpasses one year in lockdown, Stylist speaks to seven women whose ‘lockdown hobbies’ have evolved into fully-fledged passions over the last 12 months.
If there’s one skill we’ve all had to hone over the last year, it’s our ability to adapt. From learning how to work from home to navigating the ever-changing lockdown restrictions, the pandemic has forced everyone to learn and grow – sometimes in the most unexpected of ways.
One example of this has been the number of people picking up new hobbies over the last 12 months. With the lockdown restrictions and furlough scheme leaving many with extra time at home to fill, there’s been a surge in the number of people trying their hands at a new skill or craft to keep their minds busy during this uncertain time, whether that’s embroidery, baking or watercolour painting.
However, while for some these activities have certainly remained a way to fill the odd afternoon here and there, for others, they’ve become fully-fledged passions, some of which have even led to a new business venture or social media account.
As the UK surpasses one year in lockdown, Stylist spoke to seven women who have done just that. From a woman whose plant collection won’t stop growing to a yoga teacher-turned-sewing enthusiast, here’s what they had to say.
Georgette Olaiya, 32, fell in love with styling and taking care of plants
“During lockdown, I became obsessed with houseplants. I think I tried keeping a plant once before and it died a terrible death, so I didn’t consider it again until lockdown and that’s when my passion for them really bloomed.
“Now, I love growing them, looking after them and styling them, and have turned my very typical London flat into my own personal jungle.
“I got into plants because the first lockdown hit me really hard, as I’m sure it did a lot of people. I needed something that would pick my mental health back up and remembered reading and talking to friends about the benefits of houseplants when it comes to improving your mood, sleep and so many other things, so I gave them a go.
“12 months later, houseplants are now my life! I am always finding room for plants and learning more about them and what keeps them happy. It’s funny how it’s now become one of the things I am known for.
“I really enjoy discovering each plant’s separate personality so to speak, and love how much they have benefited me on a personal level. If someone had told me I’d be this obsessed with houseplants a few years back, I never would have believed them.”
You can follow Georgette on Instagram @thegardensofgaia
Akvilė Les, 31, turned to abstract painting to help her cope with pandemic-related stress
“A couple of months ago, I started painting abstracts in the evening. It was the first time I’d tried it but now I easily create 30 new small pieces per week!
“I got into it to help me cope with pandemic-related stress. Whenever I’ve felt myself getting stressed or overwhelmed, I’ve tried to steer away from the unproductive triggers such as scrolling through the news sites, Covid data updates, or social media, so I was longing for something that would allow me to be present in the moment. I’d tried the usual meditation, podcasts, but nothing worked until I tried creating abstractions.
“Now, my painting is a form of relaxation that keeps me grounded. Without thinking, without any distractions or multitasking between multiple phone and laptop screens, I can delve into colours and enjoy the process.
“It’s become a nice ritual on a good day, but it also clears up my mind if I’m having a tough one, too. Even though my job is very creative, with marketing briefs, emails and technology dominating my life 24/7, it’s hard to relax working from home.
“I enjoy the process of abstract pattern exploration because it brings me back to a carefree, curious mood. It takes me back to those moments in childhood!”
Maya Black, 27, began baking sourdough bagels to fill her spare time
“I’d done quite a lot of baking on and off before the first lockdown, but I’d never made bagels before, and I’d never really done that much with sourdough. So those were both new things for me, and I had to do all these things for the first time like starting a sourdough starter and learning how to do the bagel recipe but then making it sourdough.
“I’ve always really loved food and really loved bread, and I liked how it was something you could do with your hands. With most baking you have to be really precise throughout, but with bread you kind of just have to pay attention to what you’re doing and what it looks like.
“I’m Jewish and I grew up in a Jewish family where on Sundays we would have bagels quite a lot, so it was something that felt quite familiar to me as well.
“I started my bread Instagram page in November after I’d taken redundancy from my job, and then as soon as I’d started doing that I had messages and comments from people saying ‘you should sell this, we’d love to order’.
“I’d never really considered turning it into a business, but with the more flexible lifestyle that I’ve got at the moment, I decided to give it a go, and now me and a friend who is a florist are in the middle of launching our new business, Bread Flower, which is going to be doing bagel and flower deliveries in Manchester.
“It’s exciting that my hobby has now turned into this actual thing.”
You can follow Maya on Instagram @mayasbread and check out her new business @breadflower_
Jen Barton Packer, 38, tried roller-skating for the first time to stay active in lockdown
“I first bought myself a pair of jungle print roller skates back in March 2020 – this was the impulse buy of all impulse buys, because not only could I not actually roller skate, but I was eight weeks post knee surgery for a torn meniscus. Lockdown happened right when I was able to start rehabbing again, but I really struggled to work out at home, especially because I have four young children.
“Since then, skating has become a huge part of mine and my family’s lives. Whenever I needed a pick-me-up during lockdown, I would lace up my skates and skate around the living room; it instantly cheered me up. Skating is really fun, and a great activity when the weather’s good or bad.
“Now the whole family is on skates and it’s become one of our favourite weekend activities. It’s such a fun way for us to bond and I love that my kids are discovering how to skate from such a young age. I also love that skating is a low impact workout that doesn’t feel like a workout. I think it’s really helped my kids stay active during the miserable and cold lockdown 3 months.
“Emotionally, skating really embodies a lot of things that matter to me, for my mental health and for my family. I like how it helps me feel fit and active, and allows me to be a bit playful and fun as a parent. It’s something that you really can do for 10 minutes around the living room or spend a whole morning doing in the park.
“It’s been a lovely way for me to connect with my family – it’s something I’m teaching my kids, which is special – and remind myself that even though I’ve had four kids, and I’m 38, I can still learn new things and surprise myself. It really brings me joy.”
You can follow Jen on Instagram @jenbynyc
Steffanie Maynes, 32, picked up cross-stitching as a way to destress
“In lockdown I started making cross-stitch art, either from premade kits or finding patterns online.
“It all started when I found an amazing company that did kits that had everything you needed for one project. Innocent Bones were amazing and the instructions were super helpful and easy to follow.
“I now use this hobby as a de-stresser and also as a way to make fun things for gifts. I also made all my Christmas cards this year thanks to this hobby.
“I enjoy that there are so many different things you can make, I have done the classic cross stitch patterns; a simple animal or I have gone to the extreme of creating the whole front side of the restaurant in Bob’s Burgers for my boyfriend for his birthday.
“It’s always changing and is something I can do while watching TV or when I have some spare time and there is no pressure.”
You can follow Steffanie on Instagram @steff_stitches
Lauren Reid, 25, taught herself how to do intricate nail art
“I have had a passion for doing my nails for over 10 years now, although as a hobby it’s something I haven’t properly kept up since I went to university in 2013. So, when lockdown rolled around, I decided to get back into it and found I was still fairly good at the basics but it’s been a learning curve developing my skills again.
“It may sound trivial to some people but honestly, I love the whole process so much and it brings me a lot of inner peace and allows me to try new trends and focus on getting creative. I got into nail art mainly because of all the extra time I had on my hands, but also the need to have time to myself and something to positively focus on was also a key reason.
“Now I’ve had some time to practice, I still do my nails regularly and I also do them for my flatmates too! I have also started an Instagram page specifically for them, it’s been great to meet new people and learn more from those who are much more talented than myself.
“It’s also given me the motivation to seek formal training and a qualification in nails so that I can start legitimately doing clients nails on the side of my full-time role in social media.
“Ultimately, it’s calming to me and allows me to focus my mind on something fun and rewarding. It’s been a massive help for my anxiety as well. I think it’s great for me to have something creative to work on which I love. I’m a super visual person so I love using different colours and prints which add a dose of happiness to sad days when you look down at your hands.”
You can follow Lauren on Instagram @lkrlovesnails
Jeanette Barron, 38, fell in love with sewing again when her career was affected by the pandemic
“My work as a yoga teacher was forced on hold at the start of lockdown. Being without work I really struggled mentally with feeling like I’d lost my career in yoga, which I’d put so much emphasis and importance on in my life. I knew I had to keep doing something to keep myself sane. I hate waste; make-do-and-mend is deeply ingrained in my being. While having a clear-out of my mother-in-law’s attic I found some beautiful old floral curtains that inspired me to pick up my sewing machine once more.
“Now I’ve made my newfound hobby into a business, and create accessories and lifestyle pieces from archival William Morris prints that value sustainability and durability. I love the longevity and beauty of traditionally-made pieces, items that last, and grow old with their owners.
“My hobby has gone from a couple of hours a week experimenting with fabrics, to being able to enjoy it every day. It’s become one of the main focuses of my life, I’m so excited to see where it will take me next!
“Alongside becoming a source of income for me, my sewing gave me a purpose and something to work towards again which I think helped me cope with my situation in lockdown immensely. I love the handmade process; it gives a personal touch to everything you create.
“When you choose to create a handmade product, you’re not just investing in a piece of fabric, you’re honouring skills you have honed with hours of practice and dedication. I’ve felt a real sense of achievement with every step. I love that I can be creative every step of the way.”
You can follow Jeanette on Instagram @_winifredj_
Images: Georgette Olaiya, Akvilė Les, Maya Black, Jen Barton Packer, Steffanie Maynes, Lauren Reid, Jeanette Barron
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