Quirky gift ideas that become unexpected new hobbies

UNIQUE: Personal, custom long stitch can make the perfect gift. Photos: Jess Wallace
UNIQUE: Personal, custom long stitch can make the perfect gift. Photos: Jess Wallace

Try a hobby - Long stitch 

Embarking on a new hobby has become a common theme of life as we do our best to find inspiring ways to make the most of time indoors. While I can't give coronavirus the credit for taking up my latest hobby, I'm excited by the prospect of unapologetically getting to spend more time developing it.

Some might say long stitch is not the most interesting hobby. But when combined with a generous injection of quirkiness, it can be quite unique... and just between you and me, I think I might have even found a way to make long stitch cool.

Like the origins of so many of my hobbies, the process started out as a gift-giving exercise. I have always loved giving people handmade gifts. Plus, I find I enjoy the creative process most when I'm making something for someone I care about, and so that's how I tend to fall into my hobbies.

My long stitch resurgence began when I set out to make something for my cousin and his fiancee to celebrate their wedding. My aim was to find something I knew was fun and personal to them and recreate it as a keepsake. With these two concepts in mind, I got to work editing a Simpsonised caricature of them and embraced the challenge to reproduce it through the old-school art of long stitch embroidery.

EMBODIED IN EMBROIDERY: The Simpsonised caricature of my cousin and his fiancee that I recreated in long stitch.

EMBODIED IN EMBROIDERY: The Simpsonised caricature of my cousin and his fiancee that I recreated in long stitch.

I excitedly proceeded to smoosh these ideas together, and the result was the cutest personalised wedding gift for two very cool kids, who utterly adored not only the effort, but the sheer geekiness behind it all. And so, my latest hobby was born.

The best part is that it's really not a difficult pastime to pursue and depending on how intense you want to go with your size and materials, it's can be relatively inexpensive too.

For a custom design all you need to do is draw or find a picture you like and print it onto iron-on transfer paper to the size of your embroidery hoop, or an inch smaller if you want a fabric-bordered effect.

For my picture, I took two existing images and used a Photoshop drawing app on my iPad to make them into one picture and added a few extra details. I found it was best to just work with the outline of a picture and used a transfer paper that ironed on clear where the white would be.

There are other options to transfer your design onto the fabric, like fabric pens or carbon paper, but I found the iron-on transfer to be the simplest and it also gives the fabric a little extra rigidity to work with. Then it's just a matter of having fun with your thread. I experimented with the direction and thickness of my thread for effect. But there are plenty of Youtube tutorials to help you find your way. I found embroidery tutorials the most helpful because they give you tips on a whole range of stitches.

A good online resource is tatasol.com/6-basic-embroidery-stitches-for-beginners/. But your introduction to long stitch doesn't need to be complicated. There are an array of ready-made kits to get you started and usually include everything you need. At the moment, I'm working on a cute kangaroo long stitch kit, you can get online.

It's actually really easy to chill out with at the end of the day. Doesn't take much effort and is quite relaxing. Unlike some of my other hobbies, it doesn't lead to a sticky mess and there's no risk of burning it in the oven.

EASY AS: You can start with something easy like a no-fuss long stitch kit.

EASY AS: You can start with something easy like a no-fuss long stitch kit.

It wasn't long after I finished the long stitch gift, that the pandemic hit Australia, and now we have all found ourselves looking for meaningful stimuli. This could be the chance long stitch needs to make a comeback.