Five Historical Hobbies to Pass the Time during Quarantine

You probably have a great deal more time on your hands now than you had a few weeks ago.

That might be a blessing or a curse.

For many quarantine stuck people, it is a curse because they simply can’t figure out what to do with all their new won time.

However learning something new is always a good idea.

Therefor, here are five hobbies that people in the past used to pass the time.

1. Sewing

Sailor Sewing a Signal flag while Sailing to Sierra Leone March 1942 on board HMS Alcantara photo by Cecil Beaton

In the past, people did not have all the technology that we take for granted. They had to pass what little down time they had their own way, using a variety of different methods. For most of human history, people did not buy clothes off a store shelf. Instead, they made their own clothes, or paid a tailor to make their clothes for them if they were wealthy enough. Sewing, especially hand sewing is a craft which requires a great deal of time, a resource that Covid 19 has granted many people. If you look up “Historical sewing patterns” and you will find many free and low cost patterns to practice your sewing. If you have a low budget, synthetic materials may be your only option, but if you have more to spare, it may be worth it to look up the materials that people used to make clothing. Common materials used in historical clothing are cotton, linen, silk, wool, and satin. If you work hard enough at it, you may even become skilled enough to sell your historical clothing for profit.

2. Calligraphy

“Arizona war worker writes her Navy boyfriend a thank-you-note for the Jap skull he sent her”, LIFE photo of the week, May 1944

In the old times, writing was an essential skill. With the advent of the typewriter, and then the computer, this skill has become completely useless. However, it is still an enjoyable hobby for the historically minded person. There are many resources online and at your local art store that can teach you. One fun way to do calligraphy is with a quill pen or similar calligraphy pen and ink. Low cost calligraphy supplies can be found both online and at many art stores.

3. Learning a musical instrument

Louis Armstrong playing for his wife, Egypt, 1961. (Colorised)

With few exceptions, all musical instruments have been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The Ocarina, a musical instrument featured heavily in the Legend of Zelda video game series, has its origins in ancient middle eastern civilizations. Some unique and interesting historical instruments include: The Ocarina as mentioned above, the harp, the medieval lute, and many more.

4. Historical games

German officers playing cards wearing gas masks, WW1 (Colorised)

In the past, many games were played to pass the time. Nine mens morris, tic tac toe, card games, chess, checkers, etc. There are online resources availible that can allow you to make your own historical games using modern tools, or you can also buy pre made games from certain sellers. Think of playing a historical game with your family instead of booting up your game console or smart phone.

5. Reading a book

A man floating in the Dead Sea with a book and an umbrella, Palestine, ca. 1920

Lets be honest with ourselves, many of us don’t read as much as we should. Reading is a hobby that has been around for thousands of years. Where once it was a luxury restricted to the educated upper class and religious elite, now everyone can read if they put in the effort to learn. Here’s a list of my historical books: Dante’s divine comedy, Plato’s Apologies, Ovid’s metamorphosis, Virgil’s Aeneid, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Shakespeare’s many plays and sonnets, Julius Caesar’s The Gallic war, and many others. Go buy a book and get reading!

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