There are lots of theories about why so many 20-somethings are getting into knitting, sewing, gardening, and other "lost arts" that our grandmothers probably mastered. The explanations range from our collective nostalgia for a better economic climate than the one we currently live in, to the search for something "authentic" in our mass-production-happy modern era. But whatever the reason, old-fashioned hobbies are very current: photos of Taylor Swift indulging in retro pastimes like making homemade jam get thousands of likes on Instagram; the most popular TV show in the United Kingdom is an amateur baking contest; and trendspotters have declared needlepoint the big trend of 2015. The age group that defines what's hot in the culture right now isn't the much-lauded 19-to-25-year-olds; it's the 79-to-85-year-olds.
Of course, you can just go on Etsy and nab yourself a cool knick-knack made by somebody else's great-aunt (or, more likely, a Brooklyn hipster who bought a sewing machine on eBay). But why not try making crafts — or gardening, or playing old-fashioned card games — yourself? These nostalgic hobbies are more than just "on trend" — they can also be an opportunity to expand your own ideas about who you are and what you're capable of. Learning domestic skills doesn't mean you're bowing to sexist ideas about how a woman should act — in fact, when you're embroidering a pillow that says "GRRRL POWER" just because you want to, you're actually putting the feminist principle of creating your own standards and values for your own life into action.
So don't sweat it — you won't lose your feminist or you hipster cred if you learn (or just dream about learning) some of these skills that your great-grandmother probably utilized on the daily.
1. Embroidery And Cross-Stitch
Why You Want To Learn It: Really good handmade gifts are expensive, especially custom or personalized ones; but an embroidery hoop, a needle and some thread is as cheap as it gets. And, as many people have discovered, just because the process of doing needlework is prim, it doesn't mean that the resulting piece of cross-stitch has to be.
2. Bridge, Canasta, And Other Card Games
Why You Want To Learn It: Cards Against Humanity acts hard, and strip poker is fun if you're in a frat. But if you want to get into some really serious, manipulative, mind-bending, hair-pulling game-playing, you need to enter the domain of complex card games played by ancient old ladies. My very proper, incredibly well-mannered grandmother was an Australian bridge champion, and I'm fairly sure she specialized in making her opponents cry. Get your friends together and find out which of you is actually tough.
3. Mending Your Clothes
Why You Want To Learn It: If you're young, most of the clothing you buy is probably pretty cheap and prone to falling apart. But the next time you get a rip in your sweater, what if — instead of going out and buying yet another one at H&M — you learned how to fix that rip, as well as all the other wear and tear that your favorite clothes undergo? Knowing how to sew buttons, patches, and seams could save you favorite party dress from a dark future as a kitchen rag.
Why You Want To Learn It: Even if the only garden space you have is your windowsill, you've still got an opportunity to develop your green thumb skills. Who knows, you may go from growing rosemary in a pot on your fire escape to planting perennial borders and coaxing roses onto trellises. Let's all find our inner Miss Marple, and discover murderers while bedding out the sweet peas (or whatever).
5. Table Manners
Why You Want To Learn It: There will come a time in your life life where you are supposed to know how to use an oyster fork and which knife to select from the five beside your plate. It could be a dinner with your boss, a work gala, or a get-to-know-you meal with the in-laws; but rest assured that there are still situations where manners matter, and, someday, an encyclopedic knowledge of the archaic laws of table manners is going to save your ass.
Why You Want To Learn It: Going out to clubs can get real boring real fast, but sitting at home watching Netflix can make you feel like you're not utilizing your time on this Earth as well as you could. Solution: knit some stuff while you watch. You'll get a sense of self-satisfaction, and a nice hat (or gloves, or socks, or full-sized Elvish cape) out of the bargain, too.
Why You Want To Learn It: The appeal of quilting is self-evident: you are making a snuggly possession to wrap around yourself and sleep underneath. Plus quilts are complicated to create, so making one gives you serious bragging rights. "Thank you for letting me sleep on this insanely comfortable quilt!" "You're welcome. I made that, you know; no biggie, though."
8. Phone Manners
Why You Want To Learn It: Modern life is gradually making all of us forget about phone etiquette, which means that if we do actually have to use a phone for talking — say, if we want to go to a restaurant that doesn't do online reservations, or have to call a customer service hotline — we all turn into stumbling, ridiculous messes. You're better than that. Copy our grandmothers, and master the ability to pick up the phone and issue a "Hello?" so crisp it basically prunes your ears. You'll be glad you did.
9. Whipping Up Meals From Odds And Ends
Why You Want To Learn It: The ability to look in the cupboard, see three bags of lentils and a pack of anchovies, and somehow make a hearty feast to feed an entire party is already valued by thrifty foodies. But it is a skill that can improve anyone's life. The make-the-most-of-the-least philosophy of cooking from a past era is coming back into fashion, and getting a handle on it will make your dinner parties far easier.
10. Sewing Your Own Outfits
Why You Want To Learn It: How often do you come back from hitting all your favorite clothing stores, frustrated and angry because nobody had a tulip skirt in purple with pockets, or some other item of clothing that you dreamed up and then fell in love with? The granny-worthy skill of pattern-picking and creating a dream dress is a pretty enviable one, especially in our era of fast fashion.
11. Water Aerobics
Why You Want To Learn It: It's good for your heart! It helps build strength! It looks cool! Maybe this one is just me? Fine. Your loss!