On Making Actual Things With Your Actual Hands


In the most vague sense, I make things with my hands all day.  I write this blog, I edit other people’s writing, I’m constantly tapping away on my keyboard with my tiny, oddly androgynous digits.  But I’m frequently haunted by the thought that my job is ‘imaginary.’  The words I write rarely appear on actual, made-from-trees paper and I rarely make things that I can hold in my own two hands.A while ago I read this article about how few of us actually work or create things with our hands any more.  In my social circle, I know exactly one person who does work that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer or speaking in front of a class.  One person!  The rest of us teach/write/consult/design/manage/organize.

So in an effort to bring a bit more joy and a lot more awesome into my life, I decided to make the effort to turn off my various screens at 7:00 pm and devote the rest of my night to fun and friends and (when time allows) making actual things with my actual hands.

I dabbled a bit in jewelry-making (which turns out to be an oddly expensive hobby), trying out complicated, overly-involved recipes (which did not agree with my skinny jeans) and knitting (nope.)  Finally, I settled on that hobby favored by septuagenarians the world over: paint by numbers.
What?  Yes.  It’s calming, it’s detail oriented and when I’m done I have something I (hopefully) want to display in my home.  Yes, really.

Some other actual things you could do with your actual hands?

* Magazine photo collages
It’s like Pinterest!  But in real life!

* Make fimo beads from polymer clay

* Bake bread
Cheap, delicious, makes your house smell amazing

* Paint or refinish a piece of furniture
I promise you, this is so, so much easier than you think

* Sew new buttons onto an old cardigan
Totally transforming!

* Sew slip covers for your throw pillows

* Come spring, get a spot in a local community garden and have a dig and a plant

* Learn some basic car repairs
I know how to change my spark plugs and my oil and it never ceases to make me feel smug and clever

* Take on some home improvements

Home Depot and Lowe’s are always offering free classes an heaps of topicsDo you feel better or happier when you’ve created something tangible?  What do you like to do with your hands?



Mama Smith

Yes! Making something physical is so important to my sense of accomplishment. I was (maybe still am) an architect and when I imagined what that job would entail I envisioned myself sitting at a drawing board over trace paper and building cardboard models… there is some of that but most of the time we're all in front of computers and even though we're still creating drawings and models… the fact that it's all virtual and mediated by the computer depresses me.

Now as a stay-at-home mama I am loving baking bread, knitting, sewing, gardening, drawing… sounds like a step back to some but it is so nourishing!

Soulful Inspirations

I am in love with using my hands to create things, especially for others. Cooking is one of my favorite things to do, particularly when I get to go out in my backyard and pick the ingredients from the garden. I have recently discovered raw "cooking", it is delicious with an added bonus of being great for your skinny jeans. I can get lost for hours in sewing, making items for weddings for clients or just fiddling. Kanzashi blooms (fabric origami) has become a new obsession of mine. I find so much joy in it. I make a lot of things for my bonus daughter and she has gained an interest in sewing and crafting as well.

@mama it doesn't sound like a step back to me. You have one of the most important jobs and what a wonderful thing to be able to share with your children. 🙂


I embroider. It's a lot cheaper than knitting (you can stitch on scrap material!), and much easier (to me, at least) than straight-up sewing. Right now, I have tiny octopi and robots in random places around my house, but I need to get started on another project for myself. The last few projects I've made and loved have been for friends and family: 1) a kitchen towel (happy veggies!) for my grandparents, 2) hand "written" lyrics to my best friend's favorite song, and 3) a pair of love birds for another friend and her now-husband.

Stitchery has been so important for me lately, because I'm halfway through my dissertation and it seems like it will never end. To be able to work on a smaller project – and see it completed in a relatively quick manner – does wonders for my mental health.

The Adventurer

I totally feel you, friend! I find such joy and satisfaction in making something all. by. myself. I bet you will finally have the opportunity to finish all of those little ideas in your head. Post pictures, I want to see all your fun DIY adventures 🙂


I mostly sew and it gives me such a massive feeling of accomplishment when ive made a bag out of what was a few scraps of fabric a few hours before! I also LOVE re-painting furniture, its so relaxing and completely transforms the item with very little effort. Unfortunately cooking never works out for me though, I dont know why! But my boyfriend is amazing at it so it's all good 😉

Chelle Lynn

I never thought about it before, but I am the only person I know who makes things. It's funny, but I always feel a little unaccomplished compared to my friends – like I just sit around painting and knitting unnecessary, redundant things while everyone else is out there making boat loads of money. I guess the grass is always greener. 🙂


I make collages and cards for my friends/family by cutting out words and pictures from magazines! I also make photo collages for special occasion gifts.

And yesterday? I fixed a toilet. I FIXED a TOILET! With my own two hands and a flat head screwdriver.

I'd love to start making my own bath bombs and scented body oils. I need to build up an arsenal of essential oils!

Brittany @ Pro-Soup Propaganda

I freaking LOVE paint by numbers!! I do those, too, so it's nice to hear from other ladies in our age range that they do them also. ;o)

I think this is why I enjoy making soap. I'm not artistic by any means, and creating something useful, colorful, (and good-smelling!) it makes me feel like I've "made" something. I also recently got contracted to help a local jeweler with producing some of her pieces, like punching charms out of sheets of sterling silver and making headpins from silver wire, and, even though I only have helped her one day, it gave me an immense feeling of can-do. I have no desire to make jewelry of my own, much less think of ideas, and the cost to buy supplies just to make jewelry with is crazy, so to be able to bypass all of this and to just be able to do a small part is soooooo awesome.

Miss C

I read, like lots, and while I feel accomplished every time I finish a book (especially if it's in 2 days or less) I still get antsy when I haven't created something. Sometimes I paint, and I was on a HUGE paint by numbers kick or a while, sometimes I crochet, sometimes I draw and paint little things that look like a 5th grader did it… but I do it and at least for that day I feel better.
I also collage and have since I was very young… pinterest was like a gold mine for me once I found it!


I've been making stuff with my hands for pretty much all of my life – drawing, collaging, sewing, cooking, baking, making jewelry … I've even dabbled in pottery. I grew up in a household where this was encouraged (my mother cooked and baked everything from scratch and sewed carnival costumes for us when we were kids), I find it very fulfilling and I only realized slowly over the years that not everyone has these skills nowadays because not everyone learns them as a kid. Which is a pity!

April in Autumn

I know whenever I'm having a crappy day, there are two things I need to do to get out of it: 1) eat a healthy meal and 2)make something. I've made it a priority to have a project going with my SO because I think making something together is so special, and right now I'd rather be making furniture than babies. 🙂


I've recently decided to try to get more crafty because I love reading crafty blogs and agree- it must feel so good to make something yourself. I love cooking and baking, so now just trying to expand. Embroidery next!


i am a major proponent of magazine collages! i am 21 and proudly still hang them all over my room. most are themed, some are just inspirational. every now and then i crave the feeling of making something.

as a complete aside, i just received my 2012 yes & yes calender, complete with karma cards! it is a disgustinly dreary day here in new jersey, but the delivery just brought so much happiness to my day 🙂


making things with your hands is incredibly relaxing and enjoying. i make myself write one little notebook page per day. it usually takes two-three minutes but lasts longer because it creates a lovely escape from the day. i try it on my lunch break and i go back to work feeling so much better.


I read a story along those lines last year (NYTimes perhaps?) about how we're all selling our services to one another – design, writing, consulting, coaching – that who will be left to produce THINGS? The stuff we need – food, shelter, clothing.

I don't produce anything tangible, either. Only, I suppose, when I cook and bake. As a bit of a minimalist, this suits me – I don't feel too bad about it. But there certainly is something satisfying about making something from scratch.


Yes! I love to make things! It started in college but over the past 10 years or so it's kind of taken over my life.

Making things is good for your health, they say that the majority of us will have arthritis in the next few years from so much typing!


I love making things! I also recently discovered paint by numbers and love how relaxing they are! I can paint for hours and not realize that the time has passed.


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