Many students who take up hobbies and crafts in their free time find that they help with their creativity and encourages them try something new. Some students pick up new hobbies after being inspired by others.
Erin Maloney, a junior English major, says she started doing embroidery during quarantine after seeing pictures and videos of it on the social media apps, Pinterest and TikTok.
“I found some easy designs to start out with and then I just went to the store and bought your most basic supplies,” Maloney says. “Which is just a lot of string and the cloth.”
Maloney says she’s still learning how to do certain stitches, but she has confidence that she will improve this skill.
“I still wouldn’t say I’m very good, but practice makes perfect,” Maloney says. “Just knowing where to put the needle or how long to make your little stitch is the complicated part.”
“There are certain stitches that you can learn, some of them are more complicated than others, so YouTube was really helpful,” Maloney says. “But you can do a lot of it just using one or two stitches, which I’ve found.”
Maloney says she has had a lot of fun trying different stitches and designs she’s seen people doing on TikTok.
“I usually just do the fabric on the hoop,” Maloney says. “But I saw on TikTok this girl put her initials in one of her boyfriend’s sweatshirts, so I did that.”
“It’s really hard to do it on a sweatshirt since it’s so thick,” she says. “There’s this fabric that is sort of a netting almost, it has pretty big holes to make it easy for the needle to go through or to pull it back through if you messed up.”
Maloney says there are a lot of designs that are easy enough to make for beginners. The easy stitches are the ones that are to help people learn how to embroider.
“My favorite thing I’ve embroidered is something I’m doing now, I saw it on Pinterest. It’s a hand and it has a sun, a planet, a moon and little stars on it,” Maloney says. “I’m not done with it yet, but it’s something that’s easy but also looks good.”
“[I embroider] just to keep me busy,” Maloney says. “I don’t think I’m ever going to sell my work, but it’s fun to do, especially during a pandemic.”
Other students, such as Olivia Zembruski, a junior elementary education major with a concentration in English and biology, have already turned their crafts and hobbies into a shop.
Zembruski says before opening a shop, she made customizable gifts for friends and family, but she has learned how to make many more things since opening Olivia Jane Custom Creations in March 2020.
“[Learning] was definitely trial and error,” Zembruski says. “Even still I’ll make something and think ‘this is terrible’ and I’ll completely start over. It’s definitely a work in progress type thing.”
Zembruski, known on Instagram as
@oliviajanecustomcreations, says she makes many different types of custom orders based on what her customers want.
“I can do pretty much anything,” Zembruski says. “I have a Cricut machine so I do a lot of stuff with vinyl and vinyl stenciling. I’ve also done glass etching, facemasks, T-shirts, kid’s clothes, engraving, literally everything.”
Zembruski says starting her shop was an easy decision because she enjoyed making memories come to life.
“I started by doing these graduation presents last year, so it was a little tile that said ‘senior’ on it with the person’s name,” Zembruski says. “I did it for one of my cousins who graduated last year and her mom was like ‘oh you should sell these’ and she put it on her Facebook and it blew up and I sold close to 50 of them within two weeks.”
After seeing so many people happy with the products she made, Zembruski said she was thrilled, but never expected her success.
“Honestly, I was so surprised when I made my first sale,” Zembruski says. “Between May 14 to May 21, which was a week, I had 28 sales, so it was definitely a little overwhelming at first, but it was exciting.”
Zembruski says as of right now, Olivia Jane Custom Creations is only part-time, but she will continue to work on custom products when requested.
“I have a full-time job, a second part-time job, so it’s really just on the side and when people need things,” Zembruski says.
Ellis McGinley, a freshman English major, says making jewelry has been a long-time hobby.
“I got really into [jewelry making] in eighth grade,” McGinley says. “It’s like a really repetitive soothing hand motion, so it’s something you can do while you watch TV, or study or listen to podcasts, so I got a lot of practice that way throughout high school.”
McGinley was able to turn this craft-making hobby into a store by starting an Etsy shop.
“I have always liked wire-wrapping things, and at some point, one of my classmates commissioned me for a pair of earrings,” McGinley says. “At that point, I was like, hey, I have a lot of spare time, I might as well start an Etsy and at the very least it will cover the costs of this hobby.”
After creating the Etsy shop called Magestone, (@magestone.creations on Instagram) McGinley started listing wire wrapped earrings and pendants.
“My favorite thing to make is earrings. I love earrings, I’ve always loved earrings,” McGinley says. “I go to renaissance fairs and just blow my paychecks on earrings, so I make a lot of them.”
McGinley says officially starting the Etsy shop and coming up with the name “Magestone” was a fun experience.
“I’m a huge nerd. I use a pseudonym for the shop that’s a character type thing because I’m a writer, and most of my friends who buy from the shop are nerds and writers,” McGinley says. “Magestone just happened to be like a funky fantasy sounding name that was just cool.”
While making jewelry, McGinley works with a lot of copper wire and crystals but says the hobby is more difficult while being on campus.
“I used to live really close to a post office, and now [being on campus] it’s like a 20-minute walk,” McGinley says. “It’s also a little trickier, with classes and stuff, I can’t bring a plier set to my English class, but at least with online classes you can make stuff while you sit there.”
Being in a dorm is also a downside for McGinley, because of the lack of space, but says the hobby is still worth it.
“My desk is covered in wire scraps, all the time, and my poor roommate stepped on a piece of wire the other night and I felt so bad,” McGinley says. “[Making jewelry] is definitely harder in this small space.”
McGinley says having a hobby like this, even if it has to be done on a college campus, is exciting, especially when being able to experiment with different materials.
“Seeing what weird stuff you can come up with is always really fun,” McGinley says. “Like this is something that’s getting really big on Instagram, Pinterest, and the internet. People are doing all sorts of really cool new styles, so I find that very exciting. I think experimenting is the most fun.”
McGinley says making that connection with strangers, especially after making sales on the internet, is one of the best parts of turning this hobby into an Etsy shop.
“I love getting orders from people I don’t know, that’s always really cool. it’s like a weird connection,” McGinley says.
McGinley says knowing that other people will buy and appreciate the work put into the jewelry and pendants is a really good feeling.
“After making my first sale on Etsy, I bounced around my house for like an hour,” McGinley says. “Like the first day, I made a lot of sales to friends and family, but my first actual sale was someone in Wisconsin and I would not shut up about it for like a week, I was so excited.”
Etsy selling is the first step in McGinley’s dream of selling jewelry. The end goal is to be able to sell it throughout Connecticut.
“A license to sell in Connecticut is like $200. When I make that much from the shop my plan is to get a selling license and invest in a tent or a booth and sell my stuff at renaissance fairs and flea markets,” McGinley says. “That’s the dream.”
By Sarah Shelton