Hobby? Craft? Survey!

Hobby Craft Mad Art Lab Rippere




“Friend (woman):  Do you craft?

Me:  Yes, I do mostly paper crafting.  Do you craft?

Friend:  Yes, I do woodworking.

Me: <freezes mentally>”



Seems like such a little thing to say.  But, I would never call woodworking crafting.  I would call it a hobby.

<but WHY?>

For weeks I have been thinking about this and can find no theory am willing to stake my life on.

I am not talking about dictionary definitions, but connotations.  I am more interested in understanding how these words are actually used than in any dictionary definitions.  Trust me, if anyone starts down that path you will be ignored.

As I haven’t arrived at an answer or deeper understanding I will be asking questions throughout.  I am still seeking information and viewpoints.  I am hoping commentators or those taking the survey can shed some light on this.  There is even a survey you can take!




My first instinct was that hobbies are masculine and crafting is feminine.  Crafting is things like: paper *crafting*, sewing, crochet, locker hooking, scrapbooking, knitting, and rug making.  Hobbies are things like remote controlled airplanes, woodworking, and building models.  These break down clearly along stereotypical gender interests.   What do you think about hobbies versus crafting?

Still, I was confident there are examples that do not fit this pattern.

If my assumption is actually the case, will activities traditionally thought of as hobbies become crafting as more women pursue them?  The above friend does woodworking as a craft.  My sister is also taking up woodworking as a craft.  Neither sees this as a hobby.  Will woodworking become a *craft* or a craft/hobby as more women become interested?  Will it fall into either or both categories depending on who is doing it or describing it?

As a society do we value hobbies more than crafting?  Do we value woodworking over tatting?  Do we value the masculine over the feminine?  Seems obvious when I put it like that!  Of course, this assumes that my first instinct was accurate and I am not ready to make that bold statement yet.




Next I did some research.  Turns out there is a store in the UK named “Hobby Craft.”  The hobby section on the website includes candle making, doll house, and soap making.  Clearly *not* activities that are traditionally considered masculine.  But, I am not sure that I would characterize those this as hobbies either!  So, are these examples of the words poorly applied?  Someone else’s reasonable use?  Something else?




Also, when I was young my grandfather needlepointed belts with navigation symbols.  My grandmother (not his wife) also did needlepoint.  I’m not sure that I would say needlepoint is crafting…but, given a choice between crafting and hobby…crafting.  Why wouldn’t I naturally call needlework crafting?




Perhaps this is a regional thing.  Perhaps hobby and craft are used differently in different regions.  Perhaps there are 53 other dimensions that apply that I am not thinking of (probable!).

Are there several other axis that holds weight in this decision?  Who knows.  What might they be?




I know there are more questions than answers right now.  I am just beginning to systematically think about this.  Help me!

To try to get a little more information I have put together a survey.  If I get at least 50 responses I will publish the results.

Maybe these words are mostly synonymous with personal variations.  Still…I have spent far too much time considering this given it weighty importance to the world.

Take The Survey

Kim Rippere

Kim Rippere has been creating her whole life. Currently, she is focused on paper crafting and cooking. She posts her creative endeavors at Craftisan Studios. You can purchase her work via her shop. She is the Founder and President of Secular Woman. Kim randomly blogs at Rippere.com, but can most likely be found on her Facebook page or on twitter. She earned a degree in Philosophy and a Masters in Business; and is a former business executive.

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  1. This seems like a false dichotomy to me. In my opinion woodworking can be considered both a hobby and a craft. Same goes for several other items on the survey.

  2. False dichotomy? If I suggested that something has to be either a hobby or a craft and the same for all…apologies, it was unintentional. I am trying to understand how people use these two words and how we each make choices about what word we apply in what case.

  3. I see them as unrelated words. To me a hobby is any activity pursued on a regular basis that isn’t paid work and has some positive emotional value attached. That can be a craft like sewing or woodworking or jewelry-making. It can be an art like painting or composing music or photography. It can be a collecting activity: coins, stamps, old cars. It can be a game like golf. Many of these things can also be done professionally, i.e. for money.

    Crafting to me is any creative activity that produces a new thing. So those traditionally female things like sewing qualify, as do traditionally male things like woodworking. For me a much harder thing to distinguish is the border between craft and art, and most of the activities covered by my craft definition can also be art. But it has to do with how much personal creativity went into the planning and envisioning, versus the manufacturing. In my own craft/art, jewelry making, I would say that following a beading pattern from a magazine, however complicated, is crafting (which is a skill, and one I don’t have much of). Developing an original design is art.

    Finally, again using myself as an example, right now my jewelry making is a hobby. When I get my online store up and running, it won’t be a hobby any more.

  4. I agree regarding craft and art. That is another post! For my creating endeavors I use Craftisan Studios. I mashed crafting and artisan together. I fits me…I’m not sure of the details of why…but, I see myself somewhere in between a crafter and an artist.

  5. I agree that they are somewhat orthogonal, in that hobby indicates more “something that I spend my free time on”, rather than the nature of the work. But I also see the point of the original article as well.

    I guess I would say that “crafting” to me typically involves activities that require little or no specialized technical skills to get started in. With something like quilling or jewelry-making, it feels like you can jump in quickly and the focus in on aesthetic expression. For “hobbies” like woodworking or leather-tooling, it’s understood that there’s a learning curve you have to scale before your aesthetic ideas will be expressible. (And yes, my distinction does also seem to be vaguely oriented on traditional gender lines, at least on first glance.)

  6. The mention of golf makes me think that there is also some potential overlap between a hobby and sports. For myself, I have never thought of running or playing tennis twice a week as a hobby,. Nevertheless, it does fit the “something I spend free time on” label.
    I wonder if someone will find some overlap between sports and crafts…

  7. My (entirely arbitrary) separation is when something requires multiple, separate skill sets to achieve – RC models, doll houses, model building – then it’s a hobby. I’d tag activities that can be (but don’t have to be) a single skill set – woodworking, paper craft, flower arranging – as crafts. As someone whose job is defined as a craft (page layout/typography), I’m somewhat biased. Understand that I’m not denigrating either hobbies or crafts, I’m just categorizing them. My job is craft, my hobby of building ebooks subsumes that craft. Dang it, now I have to include work for pay vs. work for pleasure, and is it a hobby if someone pays for your output, even if that wasn’t the goal of the activity.

  8. I’d say that a hobby is any unpaid activity you do for fun or enjoyment (e.g. sports, reading, making things, various games) or that you spend more time on than you would otherwise because you enjoy it (e.g. I cook because we need to eat, others may consider cooking a hobby), and a craft is a creative activity that you may or may not be paid for where you make something. However, there are various oddties. e.g. I don’t consider cooking a craft, even though you are making something. Unless you were baking and then decorating a cake – that might be a craft. And painting miniatures (e.g. WH40k) or painting a canvas I wouldn’t call a craft, but maybe I’d call it a craft if you painted designs on a chest of drawers. I think for me maybe crafts have to combine practicality with creativity? And creativity by itself is just art? Hobby just means “regular leisure activity” though.

  9. This is purely my own ways of thinking about the words. Most of the things on the survey could (in my mind) qualify as both. My internal definition is that a hobby is something done primarily for enjoyment, requiring a substantial amount of time, and often money, to pursue the interest. A craft is an activity that creates (or transforms) a thing. Model building, doll house building, (and isn’t a dollhouse a model?), cooking, and beer making all seem to me to be both hobbies and crafts. Golf, skeet shooting, hiking, birdwatching and skydiving are hobbies but I don’t think they are crafts. I know men and women who do all of those things, and to me the idea that men have hobbies and women do crafts doesn’t seem reasonable. A hobby is not primarily done for profit, but sometimes there may be a profit. A craft is a craft whether it’s done only on rainy Sunday afternoons or all week to earn a living.

  10. I generally consider crafts to be a type or subset of hobby, but if required to divide the two into distinct rather than overlapping categories, the distinction would be this: If it involves making something (ie, you end up with a tangible end product), it is a craft, whereas if it is simply an activity, it is a hobby. For instance, dancing, although female-coded, would be a hobby, because there is no tangible end result (even though it is certainly a creative and artistic endeavor).

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