I am having fun getting back into an old favorite passtime: jigsaw puzzles. My four-year-old is pretty good with puzzles and becoming bored with the twenty or fifty-piece ones she can do alone and even our small collection of 100-piece puzzles she still needs help with. She wants to do "the BIG puzzles" with me. I have a small collection, some of them I've had since I was a kid myself.
I'm culling some out now and hoping to eventually acquire new ones. I want to keep puzzles I'll enjoy doing again and again (similar to how I keep books I want to re-read) and I've come to realize I am particular about my puzzles, what kind of challenge I like, and what makes them enjoyable or frustrating. I like a certain piece size and number- less than 500 and it's not challenging enough, more than 1500 and it starts to feel tedious. I don't like puzzles with uniform cuts (all pieces having two 'bumps' and two 'holes' and they go in straight rows like a grid) but ones that have unique, funny shapes that you can eyeball and try to match from the jumble on the table.
I'm also particular about the kind of picture- I want something that is striking or pretty to look at when it's done and something that has a variety of visual textures and colors which makes it fun to put together. So even though I love M.C. Escher's work, I found the puzzle of his House of Stairs incredible frustrating to assemble and I don't think I'll ever work that one again! I also don't like them so tiny and minute in detail it's like a find-the-hidden-object game. The one exception so far is a 1500 piece jigsaw I have of the painting Proverbidioms by T. E. Breitenbach. My great-aunt had a print of this on her wall and I remember as a kid always staring at it, trying to figure out what sayings all the images represented. I was delighted to find it as a puzzle. My ten-year-old enjoyed helping me put this one together a few years ago, and we tried again to identify all the sayings (and failed). It took us a long time, too.
So. I'm thinking of maybe joining a puzzle swap site, if I don't just donated my unwanted puzzles. I have a number of puzzles on my shelf that are now in the "iffy" category- not sure if I want to keep them or not. I decided to work them each again, to make a decision. It's also a fun activity my youngest enjoys doing together. I've done them all before, so to make it a bit more challenging I deterred from my normal strategy, which usually is: make the boarder, then sift out pieces that have the greatest constrast, or the most interest (faces in particular) and work out from there going from specifics to general. Thus the background usually gets done last. This time I decided to do it backwards. I still made the boarder first, but then deliberately worked the background, going general to specific. It was still fun, and made putting this puzzle together take about a week (done in many short sittings) rather than just a few days.
I also had fun taking photos of the assembly stages (click on the first image to see larger and use arrows to skip through them):
I've hung this puzzle up on my four-year-old's wall, just like I once did with her older sister. She was delighted. We'll be starting another BIG puzzle soon. I might keep sharing pics- it's fun to do and I thought you might be interested in occasionally seeing something other than books here.