Jigsaw Junkie

I’m a grown-up, and I love jigsaws! I think I may be addicted.

Like most people, when I was a kid, I used to do jigsaws every now and then. Not many, and I wasn’t really that interested in them to be honest, but I didn’t dislike doing them and they passed the time. All these years later, and I can’t recall any of the pictures I recreated.

Jigsaws are usually regarded as that thing that kids do on their own, or with their parents, or that frail pensioners do in the communal area of an old folks’ home. Something to do when it’s raining and there’s nothing on the telly.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that in today’s interconnected, multi-platform, digital landscape, jigsaws are things for which people don’t have any time or patience. Why would you want to sit down to wrangle 1000 pieces of coloured board in order to recreate a picture on a box, when you could be watching Netflix, or posting things on Twitter and Facebook, or playing with the latest phone app?

Why indeed! And yet….jigsaws are incredibly popular.

This Daily Telegraph article from 2013, quotes market research which said that while the toys and games market had fallen 1% in the previous year, the market for “grown-up jigsaws” had increased by 11%!

My own, “grown-up” jigsaw itch, started to manifest itself a few years ago via (of all things), Doctor Who!

Following the return of the TV series in 2005, the official Doctor Who website began including all sorts of fun and games, based on the characters and episodes. Amongst the numerous quizzes, spot-the-difference puzzles, action and other games, were also….some jigsaws!

For most of the jigsaws, when one was completed, the answer to a question or a line of dialogue, or episode fact, would be revealed as a reward.

However what I really liked about these virtual jigsaws, was the way in which the 50 or so pieces were mixed up at the start, meaning that you had to put effort into sorting the pieces first, just like a real jigsaw. The difficulty level of some of the puzzles could be quite high too. It took time. It was absorbing. Unlike with a physical jigsaw though, if you placed a virtual piece in the correct place, it would shimmer and there’d be a satisfying ‘click’ noise…

I realised that I was spending a lot of time doing these virtual jigsaws and even sought out other ones elsewhere online. So, naturally, I began to think about getting a real jigsaw puzzle to do. However, I worried about practicalities such as: Where would I keep it? Do I really have the time to spare? What if there are missing pieces? What would I do with it once it’s done?

But the itch wouldn’t go away….

I have a full time job and I’m married but we don’t have kids or pets, so I have more free time to myself than I might otherwise. I am of course interested in other things too, for instance, I read a lot; I listen to music, podcasts and audiobooks; I run; I draw; I cycle; I watch a lot of TV – but, there are other times when I crave something else in which I can just absorb myself but also be doing something.

It got to the point where I’d be in a charity shop or at a bric-a-brac stall and notice the jigsaws for sale. Many’s the time I’ve come very close to buying jigsaws of railway scenes or flower displays. But I resisted.

Then… one day… I scratched my itch.

About a year ago, I ordered my first 1000 piece jigsaw via Amazon. Pretty much at random, I selected a jigsaw from a company called Jumbo which has a brand called “Wasgij” (“jigsaw” backwards if you hadn’t realised). It was only once it had arrived that I realised that the picture I was creating, wasn’t the one on the box lid. Instead, the picture on the box (for a puzzle called “Bake Off”), was a cartoon of some people reacting in horror to something unseen. The point of the puzzle (and part of the “Wasgij” brand USP), was to create the reverse angle, and reveal what it was the characters were seeing! There are clues on the box to help but part of the fun of this type of puzzle is to really use your imagination as you guess at what each fragment of the picture could represent – is it part of someone’s face? Could it be part of an animal, if so, which one? Gradually (and literally), piece by piece, the scene takes shape before you.

I laid out the pieces on our dining room table and, over the course of some evenings and time at weekends, I completed it. Once finished, I immediately ordered another jigsaw. And then another….and another…

I’ve now completed 8 of them (picture doesn’t include the one I’ve just finished)!


Along the way I bought a jigsaw mat, which has guide lines to match the size of the puzzle, so you know where to place the edge pieces. It also has the practical advantage of allowing you to roll up an unfinished puzzle and move it securely out of the way (which, since I was using the dining room table, meant we could sometimes.. you know… actually use it for having dinner!)

I also bought some sorting trays.


I’m not sure they were really necessary but it did mean I no longer had to forage in our kitchen cupboards to find enough plastic tubs!

I’ve now developed something of a sorting routine:

  • I carefully empty the bag of pieces into the middle of the mat
  • I separate out the edge pieces and create a loose pile of them on the table
  • pieces with words/parts of words, go into a sorting tray compartment
  • pieces with eyes, mouths, hands etc., or clothing, get sorted into another compartment
  • pieces of mainly one colour (e.g: blue) get sorted separately.
  • pieces that don’t fit into any of the above, get sorted separately.
  • Once the pieces are sorted, I start putting the edge together.

I’m sure seasoned jigsaw puzzlers (and that, apparently, includes Her Majesty the Queen), have their own ways of sorting, and probably even have rules about how to go about it properly but, for now, my approach seems to work for me.

Sorting the pieces is, in itself, an absorbing activity, though every now and again I get a pang of impatience because I just want to get the sorting done and start DOING the puzzle!

When I do, finally, get going properly on the puzzle, it becomes a peaceful, absorbing activity. I do most of my jigsaw activities at weekends and I usually listen to audiobooks or podcasts while I figure out what pieces to put where. Also, at weekends, I often munch my breakfast/lunch at the jigsaw table and, in between mouthfuls, I’ll scour the pieces and place them in situ.

There are frustrations of course, for instance:

  • Realising I haven’t found all the edge pieces the first time round (so I have to sort through everything else again to find the missing piece(s))
  • Realising a piece which seemed to fit perfectly fine – is actually in completely the wrong place.
  • Discovering there is an actual missing piece(s)

So far, I’ve twice had missing pieces. The first time, the puzzle was found to have 6 missing pieces on completion. Jumbo don’t supply missing pieces so I had to complain to Amazon (which felt a bit unfair since it was a manufacturing fault). They refunded my money (which I used to buy another puzzle…natch!). The second time was with the latest puzzle I’ve just completed. It has three missing pieces, however this time, I also had three DUPLICATE pieces!! So that was new. I can’t be bothered to complain to Amazon again though.

So far, 2 out of the 8 puzzles I’ve completed have had missing pieces – that’s basically one quarter of the ones I’ve done.

Obviously, I ordered another puzzle on completion of no. 8. So, no. 9 has just arrived! We shall see how that one progresses!

Just as “grown-up” colouring books are all the rage for helping people focus and forget life’s troubles and stress, so it is with jigsaws.

Jigsaws are not just for kids and old people. They’re for everyone!

Make some time for jigsaws in your life. There are no deadlines. It’s not a competition. It takes however much time you can give it, but that time is your time and, during it, you’re focusing on creating something and using your imagination. You’re creating order from chaos!






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