People stuck at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for interesting things to do have, in many cases, turned to jigsaw puzzles, both nationally and in the Quad-Cities.
"Year-to-date, we've sold five-and-a-half times more puzzles than in the last several years," Amy Trimble, owner of WaterMark Corners, a gifts and stationary store in Moline, said in an email. "Jigsaw puzzles have been a huge seller for us this year.
"The demand for them started as soon as everything started shutting down back in March," she said. "Our biggest challenge has been keeping them in stock. The manufacturers literally cannot produce them fast enough to keep up with demand.
"We've added several new puzzle vendors the last couple of months to ensure we'll have stock through Christmas and into the heavy winter months ahead."
Ann Kramer, owner of Hallmark stores in Bettendorf and East Moline, agrees.
The big uptick started right away in March, and it has continued, she said. "January, February ... people are still going to be in."
Working on puzzles is something families can do together. And to encourage that, there's even a kind that has different-sized pieces within the same puzzle that makes it easier for children to participate, Kramer said. This also can be helpful for people with dexterity issues, possibly caused by arthritis.
Overall, puzzles of 500 to 1,000 pieces are most popular, Trimble and Kramer agreed.
The lure of puzzles is well-known to Valerie Baker, of Moline, who has been working puzzles since she was a child. And she so enjoys them as an adult that she and her husband Mike purposely stay home on New Year's Eve to work on a 3,000 piece puzzle.
Baker has a puzzle-in-progress laid out on a table in her home at all times, covered with cardboard so her cats don't jump up and take it apart.
"There's a sense of accomplishment when you're done, and they look pretty," she said of why she enjoys them so much.
And puzzling isn't just about sitting down alone, and doing nothing else. Usually the television will be on for some background noise, or, pre-COVID, Baker would invite friends over to work on a puzzle together.
People who love the picture of the puzzle have the option of gluing and framing it. Some families have entire walls covered with framed puzzles that they did together over holidays or other special times.
Baker doesn't do that, though. After savoring her accomplishment, she deconstructs her work, puts the pieces back in their box and donates it to a second-hand store or to passes it around to people in her puzzle circle, including her mother and sister.
The most difficult puzzle she ever did was circular. "Every piece was a different shape," she said. "It was pretty miserable to do."