Sew Queer is a series exploring the intersections of sewing and queer identity. To participate, use the hashtag #sewqueer or visit @sewqueer on instagram.
Gender and sexual identity, like sewing, are acts of continual making. Both exist in the place where the practical and the theoretical meet, where the things we do rub up against the expectations of the world, where we build on and play with established understandings of what bodies are and mean. Both offer historical lineages and communities, both allow us to care for ourselves and make connections with others. Both are projects to connect the felt with the seen, to bring into being images of ourselves that connect with the way w feel in our bodies, the way our souls (spirits, beings) inhabit our flesh and bones and sinews. Both are intimately individual and joyously communal.
Sewing, for me, is not just an instrument or a hobby but a way of knowing, a method of care, and a process for imagining possibly ways of being. Sewing as a practice, therefore, fits into my larger project of developing the kind of queer life I want to live: how I want to be seen, the relationships I want to nourish, the knowledge I want to have of myself.
I started thinking up this series some weeks ago, at a moment of slight crisis in my sewing practice. Through the summer, I’d been making a lot of dresses, and in planning out my makes for the autumn, I found myself picking up then setting aside things like trousers, button-front shirts, and blazers. Too finicky, too hard to fit, too many tailoring skills required, I reasoned. It wasn’t quite the whole story, though; I yearned for more things dandy, and yet I hesitated to make them. As I started to look at other places in my life where I felt the same hesitancy, the same uncertainty, intersections started to emerge.
I know I’m queer, but there are many other labels that feel up for grabs right now. Though I have, until recently, identified as cisgender and feel a deep connection and solidarity to the historical and political category of woman, I’m also drawn to genderqueerness, of allowing myself more leeway and creativity and potential in the ways my gender identity, embodiment, and presentation line up — or don’t. When it comes to the way I understand my attractions to and relationships with other people, queerness has been at the forefront for a decade, but I’ve also been adding in demisexuality and spinsterhood, working on developing a way of being that is primarily independent. At the same time, I’ve recently been building a loving and nourishing romantic relationship with a dear and very beloved companion, Morgan, based on supporting one another’s independence.
In all of these parts of my life, I feel like I’m pattern hacking: not quite creating anew, but alternately struggling with a lack of available designs and reveling in the process of invention. I’m having fun, but sometimes I wish it were easier, that someone had gone there first, that I could do the work once and not have to adapt and change as time goes on.
So I want to dive into this, this process of creation and self-fashioning, of borrowing from historical models and making them my own, of stitching together connections and communities, in a series of posts, and I hope you’ll join in, too. The more I talk with other queer sewists and makers with this series on my mind, the more I want it to also be a way of building community, a space for connection and conversation. To get us started, we might consider some questions:
- What does it mean to self-fashion? When it feels like there is a great gulf between the ways we want to embody and the ways the world perceives us, how can sewing help us traverse that gulf?
- What does gender look and move and feel like to each of us? How do we transform gender through our stitches?
- How do we understand and experience love as a deliberate act of making? What kinds of relationships can we envision outside of the model of heterosexual monogamy? How does sewing help us engender and sustain relationships of love and community?
Here on my own blog, I’ll focus on my own experiences and makes, but I hope that others will participate, too, on their own blogs and on instagram using the #sewqueer hashtag. Thank you all, and much love to you.