Sew Queer: An introduction

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.

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21 thoughts on “Sew Queer: An introduction

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  1. This is so exciting to me because it bridges a body of ideas I was spending a lot of time thinking about ~10 years ago (self-fashioning through clothes-making, and the narrative and identity possibilities inherent in that act) and a body of ideas I spend a lot of time thinking about now (modeling of non-standard relationships, gender and sexuality). I will follow this project with interest! And who knows, now that I’m about to spend less time commuting, maybe I’ll even be able to participate.

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    1. Thank you! It’s definitely informed by conversations you and I have been a part of at various times over the past few years around relationships and ways of self-fashioning and particularly around what it means to build a creative life. So, obviously, I would be very happy to read your contributions and continue to hear your thoughts!

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  2. Hi Shannon – this is a facinating idea. I’m happy to read that you’re exploring making the kind of clothes you want to wear, and taking on those fitting challenges. Isn’t it amazing what we can do / feel / think / be when we begin to cast off the limitations we impose upon ourselves?
    I too will be following this with interest 🙂

    Krista

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  3. I am thrilled! I’m a queer fat fem disabled 61 yr old BullDyke. Yes, Virginia, fems can be BullDykes. See my toolbelr, my old motorcycle, and hear my big mouth ROAR.

    I’m also a 40+ years Queer Quilter, along with Queer crafter, seamstress, knitter, crocheter (love doing thread lace crochet with those teeny tiny hooks), woodworker, baker (esp of killer pies), and gardener.

    But Queer Textilers, I’m sooooooo excited you’re starting a place for us!!! Brava my dear, you are rockin’ and stylin’ it!

    Thank you so totally very much.

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  4. I’m really excited to read more from you and others participating in this project. Sewing has always been a really important part of self-expression for me and as I continue to discover who I am in different phases of my life, sewing is a major part of it. I’ve certainly used sewing to help explore my own gender expression. As a pretty much cis- hetero- woman I don’t think it’s my place to contribute to this project, but it certainly overlaps with my own explorations so I’m very interested to hear what others share.

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    1. So glad to have you here! It’s so important to me that anyone who identifies under the queer umbrella feels safe to participate, and it’s also important for the sewing community as a whole to see the conversation going on. So there’s certainly a place for you, at least to listen.

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  5. SO excited for this- thank you for making it happen. I id as bi more than queer, but I hope I can be part of this project. I’ve really struggled to find and connect with other lgbtqia+ sewists.

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    1. Hi Claire! You are ABSOLUTELY welcome! I use #sewqueer because queer is my own identifier and preferred umbrella term, but the project is open to people who sew/stitch and fall under the broad LGBTQIA+ umbrella in any way. I hope to see you around!

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  6. Every day is a school day they say. I’m CIS ( had to look it up to check) with a life long interest in women’s social history and sexuality. My daughter is teaching me all she can. I think she’s cis too but open to all gender relationships having dated trans and boys but has sleepovers with an androgynous girl.. My son is intersex (xxy) presenting as male. Zede, I love your podcasts, they accompany me to bed most nights.

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