2018 - 2021
Olivia and I started the Queer Sewing Circle when we came back to Moscow from Albuquerque in 2018. It drew on a lot of inspirations from our time away, mainly the wildly transformative courses we took from Amy L. Brandzel (Transgender Studies and Queer/Trans/2-Spirit Migrations) and our experiences at OFFCenter Arts. OFFCenter was right near to the pizza place I was working at, and eventually we wandered in to find this bustling little community arts center! They had freely accessible art supplies for anyone who came in, and a gallery space for people to sell art. They catered especially to folks experiencing homelessness or other marginalized positions that make access to art spaces much more difficult. I spent a week or so walking over in the early morning and learning how to sew on a community machine. I made Olivia and I matching Kiki's Delivery Service costumes for halloween (we were both Kiki, just to be clear.)
So, when we got back to Moscow, we put up some posters and instagram posts, established a listserv, and started meeting weekly in the back room of One World Cafe. There were a few different things we were trying to do. It was a way to meet people and build community. At the time, neither of our crafting skills were especially advanced, so this was a way to set aside two hours a week to learn how to explore and build skills. This was a space where we wanted a free exchange of information. For instance, Mars had been knitting for an incredibly long time and was able to help Olivia when she started expanding her knitting practice. This was also a way to carve out a more capacious queer space in Moscow, which at the time was basically very small on-campus groups or intermittent drag shows. Not to knock these spaces, but it didn't feel like enough.
A little over a year in we figured we could lean more into the skill-sharing aspect by having monthly workshops, each with a topic. The first one was about embroidery (conveniently videographed by me here!) and after that we did darning, beeswax wraps, knitting/crocheting, mending, and sculpey ornaments.
When COVID hit, we migrated to virtual meetings, which worked well, and had the added bonus of opening up the space to folks that had left Moscow. In the warmer, less scary months we had a few outdoor meetings, which were beautiful in their own way.
With moving to Berlin, we decided it was time for the Sewing Circle to end. Even though we'd been doing things remotely for a while, it felt like it was still a place-based project, and it had run it's course anyway. At the last online session we (the few people there) decided to make a QSC afterlife email group, which is currently metamorphasizing into a larger, different thing that Olivia's administrating. I'll update the story when there's more to say :^)
If you want to look at craft things, head over to that zone of the site. Here's a link. A lot of those projects found time to flourish during a sewing circle meeting.