Craft Action TO is the community banner project run by Dyke March Toronto. This project is inspired by “craftivism,” a movement that uses crafting skills to spark social change, and queer and feminist art that similarly politicizes crafting practices and materials. To read more about craftivism, revisit our blog post here! The Dyke March is queer, feminist, and political — the perfect space to explore craftivism.
A dyke-centred crafting circle has been meeting since April to design and create the banner that will lead the 2014 WorldPride Dyke March. The first few sessions were dedicated to learning and sharing skills, and now these beginners and their experienced mentors are on their way to creating an impressive banner. Skill sharing and mentoring is a regular occurrence at the craft circles – beginner and experienced crafters are always welcome!
Adriana Alarcón is the facilitator of Craft Action TO. She says there will be more than one banner, a piece made by just friends, family and allies, and a whole host of other crocheted and knitted accessories that marchers can sport as they march, strut and roll down Yonge Street on Dyke Day. Allies and dykes from around the world are encouraged to participate and can even mail their contributions to:
Craft Action TO
℅ Pride Toronto
14 Dundonald Street
Adriana took some time out of her stitching frenzy to answer some questions about crafting, holding dyke-centred space, and Craft Action TO.
Andi: What attracted you to the project?
Adriana: Actually I thought the project was attracted to me. The word “strut” made me imagine a brigade of Dykes clothed in crocheted and knitted garments that they made by themselves. The posting simply made me envision a group of women in all sorts of colors wearing and carrying creations that they hand-made and maybe I helped them achieve that.
Andi: Why do you think it’s important for CraftAction to be a queer/dyke space?
Adriana: Holding dyke space is a very important concept to me. Creating spaces where we can be ourselves, where we are not the “other”, where we go beyond dykehood, into all sorts of other issues but with a queer context implied. I am part of other groups where there is a mixed queer community and it is also treasured space. Dyke space where our shared experience is that much closer helps us create a bond. It also breaks the isolation and we know that we are there for each-other, that on any day, someone could be feeling alone or “strange” but when we hold space for each other, we create a respite and a just a cool place to be ourselves.
Andi: What’s different about a queer/dyke craft circle, as opposed to any other craft circle?
Adriana: In other spaces, I’ve experienced people have a need for every object that people make to have a purpose. It’s either for sale or a gift. It has to be a useful thing like a hat or a scarf. In my family spaces, there’s a craft circle in honour of the next bride or newborn. In this dyke space, we begin by making work for the sake of learning. We keep everything and these “bits” are just as important as the finished pieces of more skilled crafters. There’s skill sharing and a common goal. It is very relaxed. There was purposely very little direction at first, but now themes are emerging and we are each stitching what we want to express.
Andi: What has the experience been like so far for you? What kinds of feedback are you getting from participants and others?
Adriana: The feedback is actually visible in the Facebook group. I feel a really close sense of community through the week as people have taken materials home and are posting their progress and making connections. People who had never stitched before are now creating complicated flower patterns and have contributed an entire rainbow piece that measures 8 feet square. These are participants that were brand new to yarn work, and are now teaching others. The experience is very special to me. I feel that I am bringing my skills to the table and helping others find their own talent. In one instance I taught a young girl how to knit, and she then taught, mentored, her mother. That is two generations impacted in the span of a couple of weeks. I have heard intimate conversations take place, and lots of laughter. Stitching brings out sometimes emotional memories of past attempts at learning. So, we encourge crafters to Be Gentle with Themselves and Their Own Learning Curve. This is a method I use to remind learners that although you might not quite get it in the first try, you will have infinite other chances to do so.
Andi: What’s the connection between crafting and queers and queerness? What’s your connection to crafting?
Adriana: My connection to crafting began in the context of my family. My grandmother taught me how to knit. mother taught me everything else. Both at a very young age. I had infinite patience and wasn’t an outdoors kid. My mother was pregnant and she crocheted a 20 piece set of diaper covers, bibs, etc. for the baby. I watched and helped her keep her spot. I think I was about eight years old. Later on, while living with my paternal grandmother, she taught me knitting. I think this is more connected to the immigration story in my family than my queerness. My mother and baby brother had moved to Canada, my sister and I went to live with my grandma. This was very trying times. I took up knitting and when I look back, I think knitting and spending time in my grandma’s study was the safest place for me to spend my time.
The connection between my queerness and my crafting I guess is visible in the stitching of one red vest I wear, which is the first piece I finished in my early 20s. I was very stressed, so the stitches were very tight. This infuriated me since I remembered being able to have a looser tension when I was younger, so the stitches got even tighter. This was me, picking it back up, on my own, to see if I could still remember something I used to love to do as a kid, but I dropped it again due to this frustration. This was my early “coming out” years, and that time I couldn’t access my grandmother for advise… I don’t know, after a while, I kept trying and the tension eased up. One night I stayed up all night and finished the vest in one go. Since then I’ve always had pride in my pieces and I know that I can unravel things if they are not going right. I can start over, I can take a break, I can fix the dropped stitches, there’s never any reason to give it up completely. It’s just part of who I am.
To be part of the Action, join the group “Craft Action TO” on Facebook, come out to a craft circle, or send us your contribution!
Facebook: DykeMarch Toronto