Making queer love kit index

Making Queer Love: A Kit of Odds and Ends

Melissa Rogers
University of Maryland

Critical Essay: Making (Queer) Love

"Making Queer Love" pays homage to the work of queer feminist crafters and artists, some of whom are well-known in contemporary art worlds and some of whom are amateurs, by sending them a kit for making an embroidered sampler of queer words and phrases. "A Kit of Odds and Ends," composed of an assortment of thrift store craft materials and accompanied by a love letter in the form of a zine, is a gift from one queer feminist to another, a token of solidarity and appreciation. It is an invitation to participate in a collective crafting practice by documenting the process of completing one of the sampler designs and/or passing along the kit to another crafter, an unpredictable mode of circulation that performs a gesture of public intimacy. Intended for friends of mine as well as people that I do not personally know, the kit attempts to stitch together disparate social worlds and to trace networks of possibly sustained, possibly ephemeral collaboration. What shared projects and forms of affiliation might emerge from such an exchange?

This essay takes a speculative tone in an attempt to suggest, without fixing or over-determining, some of the possible outcomes of the project of "Making Queer Love." Documenting the construction of a kit for executable culture requires not only new forms of publication and display, but also new kinds of description and experimentation with hybrid writing genres. Artistic production does not always follow the timeline of scholarly or open-access online publishing; even an online publication cannot fully capture the layered, multiple meanings and effects that are generated as a participatory project unfolds over time. As of this writing, the kit is still in the prototype stage and has not been distributed to all of the queer feminist crafters on my growing list, only to a select few friends for trial and testing. This means that I sometimes write about the kit in the future tense, sometimes in the present or the past, as the project does not have a set endpoint; it may never be "finished."

Because "A Kit of Odds and Ends" relies on the availability of unique materials as well as my own funds, its ongoing distribution will occur on a staggered time frame that will also result in overlapping stages of participation. The love letter included in the kit's zine, and reproduced in digital form on the Hyperrhiz site, explains the project and encourages each crafter to add materials to the kit before sending it to another crafter that they admire, or to complete one of the sampler designs before giving it to someone else to continue. Whether or not crafters actually finish the patterns in the kit is ultimately less important to me than the act of showing care and affection for the project of queer craft. Even if, upon being circulated, depleted, and supplemented, the contents of the kit become unrecognizable to me as its originator, or become somehow useless to the project of cross-stitch (i.e., through the inclusion of materials that were never intended for embroidery), "A Kit of Odds and Ends" would not have failed to accomplish its purpose: a queering of the typical craft kit by scrambling its logics of finite production and consumption. For "Making Queer Love" to have a life of its own beyond the crafters that I can identify, for anyone to want to assemble and distribute their own kit of odds and ends, would be the best possible result of such a project. I am therefore less interested in this project's "success" on any terms that I could try to establish, than in the ways it might spectacularly fail, as queer and feminist projects often do.

"Making Queer Love" is intended as a collective gift to queer and feminist crafters with whose work I began to familiarize myself over several years of dissertation research on contemporary fiber art and craft theory. I identified these artists through recent publications such as Elissa Auther's String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art (2010), Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art (2011), print and online magazines such as The Brooklyn Rail, Art Practical, and Fiber Art Now, as well as queer theoretical texts that explore the relationships between craft and queerness such as Ann Cvetkovich's Depression (2012), and Elizabeth Freeman's Time Binds (2010). Additionally, I found artists through timely gallery exhibitions, most notably the 2013 "Queer Objectivity" show at the University of Maryland's Stamp Gallery, curated by Kris Grey, and the 2014 "Queer Threads: Crafting Identity and Community" show at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, curated by John Chaich.

Alongside my formal research, I also keep track of friends and acquaintances that I know are crafters or who have shared stories with me about learning to craft. By sending the kit to both friends and strangers who craft, I attempt to stitch together a patchwork of social worlds that may have crafting in common, but that otherwise may never come into contact with one another. I also align myself with communities of practice, such as fandoms and other DIY knowledge producers, that challenge hierarchies between experts, professionals, and amateurs. Many of these crafters self-identify publically as feminist, queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans, or alternatively, write in public venues about art and scholarship by queer feminists or about queer feminist issues; one does not have to personally identify as feminist, queer, or a crafter, however, in order to be part of the project or to show solidarity with its goals. A partial (and growing) list of crafters and feminist queer theorists who inspired the project, and to whom I dedicate it, consists of: Indira Allegra, Elissa Auther, Micha Cárdenas, Ann Cvetkovich, Josh Faught, Aubrey Longley-Cook, Allyson Mitchell, John Paradiso, Emmett Ramstad, LJ Roberts, Sheila Pepe, and Jeanne Vaccaro. Some of these artists and scholars already know one another, have collaborated in the past, or travel in the same circles, but they do not represent a singular or homogenous community of queer feminist craft practitioners. I included this list in the zine accompanying the kit so that participants might seek out and support these artist-theorists' work.

"Making Queer Love" exists to honor fiber and textile artists who use craft's materials and methodologies to document queer social worlds past and present, and who challenge craft's historically subordinate position to "fine art." Along with queer theorists who sometimes collaborate in interpreting their work for larger audiences, these crafters are rethinking and reclaiming the marginality of "low," domestic feminine crafts such as knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing, and embroidery, using these techniques to make interventions in both the white cube of the art gallery and public spaces. They queer craft by exposing how its hidden, painstaking labor mediates social relationships as well as collective ways of feeling and knowing. LJ Roberts, for example, argues that "the feminist act of intergenerational skill sharing" is "an act of love," a statement that contextualizes craft not as a tool for inculcating in women appropriate feminine behavior or housewifely duty, but rather as a form of connection, pleasure, and creative exchange that is not channeled into heteronormative relationships. Similarly, in dialogue with Roberts, Sheila Pepe claims that she "maintain[s] a public identity as lesbian, feminist, and textile user as a way to persistently point to the political otherness of people and taste.... I'm working against purity and for equal access." Pepe uses craft to challenge social distinctions around "good taste" that not only maintain a hierarchy of value between art and craft, but also perpetuate othering and produce political and economic disempowerment. For Pepe and Roberts, craft can provide a counterpoint to the multiple kinds of violence and erasure enacted by normative life.

Building on the work of crafters who are shaping their own form of queer theory, "A Kit of Odds and Ends" also draws from academic queer theorists and feminists who use craft to think about modes of knowledge production that are based in the visual and sculptural arts, performance, and multimedia praxis. Most notable among these for my purposes is Ann Cvetkovich, who turns to queer feminist craft traditions in her most recent book, Depression: A Public Feeling (2012), in order to think through practices of everyday life that can be sustaining in the midst of the continual failure of mainstream politics to adequately address economic, racial, gendered, and sexual injustices. As Cvetkovich argues, "Engaged in a deep dialogue with women's culture through forms of practice that perform thinking by doing, crafting self-consciously questions what constitutes feminism and what constitutes the political". Cvetkovich and her colleagues in the Public Feelings collective, a multi-institutional humanities "feel tank" or working group, seek to reconceptualize notions of agency in response to what they call political depression. Through feeling, the group reworks the dualisms "public/private" and "political/personal," which have long been generative sites of contention in feminist and queer theories. The collective's projects show not only that feelings are already "public" in the sense of being distributed amongst shared social worlds, but also that the making public of feelings like depression can be a political exercise in itself. The Public Feelings collective uses politicized feelings as the foundation for queer counterpublic spaces that bridge theory and practice in creative ways, making room for feelings that many would consider useless for political engagement.

"Public feelings" provides a useful formulation for thinking about how collective material and affective practices make queer worlds. While not officially affiliated with the Public Feelings collective, "Making Queer Love" is a public feelings project in that it creates space for the expression of love, care, admiration, and affection for the work of queer feminist crafters. Such a project recognizes that the embodied labor of crafting is not merely decorative, but constitutes the slow and necessary work of bringing habitable worlds into being for those whose lives and loves are not recognized as beautiful or important. "Making Queer Love" attempts to craft what Cvetkovich calls a "utopia of ordinary habit": a set of practices and "modes of attention" that remain hopeful about the possibility of new worlds even as they exist within spaces of negativity and failure. Cvetkovich argues that everyday domestic activities such as crafting, when intentionally practiced, "can remake the affective cultures of nuclear family life, consumerism, mass media, and neoliberal culture" while remaining attuned to political exhaustion. As a publicly circulating project for the construction of social worlds based in friendship, solidarity, and unusual intimacies, the kit demonstrates that making queer love is itself a craft that we might learn to habitually practice. In this way, completing a sampler pattern and giving the kit to someone else is a public gesture of lovemaking to queer feminist crafters.

Lovemaking offers a slippery and poetic language for describing craft's queer projects, where lovemaking and "sex" or sexual practices are not coextensive. In addition to sexual practice, lovemaking can also encompass flirtation, the giving of gifts, and other kinds of wooing or seduction that may result in the temporary or enduring imbrication of social worlds in some way, if not in sex itself. I use lovemaking to refer to a whole set of intimate practices that include affective orientations, sensory relations, and material ways of connecting with others that, when combined and repeated, can amount to a project: a way of making something happen, even if that "something" cannot be fully known ahead of time. Thinking about lovemaking as a project in much the same way that the execution of a craft kit is a project draws attention to making love as a kind of labor that requires the investment of energy, time, and material resources. The project of lovemaking, like any craft project, also demands a persistent encounter with failure; experiencing the constant threat that one's love will not be reciprocated, fear of making mistakes, anxiety that one is not "good enough" or deserving of another's love. To conceptualize lovemaking as a laborious project haunted by failure is to try to pry "love" from the grip of heteronormative romantic life, while also acknowledging that the concept's meanings are fraught with and animated by capital.

My title, "Making Queer Love," evokes not only forms of queer lovemaking or making love queerly, but also iterative acts of making love queer. "Love," like most things deeply embedded in capitalist life, cannot be queered once and for all. Queering love will never be a finished project because it requires us to return again and again to the ways that hetero-romance, the monogamous married couple form, and reproductive futurity attempt to capture and contain love's excessive meanings. Not giving up on the political necessity of love requires us to pay attention to the ways that heteronormativity produces some kinds of love as deviant, pathological, or freakish. Like queer lovers, crafters are also quite accustomed to the repetitive "again and again" of acts of making; "not giving up" is a familiar practice for them. If the half dozen or more unfinished craft projects hidden in my closets are any indicator, crafters know how failure feels: perpetual reminders of the inevitability of making mistakes despite knowing how to do something, being "stuck" or unable to keep going, nagging guilt, frustration, disappointment. Not unlike queer feminist scholars and activists, crafters are sometimes forced to accept the fact that not all projects can or will ever be complete, at least not on our terms alone. Craft practices—the practice of continuing to care about a project and the practice of failure, in addition to the practice of specific techniques such as embroidery—therefore offer useful approaches for sticking with the ongoing and conjoined projects of queer lovemaking and making love queer. "A Kit of Odds and Ends" provides a series of sampler designs for experimenting with lovemaking as a practice for putting together queer feminist worlds with the understanding that though it may always already be an overambitious project, it is nevertheless worth undertaking.

I make love to queer feminist crafters, many of whom I have never met, by including a love letter in the kit's instructions. These take the shape of a short zine with patterns for creating a sampler of queer words and phrases, words that historically have produced intense feeling, ambivalence, and conflict, like the word "queer" itself. The letter, addressed collectively to queer feminist crafters of all kinds, professes my admiration for these individuals' skills with various fiber craft techniques, and shows my indebtedness to them as a self-taught amateur crafter and queer feminist. A declaration of love distributed by mail and posted for anyone to read on the Hyperrhiz site, the letter is a way of making public my feelings, as well as a public making of a capacious world that can loosely hold together a collection of people, objects, and ideas. By citing both queer theoretical texts as well as some of these artists' own writing about their work, the love letter is a manifesto for the project of queering craft and an act of knowledge production that constructs a patchwork speculative feminist genealogy. It argues that making love to pieced-together histories of queer feminist craft—caring for them in the face of erasure and continuing to honor them through everyday use—is a necessary political project that can make livable worlds possible. Conceptualizing craft as a deeply materialist, bricoleur praxis that is as theoretical as it is functional and aesthetic, "Making Queer Love" revels in the rich materiality of queer cultural production, which, as José Muñoz points out, is so often ephemeral. The letter thus explains the project as one that seeks to explore ways of knowing that are based in feeling, sensation, and touch, modes of connection that use our sometimes strange or surprising relationships with craft objects and materials in the making of social worlds.

Understanding queer feminist crafting as a lovemaking project acknowledges that craft practices have erotic potential. That is, practicing craft can release or channel creative energies that actually reshape the materiality of our worlds, and that mediate our relationships with one another in the form of gifts and art objects. In thinking about craft as a set of erotic practices, I work from Audre Lorde's reclaiming of the erotic as "a source of power and information", "an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire". Lorde challenges the reduction of erotic power to the purely sexual or pornographic, describing it as "our most profoundly creative source" that, if recognized and explored, "can give us the energy to pursue genuine change within our world". Tapping into the erotic's creative potential involves "sharing deep feeling" in ways that facilitate working together across difference, connecting embodied feelings to self-knowledge and to the experience of social life. In Lorde's figuration, the erotic can be experienced in dancing, writing a poem, or painting a fence as well as in intimacy shared between women. I argue that craft, whether practiced, admired, or given as a gift, is also one such erotic source, enabling the remediation of feeling into texture, color, and material form. "Making Queer Love" requires the participant to pay attention to the kinds of erotic feelings that craft practices cultivate in the making of gifts for queer feminists with "A Kit of Odds and Ends." The kit grapples with crafting as a queer and feminist activity by using erotic energy to recalibrate feeling through craft's sensory practices, offering ways of thinking about how creative labor is embodied and performed.

Key questions that "Making Queer Love" poses to its participants are: What kinds of queer possibilities might emerge from becoming attuned to the erotics of crafting? How might crafting, as a practice of cultural production, also produce modes of knowing or relating to the self and others? The material labor of working through "A Kit of Odds and Ends"—learning to cross-stitch; manipulating embroidery hoop, needle, and floss; reading a pattern; adding materials to the kit and sending it to another crafter—is simultaneously the affective labor of persistence, concentration and distraction, frustration, curiosity, pleasure, love, care, anxiety, confidence, and habit. The kit directs the work of these ordinary affects, as Kathleen Stewart calls them, into a public feelings project that is affirming of queerness and that attempts to create connections amongst different forms of queer identification through collectively produced samplers of queer phrases. Those who work on a project from the kit, or offer the kit as a gift to a friend or lover, labor to extend queer feminist worlds, stitching them together with the repeated sensual practices of embroidery: the punch of the needle through fabric or accidentally through skin, the patient untangling of a knot or snag, the adjustment of the hoop's screws, the tilt of the body toward light, the squinting of the eyes and the ache in the wrists. "Making Queer Love" creates an uneven spatial and temporal topography of queer feminist projects, an erratic technique that is neither neat nor meticulously planned.

The instructions for "A Kit of Odds and Ends" encourage the use of any and all materials, tools, and techniques that are readily available to recipients, inviting them to adopt a tactical relationship to the media of the everyday world around them. The instructions suggest that participants visit the thrift store or go through their stashes of craft supplies to find materials with which to replenish the kit before sending it to another crafter, becoming a bricoleur in search of gifts for queer feminists. Whereas commercial kits rarely offer more information about the source of their materials than a serial number and the country in which their factory is located, if that, the use of thrift store materials in a kit whose components would usually be new makes us think about how and why material things end up where they do.

Many of the crafters to whom I dedicate the project, such as Allyson Mitchell, Aubrey Longley-Cook, and John Paradiso, already plunder thrift stores as part of their bricoleur practice. As Cvetkovich writes of Mitchell, for example, "Collecting lost objects that others left behind to be thrown away or sold for cheap, and collecting in massive quantities that reveal consumption's popular trends, she creates new worlds out of discarded ones." Sheila Pepe similarly describes her craft practice as one of constructing handmade assemblages that were "hybrids of objects and ephemera" like rubber bands knitted together by hand, multimedia "things" that she refers to as her "family." By engaging in and promulgating these crafters' practice, one with which I am intimately familiar as a crafter from a working-class background who often had to "make do" with what was available, "Making Queer Love" attempts to think about how queers make sense of experiences of ephemerality, turning what normative aesthetic sensibilities label "junk" into ways of building social worlds.

Figure 1: Photo credit Melissa Rogers.

In total, all of the materials to prototype "A Kit of Odds and Ends" cost me between $30 and $50, a cost that will be divided amongst multiple kits, so that an individual kit might cost me around $10 or less to produce (not including shipping). Wooden embroidery hoops in many sizes were perhaps the cheapest and most abundant items available at around 99 cents each or less (Figure 1); new Aida cloth in usable sizes was the hardest to come by but not necessarily expensive, as it can be found in unopened or unfinished donated cross-stitch kits. I supplemented the stash of supplies for the kits with craft materials that were already in my possession, most of which I got secondhand. Acquiring or "inheriting" a cache of materials through the thrift store or an exchange with another crafter can make possible new realms of previously unimaginable projects. For instance, I stumbled upon a large plastic container full of meticulously organized cards of embroidery floss as well as decorative wire flowers, lace trim, and ribbon, which provided most of the floss for the kit (Figure 2); I also had access to a beat-up Ziploc bag of tangled floss skeins that my domestic partner had been given by someone else long ago (Figure 3).

Figure 2: Photo credit Melissa Rogers.
Figure 3: Photo credit Melissa Rogers.

 "A Kit of Odds and Ends" was assembled from materials purchased at the Value Village chain thrift store in Adelphi, Maryland, over approximately six trips in a six-month period. This was the closest store of its kind near me, and the frequent turnover of its inventory meant that some trips yielded incredible finds and others, nothing. To the northeast of Washington, D.C., sandwiched between the largely white suburbs of Takoma Park and Silver Spring in Montgomery County, and the predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods of Prince George's County as well as the campus of the University of Maryland, this Value Village offers a small and unpredictable microcosm of interclass, interracial, and intergenerational contact. As part of a national chain that partners with local nonprofits, the proceeds from purchases at this location benefit the National Children's Center. The "arts and crafts" section of the store, a small area against one wall, is clearly one of the many repositories for items that may not fit in any other category of household goods (Figure 4). Other crafters attempting to add to the kit or construct their own from thrift store items will have a similarly hyper-local experience of access to materials, which may require multiple trips to several different locations whose inventories will vary depending on their sources as well as the specific demographics these stores serve. This kind of materials-based process, which demands attention to how it feels to be in the space of the thrift store as a specific embodied subject, is one of the ways that craft connects the affective, the material, and the social through practices of queer feminist bricolage.

Figure 4: Photo credit Melissa Rogers.

A bricoleur craft practice can queer or make strange familiar things, pushing craft to its limits while opening up the material world to play, messiness, deconstruction, and reassembly. Importantly, such a practice invites us to be guided by feelings that we cannot always make sense of in the moment: interest, fascination, curiosity, excitement, surprise, pleasure, affection, disgust, repulsion. Thrift stores, like garage sales, flea markets, and clearance bins, are ideal sites for thinking about how such feelings move us toward or away from certain objects; these places are marked with intense feelings that are not always or only "fun," but bound up in loss, regret, shame, guilt, anxiety, and nostalgia. My goal in sourcing materials for the kit from the thrift store was to dwell in the affective spaces of a bricoleur craft practice, and to recreate, however imperfectly, such spaces for queer crafters by providing them with a kit of strange bits and pieces to which I was attracted: "odds and ends" (Figures 5 and 6).

Figure 5: Photo credit Melissa Rogers.
Figure 6: Photo credit Melissa Rogers.

In order to publically track the circulation and use of the nonstandard materials in "A Kit of Odds and Ends," the instructions ask crafters to post documentation of their process or completed sampler patterns on social media using the hashtags #QueerCraft and #OddsNends in addition to hashtags of their own invention. A participatory practice that will hopefully create a living archive of images, objects, techniques, and people, this form of documentation remediates craft practices that are typically perceived as private, solitary, and domestic, making craft's labor public and collective. While such an inconsistent and fleeting social media practice can never account for the many possible responses to this project in detail, it may still reveal the often slow and painstaking work of the hands that craft's finished products usually obscure. In this queer craft archive, the "digital" labor of the fingers (the digits) touches digital media, becoming data.

As a gift that proffers queer worlds in the making, a gift that "keeps giving" as it is passed from crafter to crafter instead of being used up, "A Kit of Odds and Ends" exceeds the finite values of the commodity form in its distribution and circulation. No two kits contain the same materials for executing the sampler patterns. Each of the objects in the kit has a story, and while not all of those stories can be known or explained, they hint at complex social worlds built around craft practices. "A Kit of Odds and Ends" attempts to breathe new life into these materials by attaching them to queer worlds and projects. How might the kit encourage a queer approach to the materiality of craft practices? What kinds of stories is it possible to tell with an eclectic and imperfect assortment of materials? When ephemeral, unwanted odds and ends are incorporated into craft projects that circulate as part of queer feminist communities of practice, they are reanimated in the creative process of claiming a world whose value was not intended for queers. Crafting gifts with mundane, discarded materials transforms them into aesthetic artifacts with the potential to sensitize us to the existence of heterogeneous worlds in the making, turning the failed promises of consumerism's garbage toward an artful, utopian sociality. It is impossible to say in advance what might emerge from such a project, but my hope is that craft might be queered by using it as a toolkit for dismantling normative worlds. In the process we might more carefully attend to the material and affective labor required of crafting intimacies that are not wedded to heteronormative romance and nuclear kinship. By acknowledging the erotics of craft practice we might start to assemble, from bits and pieces whose origins are multitudinous, a queer feminist materialism that recognizes the pleasure of aesthetic practice as a vital survival tactic for those whose lives are not considered valuable except as expendable surplus.

Rejecting scarcity, "Making Queer Love" embraces abundance: the endless supply of beautiful junk that consumers consign to an elsewhere that doesn't exist, the bountifulness of different kinds of significant otherness, the polymorphous performances of queer and feminist identification that defy capture and explication, the vast quantity of craft techniques with their own histories, practices, and tools. "A Kit of Odds and Ends" queers craft kits by refusing finitude or tidy completion, offering permission instead to linger in the exciting possibilities of freshly begun projects and collaborations, wide-eyed crushes, and flirtations without end. Rather than providing a product or a "thing" that can be finished, it opens up a space to practice making queer feminist love.

I am grateful to Dr. Katie King for the many thought-provoking conversations that helped shape this piece, and to Jarah Moesch for always being willing to think through queerly crafty ideas. I am indebted to Cristina Pérez, Jessica Walker, and Jeff Curran for their astute and insightful feedback on several drafts of this essay, and for their unfailing support. Special thanks to Reed Bonnet for his photos of the kit, and for being such an excellent companion and collaborator.

Works Cited

Auther, Elissa. "He is survived by his longtime companion": Feeling in the Work of Josh Faught." Art Practical, 6.3: "Dimensions: Expanded Measures of Textiles," 26 February 2015. «» Accessed 27 February 2015.

— . String, Felt, Thread: The Hierarchy of Art and Craft in American Art. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Bernstein, Robin. "Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race," Social Text 27.4 (2009) 101: 67-94.

Berlant, Lauren and Michael Warner. "Sex in Public." Critical Inquiry 24.2 (1998): 547-566.

Buszek, Maria Elena, ed. Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

Cvetkovich, Ann. Depression: A Public Feeling. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

Freeman, Elizabeth. Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010.

Halberstam, Judith. The Queer Art of Failure. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011.

Herring, Scott. The Hoarders: Material Deviance in Modern American Culture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014.

—. "Material Deviance: Theorizing Queer Objecthood." Postmodern Culture 21.2 (January 2011).

Holland, Sharon Patricia. The Erotic Life of Racism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012.

Kopytoff, Igor. "The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process," The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, ed. Arjun Appadurai. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Lorde, Audre. "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," Sister Outsider. Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984 (1978): 53-59.

Muñoz, José Esteban. "Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts." Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory 8.2 (1996): 5-16.

Parker, Roszika. The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine. London: The Women's Press, 1984.

Pepe, Sheila. "The Margin You Feel May Not Be Real." The Brooklyn Rail. «» 2 April 2014. Accessed 3 April 2014.

Roberts, LJ. "Craft, Queerness, and Guerilla Tactics: An Extended Maker's Statement," In the Loop: Knitting Now, ed. Jessica Hemmings. London: Black Dog Publishing, 2010.

—. "Put Your Thing Down, Flip It, and Reverse It: Reimagining Craft Identities Using Tactics of Queer Theory." Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art: 243-275.

Roberts, LJ and Sheila Pepe. "Honor our Wrinkles: Fiber, Women, Dykes, and Queers." Art Practical, 6.3: "Dimensions: Expanded Measures of Textiles," 26 February 2015. «» Accessed 27 February 2015.

Stewart, Kathleen. Ordinary Affects. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.


  1. In The Queer Art of Failure (2011), Judith Halberstam argues, "Under certain circumstances, failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world" than success according to heteronormative and capitalist terms (2-3). As she writes, "Failure is something queers do and have always done exceptionally well" (3). "Making Queer Love" is similarly invested in dismantling normative conceptualizations of success in order to emphasize the creative possibilities that failure, as one way of practicing craft, can produce.
  2. LJ Roberts, "Craft, Queerness, and Guerilla Tactics: An Extended Maker's Statement," In the Loop: Knitting Now, ed. Jessica Hemmings (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2010), 113.
  3. Sheila Pepe and LJ Roberts, "Honor our Wrinkles: Fiber, Women, Dykes, and Queers." Art Practical, 6.3: "Dimensions: Expanded Measures of Textiles," 26 February 2015. «» Accessed 27 February 2015.
  4. Depression, 167-168.
  5. In their essay "Sex in Public," Lauren Berlant and Michael Warner define a queer counterpublic as "an indefinitely accessible world conscious of its subordinate relation" (558), "where ‘world,' like ‘public,' differs from community or group because it necessarily includes more people than can be identified, more spaces than can be mapped beyond a few reference points, modes of feeling that can be learned rather than experienced as a birthright" (558). Queer craft can be a counterpublic space in that it represents a shared space of attention and activity that contests craft's subordinate status in relation to art.
  6. Depression, 191.
  7. Depression, 189.
  8. Depression, 193.
  9. Muñoz describes ephemera as a kind of "anti-evidence" that "reformulates and expands our understandings of materiality. linked to alternate modes of textuality and narrativity like memory and performance.... It does not rest on epistemological foundations but is instead interested in following traces, glimmers, residues, and specks of things. It is important to note that ephemera is a mode of proofing and producing arguments often worked by minoritarian culture and criticism makers" (10).
  10. Audre Lorde, "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," Sister Outsider (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984 [1978]), 54.
  11. "Uses of the Erotic," 59.
  12. "Uses of the Erotic," 58.
  13. Continuing to redefine what the erotic might mean remains a collective creative and political project, one that is largely beyond the scope of this essay to describe, but which I take up in my ongoing dissertation on craft as an erotic practice or set of practices useful to the project of queer feminist theorizing. What counts as erotic practice, and how such practices relate (or don't relate) to political activity, are contested questions in feminist and queer studies; drawing lines around "erotics" and "politics" delimits what it is possible to accomplish with queer feminist theoretical frameworks. Most recently, Sharon Patricia Holland has usefully problematized the use of Lorde's erotic in feminist, queer, and critical race theories. Her book, The Erotic Life of Racism (2012), asks, "What would happen if we opened up the erotic to a scene of racist hailing?" (3). In positing erotic practice as a site of quotidian enactments of gendered and racialized desire, her work reaffirms the erotic as a fraught social space, one from which we might craft ethical relations.
  14. Kathleen Stewart, Ordinary Affects, (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007).
  15. Depression, 185.
  16. Pepe, Sheila, "The Margin You Feel May Not Be Real." The Brooklyn Rail. «» 2 April 2014. Accessed 3 April 2014.
  17. Thrift store items, fiber craft materials especially, carry traces of their previous owners. Yarn and fabric tend to be susceptible to fading or staining, easily take on the smells of their environs, and may have wear and tear from being incorporated into projects that take a long time to finish or that travel with the crafter between public and private spaces. Yarn that has been knitted into an unfinished project, for example, will take on the shape of the stitches in a semi-permanent way while also accumulating strands of hair (human and otherwise), the scent of smoke, moisture and mold, or particles of dust and detritus. Due to the sensitivity of these kinds of materials, a complicated apparatus of domestic organization and storage has grown around fiber crafts to keep them clean and sorted, including tubs and cases divided into compartments that sometimes get donated to the thrift store wholesale with a crafter's entire stash.
  18. The imperfections in the materials found at the thrift store, and the evidence of their owners' care or lack thereof, call attention to the fact that all objects have lives of their own spanning their production, use, and disposal, as anthropologists and material culture scholars have long pointed out; see, for example, Arjun Appadurai's edited collection The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), especially Igor Kopytoff's "The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process"; Robin Bernstein's "Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race," Social Text 27.4 (2009) 101: 67-94; and, most recently, Scott Herring's The Hoarders: Material Deviance in Modern American Culture (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2014), which usefully posits "material deviance" as a queer relationship to objects that the medicalization and pathologizing of hoarding disorder seeks to contain in ways that are racialized, gendered, classed, and ableist.

Making queer love kit index