Meet the queer craft club weaving LGBTQ+ connections one stitch at a time

Queer Craft founder Rusty (they/them) smiling in an orange top while holding needlework

The LGBTQ+ community is known for vibrancy and dynamism; made stronger by the diversity of all those who call it home. For most LGBTQ+ people, finding their tribe – and their own place in the rainbow – can be the key to unlocking their best selves, with all the joy and opportunity that brings. This summer, Skittles and PinkNews are shining a light on the groups dedicated to making that a reality.

When Freya first arrived in London five years ago, she felt adrift. Having just moved to a brand new city from Leeds, she was desperate to meet like-minded people and explore her passions. Trying to find a community was a priority, not only to stave off the loneliness but to start carving out a path for her new life.

Finding a home in craft

In her search for connection, Freya discovered Queer Craft, a vibrant collective founded by Rusty in 2021. “As we emerged from lockdown, different spaces weren’t open. I realised that crafting was a great way to bring people together,” says Rusty. With this vision, Queer Craft was born, offering a haven for LGBTQ+ individuals to socialise and express themselves through various crafts.

For Freya, joining Queer Craft felt like coming home. “Within the first few times that I went, I had people that I could talk to outside of Queer Craft,” she recalls. “I made friends that I think I am going to be friends with for a very long time.” Her chosen craft, knitting, has led to a monumental project known affectionately as ‘The Big Blanket,’ a massive pride flag.

Building community through craft

Queer Craft is just one example of the kind of grassroots LGBTQ+ groups Skittles are partnering with PinkNews with to highlight this year. For so many LGBTQ+ people, community is everything. From found family to dedicated queer venues to Pride events, finding spaces dedicated to celebrating your identity can be a lifeline. With their ‘See The Rainbow’ campaign, Skittles are uplifting communities that allow people to be their true, authentic selves. By spotlighting groups dedicated to hobbies, Skittles is aiming to shine a light on the communities within the wider LGBTQ+ community, to emphasise who queer people are rather than just what they represent.

Queer Craft exemplifies the grassroots LGBTQ+ groups highlighted by Skittles and PinkNews in their ‘See The Rainbow’ campaign. For many LGBTQ+ individuals, finding a community is a lifeline. Skittles’ initiative aims to spotlight these vital groups, emphasising the diverse identities within the broader LGBTQ+ spectrum. “You get to meet people and also reconnect with people; see where their craft is going as well as their lives,” says Rusty, noting its appeal to sober or sober-curious individuals. “There’s something quite magical about craft in your hands to replace that drink.”

Queer Craft founder Rusty (left and middle) and group member Freya
Rusty and Freya found their rainbow in Queer Craft. (PinkNews)

A lifeline amidst shrinking spaces

The significance of grassroots groups like Queer Craft has grown as traditional LGBTQ+ venues face closure. Between 2006 and 2022, London saw more than 60% of its LGBTQ+ spaces close due to rising rents and the cost of living crisis. Given that more than 53% of LGBTQ+ people report hiding their identity at work*, these safe havens are essential not only for socialising but also for exploring and affirming gender and sexual identities. Rusty envisions Queer Craft as more than a crafting circle; it’s a space for learning and empowerment.

“The thing that would really help Queer Craft grow is the chance to learn the skills and empower [members] so that they can mend and alter their own clothes, especially for the trans community so that people have the opportunity to make their clothes fit their body and their gender expression in a way that makes their body feel like a home,” they explain. Thanks to a donation of sewing machines from Skittles, this vision is becoming a reality.

Two members of Queer Craft laugh while crafting together
The significance of grassroots groups like Queer Craft has grown as traditional LGBTQ+ venues face closure. (PinkNews)

A call to connect

Four years on from its inception, Queer Craft has become the kind of place that Rusty envisioned. It’s grown from a small meet-up to the kind of club that meets across the city and now has its own dedicated home in an accessible central London location. As well as personal projects, Queer Craft also teams up with experts to offer workshops in everything from mending to macrame.

But aside from giving people the chance to finally finish the half-completed sewing projects that have been sitting on their shelves, Rusty is most proud of the community created by the group. “There have been quite a lot of friendships born through Queer Craft. They go and do their thing and it’s amazing,” they say.

Freya’s gratitude for Queer Craft is boundless. “I’m really thankful to Queer Craft, and I hope that everybody can find a group that helps them as much as mine does.”

Join Queer Craft and be part of a community where creativity and connection thrive. Whether through knitting, embroidery, or simply sharing stories, there’s a place for everyone under the rainbow.

*statistics from Center for American Progress; Human Rights Campaign; Yale School of Public Health

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