Sex & Society » History, Hiv aids, Lgbt: "Stitch and Bitch: Not Your Granny’s Sewing Circle"

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Stitch and Bitch: Not Your Granny’s Sewing Circle

Stitch and Bitch: Not Your Granny’s Sewing Circle
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  S’knit Fit

I wondered: What had happened to these Stitch & Bitch groups? Had they propagated, reseeding themselves into forests of narcissistic altruism as dear and queer as rainbow flags? Or had they died, simply falling in the wake of the men who had organized them?

In researching this question, I was enraged to find the new “Stitch & Bitch” was a cult of young women who met in coffee shops in the U.S. and Europe with no collective purpose other than to knit in public. Their origins, my divas, were unknown to them—not even offered a footnote in history.

In fact, the most documented Stitching & Bitching seemed to center around a legal dispute between two commercial enterprises run by hetero-identified women: Elissa Meyrich, owner of Manhattan-based sewing shop, Sew Fast/Sew Easy, who trademarked “Stitch & Bitch,” and Debbie Stoller, Editor-in-Chief of BUST magazine, whose writings about her NYC “Stitch ’n Bitch” knitting group led to copycat SnB groups forming across the country, and a follow-up series of best-selling books, including Stitch ’n Bitch Nation (2004) and Stitch ’n Bitch Crochet: The Happy Hooker (2006). (Didn’t that belong to someone else, as well?)

Two Queen Bitches plus one trademark equals war. So, who was the “real” originator, and therefore “owner” of the name, “Stitch & Bitch”? As Diane Sawyer so aptly said, "I’m always fascinated by the way memory diffuses fact."

“Neither of you bitches!” I shouted at my computer monitor. The ghost of Steven/Courtney, my favorite drag queen seamstress, was reading over my shoulder. He heartily agreed.

  Remnants of Queer Stitches

According to Stoller, the phrase, “Stitch ’n Bitch” has been in use since World War II.

But shouldn’t these crafty bitches (regardless of spelling) know their history? I thought. Shouldn’t they know that before them, the true glorious mothers of the movement were the sequined, catty, Bette Davis or Cher devotees whose hearts were as large as their teased-up wigs? My angels, whose eyelashes and fingernails were impossibly long but whose lives were too brief, hadn’t even merited a Wikipedia entry in Stitch and Bitch history.


The Names Project Foundation/AIDS Memorial Quilt, Washington, D.C.

Hmmm. Were my Divas pioneers or simply trend-spotting sisters? Regardless of which came first—chicken, egg or chicken-hawk—I see my bespangled ghosts haunting the fringes of the more outrageous groups: the charitable, political, anarchist, and artistic.

Of the 910 groups in 289 locations listed, the Stitch ’n Bitch search engine only showed three gay or queer groups: London’s Queer SnB; Craftiest Queers in Melbourne, Australia; and a group in Saskatchawan describing itself as queer-friendly.

Deep digging through newsletter archives of regional AIDS organizations gave me a flicker of hope that the original (says I) Stitching Bitches may be (not easy to find, but) still out there, stitching away. Check your local LGBTQ newspaper or helpline. See what you can find. Or failing that, release your inner Bitch and start something yourself.

Looking for inspiration? Read on.

  Cream of the Craftivists



I didn’t make the word “Craftivist” up. (Though it’s the sort of word I might make up, isn’t it?) Betsy Greer beat me to it. Highlighting the subversive, revolutionary, and political aspects of knitting, Greer, creator of Craftivism.com, wrote the handbook for this new culture of knitters: Knitting for Good! (Shambhala Press).

Craftivists are craft-activists: socially and politically conscious crafters devoted (or addicted) to charity knitting and knitting as a form of activism and expression. Or even graffiti.

• The group Stitch London presented the London Lion Scarf, a 550-foot scarf knitted by over 150 knitters from 15 different countries, around the necks of the Trafalgar Square Lions in central London. They raised over £2,500 for cancer research.

• Yarn-bombing: Guerrilla knitter, Magda Sayeg, has “tagged” famous spots with her yarn graffiti including the Great Wall of China, the Brooklyn Bridge, and any number of unsuspecting statues and objects. The celebrity, world-crawling Texan craft-artist is the founder of Knitta Please, one of the first guerrilla knitting crews.

  Kinky Needles

It’s only natural that when you spend as much time on anything as I do knitting, you’ll fetishize it a bit.—Jen Stafford, a.k.a. the DomiKNITrix

Not as selfless as charity knitters, but certainly sexier are the new-garde knitters like the DomiKNITrix. Both her book and website demand you “whip your knitting into submission” and give you delightful tips and patterns to make anything from a devil horn hat to an elven wedding dress.

Add oomph to your bags, vest, shirts, or whatever with free patterns of skull and crossbones, Bruce Lee, Andy Kaufman, Che Guevara, Malcolm X, or Rosie the Riveter. Follow Jen Stafford on twitter or youtube tutorials or buy/commission from her Etsy shop.

Naughty Needles Knitting (yes, book and website) is where burlesque dancers go to get their purl on. The home page casts on with how to add a D-ring to your knitting (for collars and dildo harnesses I assume) and is filled with how-tos and pictures of knit bikinis, lingerie, even G-strings and pasties! The book includes animal hats (a pony hood!) for furries.

If you’re more anarchist than exhibitionist, check out The Anticraft (book and website). Subtitled Knitting, Beading and Stitching for the Slightly Sinister, this is the goth-arama and your own stop DIY for skulls on everything. Twisted humor and advice for living outside the box abounds; including but not limited to: recipes for espresso fudge, a homemade coffee liqueur called “Beatnik Breakfast”; a bacon scarf, fun with zombies, chthulu centric crafts, geek toilet paper cozies, cuddly voodoo dolls, and an answer to the questions: “Can you nail Conversation Heart candies hearts to meat? Why or why not?”

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Comments

Deadly Knitshade  

Thanks for the mention. An excellent article. Have shared with our Twitter stalkers.

It would be fabulous to get a link to Stitch London. We're thinking up new ways for folks to make a difference with their stitching all the time and would love to encourage folks to join in.

12/03/2010

Link ahoy!

12/03/2010

You are very welcome, Deadly Knitshade. I'm disappointed you didn't include your twitter faqs in your message here so we can all stalk you.

12/08/2010

In the interest of raising awareness about HIV/AIDS, SexIs presents a series of essays that speak to the innate mistakes and inherent kindnesses of the human animal, our spirit of community, the necessity of anger—and the absolute power of hope.

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