The Austin Chronicle

https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/qmmunity/2023-02-15/queer-craft-night-adds-a-casual-quality-to-lgbtq-socializing/

Queer Craft Night Adds a Casual Quality to LGBTQ Socializing

By Joelle DiPaolo, February 15, 2023, 9:30am, Qmmunity

Every other Wednesday night, the clack of knitting needles melds with the hum of conversation at the Cherrywood Coffeehouse as people unleash their creativity at Queer Craft Night.

Ashley Vacek and Bernadette Gasper started Queer Craft Night in August as a place for queer people to foster a sense of larger community while enjoying a common interest. Since the summer, craft nights have evolved from 15-people gatherings to over 60 populating the Austin coffee shop. Participants bring their own crafts ranging from paint to yarn to Lego to work on from 6-9pm.

“[The conversations] I’ve had on craft night and the types of people I met, there’s been substance in these conversations,” Vacek says. “That connection makes me feel more like we belong in the queer community in Austin.”

Gasper and Vacek met through mutual friends and at one event struck up a conversation about “gay audacity.” Gasper joked that her queer audacity was wanting to master every creative skill. From there, the pair realized they wanted to share their love of creating with others.

Both co-hosts moved to Austin about seven years ago. Gasper says most queer events she’s attended focus either on dating or alcohol. She says craft night attendees express happiness with an event centered around “coffee shop interactions.”

“It has brought a broader sense of belonging within the queer community,” Gasper says. “It just continually challenges me to interact with new people. … It has allowed me to expand and grow as a person.”

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The laid-back environment of craft night allows people to meet new people outside of their tight-knit friend groups in a more casual way, Gasper says. One attendee met their partner at craft night in a “really organic way,” she says. “I find [that] is really hard to do nowadays, but especially in the queer community.”

More than just a space to do crafts, Vacek says the people at craft night inspire her. Gasper says during one October craft night, attendees brought their homemade Halloween costumes and traded tips to make them pop. For Gasper’s costume, Lexa from The 100, attendees stomped on her jacket in the parking lot to give it a weathered feel.

As craft night continues to grow, Gasper and Vacek plan to hold additional crafting events, such as a clothing swap and alterations workshop. They also plan to hold an embroidery workshop.

Vacek, a self-proclaimed introvert, says she clings to friends at social events, but doesn’t feel the same exhaustion after craft nights. She runs an embroidery shop in her free time, where she sometimes burns out. Queer craft night helps her “reignite the spark” of crafting.

“Queer craft night has just consistently been people that fill me up and give me so much energy,” Vacek says. “It’s the highlight of my week.”

Despite the co-hosts’ affinity for crafting, their schedules make it hard to find time for their interests.

“It’s really easy to brush off the things that help you decompress,” Gasper says. “This space has made it a scheduled time that I’m committed to going and just decompressing. I don’t have to think about anything else, I just focus on my craft and my social life.”


Next Queer Craft Night will be on Feb. 22, 6-9pm. Keep up with QCN on their Instagram, @queercraftnight.

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