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Queer Craft Club brings Tompkins creatives together


As the clock strikes 6:30 p.m., a small group of individuals file into the library, excited to see one another again. However, the group is not here to read, but rather, to craft.

Each month, the Tompkins County Public Library holds the Queer Craft Club in the librarys Makerspace. The club invites adults in the LGBTQ+ community to come out and participate in group crafting sessions, with activities ranging from felting projects to creating sock puppet pals. On Nov. 13, around 13 individuals gathered to create festive autumn garlands out of pom poms.

A bin labeled “free fabric & yarn” sits on a table for individuals to freely take from. (Elizabeth Kharabadze/Ithaca Week)

Regina DeMauro, interim director of Adult Services at TCPL, began hosting the monthly craft group for adults in 2019 after seeing the success of hosting craft projects in collaboration with the Ithaca Planned Parenthood LGBTQ+ youth group.

Regina DeMauro, pictured left, sits down to chat with participants at the Queer Craft Club. (Elizabeth Kharabadze/Ithaca Week)

Finding safety in arts and crafts

DeMauro said that when creating the craft club, it was important for her to help build a space for LGBTQ+ individuals who did not necessarily want to partake in nightlife, where they would likely be subjected to peer pressure and substance abuse. According to Addiction Center, around 20% to 30% of people who identify as LGBTQ+ abuse substances, compared to around 9% of the general population.

While there are a few spaces that cater to the LGBTQ+ community, like Thursgay at The Range, DeMauro said she specifically wanted the craft club to be both safe and accessible.

I think when it comes to the queer community, we … don’t have a place where we all go and we know this is the place,” DeMauro said. So it’s been over the years like a real patchwork of how do people meet each other? … To me, the most important part of this group is that it’s not associated with nightlife. It’s not associated with drinking and it’s accessible.”

Participants at the Queer Craft Club work with yarn to make pom pom garlands. (Elizabeth Kharabadze/Ithaca Week)

Ithaca local Katie Pericak recently moved to Ithaca from New York City with her partner and attended the craft club for the first time — hoping to build a connection with Ithacas LGBTQ+ population without needing to turn to nightlife.

I feel like I definitely prefer spaces like this, where it just feels like chiller vibes,” Pericak said. There’s not loud music playing, it’s not super-hot. … Its definitely nice to have something like this where it’s not alcohol centered.”

Crafting as a form of resilience

The craft club and TCLP are intended to serve as safe resource spaces for members of the Ithaca community, LGBTQ+ or otherwise. However, TCPL has also been the site of contention following a national wave of book banning and challenges to LGBTQ+ material for children.

In 2022, a youth event hosted by local drag queen Tilia Cordata at the library came under fire on right-wing Twitter, attracting negative attention from accounts like Libs of TikTok. While the event went on without issue, DeMauro said she had never expected to see such backlash in Ithaca.

We wanted to balance safety and community and we ended up finding a good balance, but it was an absolutely terrifying experience,” De Mauro said.

Queer Craft Club participants discuss the day’s events while working on pom pom crafts. (Elizabeth Kharabadze/Ithaca Week)

Sierra Pleckan, a participant in the craft club, similarly said that she was shocked to learn about the polarization of libraries.

Libraries are supposed to be a place of peace and community and just bringing people together and it’s really disheartening to see that people are turning it into something else where people are scared to go and be themselves at the library,” Pleckan said.

Regina DeMauro, pictured left, demonstrates how to make pom pom garlands to Queer Craft Club participants. (Elizabeth Kharabadze/Ithaca Week)

According to PEN America, book banning in public schools increased 33% during the 2022-23 academic year, with most of the book banning occurring in Florida schools. The bans are a culmination of legislation aimed at restricting teaching topics like race, gender and LGBTQ+ identities, as well as the rise in educational intimidationmandates.

Yet in spite of everything, DeMauro said she wants to come back stronger than ever and fight against educational restrictions, one craft at a time.

I’m really proud to see a lot of libraries and librarians doing that work, even in the face of being shut down, even in the face of being defunded,” DeMauro said. I’m really fighting to make sure that we do right by the people. We’re here to serve people, that’s our job.”

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