On Being an Autistic Creative and Textile Sewing

Being an Autistic Creative has its virtues and challenges. This story of some artistic self-discovery led to the creation of this Pink Rosebud Textile Art #sewing #textile #art #fabric #sewingproject #autism #asd

I have a confession to make. My creative inspirations have taken me for a wild ride lately. Less gentle winds and more riptides, I’ll settle on one creative medium, before being swept into something new.

Loving to learn coupled with the pervasive, almost pathological, need to please other people, finding my own “artist’s vision” has been difficult since I began Cinderella Sews patterns and handmade shop.
Not one to rest on my laurels, when something doesn’t sell well or viewership is low, I whip around to try something new—like a horse over-correcting at the slightest tug of the reins, I charge forward chasing the wings of my creativity flying above me, with little regard of who I am or what I want as a marginally creative person.

 During these past few weeks since the holidays, my inspiration has been mostly from my garden and children and pets. Influenced by other artists I admire, with a dash of thrift store materials, I’ve always wanted to try my hand at textile art. The difficulty is—I like structure. I like rules and staying inside them—unless I deem them unneeded or harmful to others—then I make up my own darn rules to follow! 

 Perfectly appointed patterns, smooth edges, not a seam out of place--precision--are my traditional ideals of what “real sewing” is, but that is NOT always the case! I LOVE and admire textile art.

The organic movements of fabric, the mild structure offered by wiring or other metal and natural stone elements, the natural coloring and thread textures. Textile art is actually how my brain looks if it could take a non-corporeal form.

The problem is, I’ve always been afraid to try it. Always afraid of how “messy” or “unsophisticated" or “childish” it may look, I’ve always envisioned my work through the lens of others’ eyes. 

  Sigh. No longer.

 I’m not ashamed to say I’ve been seeing a therapist to help with anxiety and other stressors associated with being autistic. Both a blessing and a curse, like life itself, being autistic means that I’ve had to mask my “oddities” and “never-fitting-in-ness” for the extent of my life. 

Sensory triggers of sound, light, too many people, smells, and even texture problems (one reason I shut down my successful resin jewelry business), means a lot of modern life is difficult for autistic people. 

 Finding solace in nature, hands in the dirt, watching insects, listening to birds, the repetitive and comforting nature of sewing seams by hand, running my hands over soft textiles, the pleasing colors of threads, buttons, and natural gemstones—bringing these aesthetics together offers a vision of my own.

 Advantageous aspects of autism involve natural pattern recognition, thinking almost exclusively within the visual plane, and intense sensory recognition—all of which is probably why I love being an artist.  Inspiration strikes, a flash of a bird’s wing, a game my children play, a book they love, or recently, the flowers blooming in my garden. 

The inspiration immediately begins piecing together a piece of artwork, whether it be embroidered art, doll patterns, needle felted designs, or 3D sculptures. Only acting on 5% of what my mind actually imagines, the wheels start turning, and the object is visually deconstructed in my head. Backtracking where experience has taught me something won’t work, then pushing forward to the next step. 

I almost never draw something out. I’m truly terrible at drawing. Everything forms, deconstructs, and reforms in my mind before the materials ever touch my hands, so when I start, it’s usually finished, with few construction problems, and in a timely manner. There are some truly wonderful things about having a neurodivergent mind, but being autistic has meant I’ve also had to anticipate how others perceive me, then how to act “appropriately” throughout my life. 

If I didn’t live up to those expectations, I was punished socially. Ostracized, ghosted, bullied, or shared looks between people that make my skin crawl, when I info-dump on accident or get a little too excited and jump up and down wringing my hands. 

A condescending raised eyebrow and wry smile passed between my fellow confidants compels me to both cry and shove them. Scream “I’m not an idiot! Nor blind!” or run and hide under the nearest table. 

Being an Autistic Creative has its virtues and challenges. This story of some artistic self-discovey led to the creation of this Pink Rosebud Textile Art #sewing #textile #art #fabric #sewingproject #autism #asd

I spent my entire 2nd grade year in my closet.

 Like, my literal closet

I’d come home from school, shut the door, sit in my quiet, confined space, turn on my fairy tale story cassette tapes or music, and craft. I’d hand sew, paper craft, play with dolls (which was something my peer friends were already “growing out of”), and read. 

That was a year of transition, both at home and at school, and particularly difficult socially. Where my differences had been celebrated or admired—only slightly pitied--until that point in my life, 2nd grade marked when cruelty and social hierarchy began taking its toll. 

 Seeing myself projected through others’ opinions helped me adapt to behave “normally” (although, I should say "neurotypically," as my normal is vastly different from most). Changing and anticipating my odd, yet natural, behaviors saved me some schoolyard angst. Individually identifying parts of my personality that other people found beautiful or cool or intriguing, I’ve become an Olympian in personality gymnastics. 

 Unfortunately, at almost 30 years old, I’ve come to learn how exhausting and taxing this practice has been--and how much I don't actually feel like an individual person. It’s also had an enormous effect on my work, my art, and my vision. Autistic or not, I feel a lot of people who strive (too much) to please others, may also feel lost in searching for their special “thing.” Their medium they love and want to improve. 

 Loving ALL THE MEDIUMS can be fun, but not when trying to build a business. This is something I’m striving to identify. What do you do? What practices do you use to center yourself? Which inspirations do you take and which ones do you let fizzle out? All of this leads me back to textile sewing. 

 Last weekend, I happened upon some absolutely abhorrent vintage clothes. The cuts, the short sleeved blazers, the shoulder pads—all garish—so naturally, I bought them. All I saw were their fabrics, their embroidery, their worn, comfortable textures and organically hued fibers. One particularly ugly blazer was a soft pink, open-weave linen with sheer polyester lining. Garish metallic embroidered flowers and stems decorated the front, but honestly, it was my most exciting find!

Being an Autistic Creative has its vurtues and challenges. This story of some artistic self-discovey led to the creation of this Pink Rosebud Textile Art #sewing #textile #art #fabric #sewingproject

It reminded me of one of my miniature rosebuds at home that was about to bloom. All I saw was a plump, thready, textile rosebud sitting atop a thin stem when looking at that ugly blazer.

Being an Autistic Creative has its vurtues and challenges. This story of some artistic self-discovey led to the creation of this Pink Rosebud Textile Art #sewing #textile #art #fabric #sewingproject

Immediately upon returning home, I sketched out some rough leaf and petal shapes and cut several layers out of the blazer. I shoved them away in one of my small project pouches, currently housing three embroidery patterns I haven’t started as well.

Last night, the gumption struck. Frustrated with a road block in making a wardrobe pattern for my Miss Tulip Bunny Pattern, I was in the mood to just try it.

Tiny doll clothes I'm currently stitching for my new pattern release sitting on pretty books

The lack of structure was—freeing—to say the least.

I didn’t even use pins! Simply holding the pieces imperfectly in places, because only snowflakes are perfect in nature, my sewing machine wizzed through the lines, and offered an organically textured rosebud when finished.

Being an Autistic Creative has its virtues and challenges. This story of some artistic self-discovery led to the creation of this Pink Rosebud Textile Art #sewing #textile #art #fabric #sewingproject #autism #asd

This morning, turning the simple piece of art over in my hands, I’m back to the “pondering my next move” stage of development. Should I add paint or thread coloring? Should I stiffen some of the fabric to keep it in place?

Should dew drop beads be part of the finished piece? It doesn’t matter. Not feeling constrained and making something entirely, without feeling like it needs to be “smooth and perfect and inside the realm of expectation” is worth whatever the finished outcome looks like. 

In short, what I’m trying to communicate is: Don’t let others define who you are. As an artist. As a person. As a producer. As a creative. In the realm of art, being different is a good thing—roll with it. 

Until next time pretties,


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