Autism: Simple Machines

23 Mar

For my son’s seventh birthday, I made him a cape. Although he hasn’t much of an imagination, and it often seems like he doesn’t have any at all, we were reading Lord of the Rings that year, and he was Gandalf. He signed into Sunday School under that name, and even signed that name on his library card. My mom had bought him a wizard’s cap, and I thought a cape would be a particularly suitable gift for that year.


The only thing was, I hadn’t taken Home-EC since the eighth grade, and didn’t particularly know much about sewing. Even buying the materials was foreign to me. Yet since I do not ask for help in such things (if I fail, it makes it so much easier on me if no one knows) I went into the fabric store, told them I was, “just looking” (for if they want to help me, I want to run – always!) and bought what seemed like good material to make a cape.

At the time, I also decided to attempt to make a parachute toy for my daycare – when I have the desire to do something, I like to go “all in.” So I got materials for this as well (again having no idea what I was doing, what material to buy, what it should cost, or even how much I would need.)

I brought the materials home, and without a plan, just went ahead and made those items.  The cape was a little heavy, but they both (I felt) turned out well, and all of the children enjoyed the use of both the parachute, and the cape.

Only the next time I tried to sew something, it didn’t work at all. The thread kept bunching up, and the needle wouldn’t go anywhere… it was a frustrating mess! I thought I had broke the machine, and after several attempts, ended up sending it off to the thrift store feeling like I couldn’t sew.

It was years later when I decided to try again. I bought another sewing machine, newly repaired, from the thrift store, and attempted to use it. Once again, the thread all bunched up, and it didn’t work. Again, thinking I had broken the machine, we brought it back and had it repaired again – only to have the same thing happen.

I had pretty much given up at that point, and returned to doing occasional sewing by hand, despite my strong desire to know this skill. It was just one more thing to remind me of how very incompetent I am, and believe me, I feel that deeply! But then I picked up a book from the library on teaching children to sew (I had no children, but felt that must be the level I am on – and if children can learn to sew, surely I have to be able to learn to do something.) It mentioned in choosing a machine, to look for one with a drop in bobbin.

Ahhhh! Now I had something to look for, and asked my husband to look for that type of machine for me. One day he brought it home. That was right at my 38th birthday (meaning my son had turned 18 that year.) And would you know it? Every time I have tried to sew something, it has worked wonderfully – every time for eighteen months!

Here I was fully believing I was incapable of ever learning how to use a sewing machine well – and okay… I admit that I must be incompetent in threading a complicated bobbin – but that, most certainly, is not the same thing. It only took me eleven years, and a whole lot of self-doubt and frustration to figure out.


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