Meet Carson Skidmore – a fantastic swimmer, car enthusiast and, now, a crochet master that has gained statewide recognition for his talents.
Skidmore recently took first place in three categories of the State Fair of Texas' 2017 Creative Arts Competition.
But what’s more is that this 17-year-old Waxahachie High School student is not only defying his disability but also threading out the competition in the process.
“When people first meet and speak with Carson, people go, ‘Oh, there’s something different here,’” began Dustana “Dusty” Stewart, Carson's mother. “Carson has Autism, and he’s in all special education modified classes.”
“Crocheting is his passion, and it gives him purpose, and he loves it,” she smiled. “And for the Crochet Juvenile category, Carson got three first-place blue ribbons for a bedspread, a baby blanket, and a baby hat he made - and then he got an honorable mention for the fourth piece which was a headband.”
With a natural knack to stitch each pattern with precision and elegance, Carson’s crocheting journey began in sixth grade during a time he recalled being "bored."
“I learned to crochet back in the day when I was in middle school in Missouri,” Carson recollected.
“We used to live in a little town outside of Kansas City, and he had a teacher aid who would sit next to him and crochet and take him to his classes,” Stewart helped explain. “So he’d sit there and watch her.”
“And in April 2013 when the district did all of their testing, they pulled him out because he didn’t test with the rest of the students,” she expounded. “So they let him hang out in the library with his teacher’s aid. Well, she had an extra ball of yarn and showed him how to do a simple chain stitch, and that’s where it all started.”
Moving to Texas in July of that year, Stewart shared that because Carson didn’t have friends yet, he began to teach himself more dramatic patterns by watching YouTube tutorials, and later made headbands for other students at his school.
“One of his teachers called me and said, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you’re aware, but Carson has a couple of hundred dollars in his backpack from selling those crochet headbands at school,’” Stewart chuckled.
“And I was taken aback by that because I had no idea he was doing that,” she admitted. “I knew he had some upstairs [of the house] and was impressing us all the time with the things he was making, but I had no idea he was making over $200 in a month. And what’s funny is that he doesn’t understand the value of money.”
“People say, ‘Whoa, looks pretty nice,’” Carson expressed his classmate’s reactions to his crocheted gifts.
Through his generous talent and social personality, Carson has yet to meet a stranger, especially when he entered into high school.
“There are days you may think he’s the most popular kid in Waxahachie, no matter where we walk in - he knows people,” Stewart affirmed. “He knows half the kids at his school. He knows their name, when their birthday is, what they drive, and he just walks into school, and everybody knows him and says 'hi' to him.”
“I like my school,” Carson shrugged with a grin.
Crocheting more projects for classmates that included beanies, hats, headbands, blankets, socks, and much more, Carson soon put his talent on public display for the first time at the Fair’s 2016 competition.
According to a State Fair of Texas press release, more than 1,100 categories in 12 different departments of pre-fair contests as well as daily competitions are taking place during the fair.
This encompassed both amateurs and professionals of all ages, giving Carson fierce competitors.
“The deadline was in a week, so he made some stuff really fast, and we submitted it on the way there,” Stewart remembered last year's contest. “So he made a purse-bag and a blanket, and he got third place for the blanket and an honorable mention for the purse - and we were excited about that.”
Though he didn't win first place, Carson embraced this year's festival theme of “Celebrating Texans,” and was nothing short of praiseworthy as he again submitted multiple entries for July’s deadline.
“So I picked out a few pieces that he already had but needed to finish and said, ‘We’re going to enter this, okay?’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, whatever mom,’” Stewart laughed.
“I turned in the bedspread blanket, the granny square (baby blanket), the baby blanket with a gray flower, and a headband,” Carson noted. “On the granny square, it was edged with a shell stitch because it’s easy.”
“When we went in to drop his things off, there were piles and stacks of stuff," Stewart described. "At first, when we went in, they were shocked that he was a boy doing crocheting, and they said to Carson, ‘You turned in stuff last year didn’t you?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I did.’ Well, they asked me if Carson had ‘blocked’ his projects himself, and I had no idea what that meant.”
Quickly calling a friend to help decipher the crocheting terminology, Stewart explained that “blocking” is the process of introducing moisture into the fabric to bring about the pattern’s true nature in shape and size.
“So basically it means it has to lay flat and even,” Stewart clarified. “So we didn’t get his stuff wet, and we turned it in, and the ladies said to Carson, ‘Did you block this yourself?’ And I said, ‘No, we didn’t do that.’ And they said, ‘So when he makes it, it just looks like this?’ And I said, ‘Yes, is that okay?’”
“So then they all looked at his pieces, and they went, ‘This is really amazing and incredible.’ And these ladies turned to him, and they said, ‘You’re quite gifted. This is amazing,’ Because when he makes it, it's so precise that it automatically blocks itself,” she included.
A couple of weeks later, Carson received a letter in the mail, telling him of his projects’ placement.
“So I came downstairs, and when my mom was looking at the letter she said, ‘Oh my gosh!’ And I came downstairs, and I was like, ‘What,’ Carson recalled the moment he won first place.
“I felt so surprised,” he smiled.
“He was very excited,” Stewart jumped in. “He wanted to get the big blue ribbon this year, that was his goal, and he did it - three times."
"He doesn’t get too many moments to be celebrated or recognized like this, so it’s a surprise and it's really exciting,” she added.
With his sights already set on next year, Stewart and Carson encourage the community to stop by the Creative Arts Building on the fairgrounds and see his work on display.
As for the future of Carson’s thriving crocheting career, Stewart is confident her son will only rise to the top of the thing he’s most passionate about - crocheting.
“He has one more year and can enter as a juvenile. So next year he’ll still be able to enter into the kid's category, and then after that, we’ll see how he does in the adults because he makes this stuff for fun and he just loves it,” Stewart recognized.
“Yes, because I’m very, very, talented,” Carson nodded.
“He’s very humble too,” Stewart teased her son.
The State Fair of Texas will be open from Sept 29. – Oct. 22 and located at 3921 Martin Luther King Jr., Boulevard, Dallas. For more information on schedules, tickets, and programs, visit bigtex.com or call (214)-565-9931.
Chelsea Groomer, @ChelseaGroomer