Well here it is – almost mid March 2020 and I’m finally getting around to another post. No one can ever accuse me of overloading anyone’s account with my posting notifications! Let it be said that if you aren’t seeing new posts frequently, I am most certainly busy with any multitude of projects that are calling for attention. And since DesignAndBeMary is me, myself, and I – well I can only cover so much ground. I so appreciate those of you who faithfully read and follow my blog, visit my website and view and subscribe to my YouTube channel – I am so grateful for your attention and I can only hope that you feel rewarded with helpful information as you pursue working with wool. And in between the enthusiastic pursuit of creative endeavors, let’s not forget that we all must find time to enjoy the simple joys of everyday living. Thus I chose the opening photo for this post – simple everyday flowers plucked and delightfully tucked in a convenient denim pocket.

Since my last post in June of 2019, I have had a multitude of projects that have kept me busy – some of which do not involve wool and needle! Many of you know (especially if you’ve read older posts) that my DH and I have several gardens (3 to be exact) that provide us a generous bounty of organic home grown eating. Last year’s gardens were a bit challenging as I needed to spend more time than in past years preparing and planting;  all this due to the recommendation to reduce oxalates in my diet in order to prevent any further kidney stones. You can research oxalates, but the bottom line is 1)they exist in all kinds of ‘healthy’ foods 2) they are darn near impossible to find out about since they do not exist on any type of label, and 3) info on the internet sites varies wildly. Arghhhhhh! The (not so) funny thing is that the things we were growing so well – rhubarb, raspberries, kale – all are high in oxalates! 🙁   Spinach and beets are also not so great, but we never had much luck with them anyway.  After a major shift in choosing what to plant, we had great lettuces, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, cabbage along with so-so cucumbers and squash. So between planting, weeding, watering and harvesting, many hours were invested…but all with the great satisfaction of providing one’s own meals and knowing how they were grown. It appears that we are having a mild spring here in Minnesota and that we may be able to get plantings in early this year…crossing my fingers!

It’s always hard for me to think of working on wool projects in the heat of summer. I usually take them on our camping vacations and for work on rainy days. This year we only camped for a total of 2-3 weeks – a beautiful week in June where much of the time was spent fishing and enjoying the outdoors, and a week in September at an Aliner rally in the Apostle Islands where much time was spent checking out the area as well as socializing with other like minded Aliner campers. [For those of you who are not familiar – an Aliner camper is one of those strange looking A frame pop up campers.]  The third not-quite-a week was the last weekend in September, when we attended the annual Buffalo Round in Custer State Park, S.D. and also took in the Volksmarch at Crazy Horse. Both these things were on our bucket list and we are happy to say it was a worthwhile weekend despite some not so great weather.  See the photos below for a glimpse of our adventures! PS. Notice the great applique work on the beautiful chaps! Design is everywhere! Oh there’s a part of me that is a cowgirl at heart!

Aware that I was committed to submitting two wool designs to the Wool Works magazine by March and June of this year, I seriously pondered which designs I should pursue. While I thought I would enjoy designing and sharing my patterns via a magazine, it was becoming apparent to me that perhaps this is not the best for my health as it seems to create more stress for me. That’s ironic because in my younger days I used to ‘thrive’ on the stress involved with creating. But I was committed to two patterns and so I began the process early, hoping that would allow for delays that might be created by my cranky and old design program as well as my health. So I began the process by first creating the actual projects and then proceeding with writing the patterns. I decided to photo document the design process as I think many of you may be interested in exactly what goes into designing a well written pattern. It has been discouraging to see the number of patterns that are simply a hand drawn sheet of the design along with a one page list of general supplies and brief instructions.  As an educator I fully realize that there are many different learning styles and therefore room for many different ways to convey instructions. But at the very least I personally feel a good pattern should attempt to reach as many of those learning styles as possible with not only a drawn design, but education that includes 1) clear step by step instructions 2) illustrations for clarification by visual learners 3) materials and tools used along with any special techniques involved 4) resources if possible and 5) finishing techniques. All templates and designs should be printed on one side of a page and preferably be actual size. Below you will find some photos of my pattern design process (this does not include the making of the photo models!) From rough sketches, to better sketches, to keeping lists of threads and amounts of fabric used, to actual tracings for a master drawing, to the computer rendering of textures, pages/tiling, and instructions, to template drawing, etc.  Depending on the project, I often allow 3-4 weeks for the written process.  Please note that by contract, I cannot release the names/photos of these projects until they are scheduled to appear in the Fall or Winter 2020 issues of the Wool Works magazine

These photos are a combined record of the various stages of two different patterns. This process shown here does not include the time spent on creating the master pattern drawing which will eventually will be ’tiled’ (configured into pages that can be taped together to create and actual size guide), the photography, the writing of the instructions, printing the pattern instruction sheets /covers, and packaging time. I must admit that since becoming a pattern designer, I am much more appreciative of the many well written patterns out there. I always hope that the purchasers of my patterns feel they have spent their money well!  Thankfully I was able to finish these two patterns and sent them off to Wool Works in late February.

In between working on the patterns, I had so many other things that called for my attention – as do so many of you as well. I spent time tracking down and purchasing a working manual typewriter so I can finally get a handle on my many recipes – typing them and getting them in some semblance of a user friendly order. Over the years I find I no longer use some while new ones have become favorites….and then there are the ones that are so worn and covered with stains from oils, flour, etc that I need to retype them if I wish to keep using them.  While I have the typewriter and had it serviced (yes there are places that still do that!!) I haven’t had the time to do but a few of the recipes.  However both my DH and I used it to finally fill out our health care directives and power of attorney papers. It is hard as we age to witness the declining health of many friends and relatives as well as acknowledging many who are no longer with us – my DH has only a brother left and I have only 2 brothers, one of whom is currently in hospice for Parkinsons/LewyBody. While this is more than heart crushing, it makes one aware that making your own decisions about potential health challenges is truly a gift to those left to take care of you.  Anyway, the work is done and it has ‘lightened my load.’  Yea!  Now if only I could make more headway with de-cluttering and downsizing our possessions. I am so envious of those who have found a way to downsize their lives, but for the life of me I really struggle how 2 practicing artists can downsize all the ‘stuff’ that inspires us to create! Creating art is what my DH and I do and who we are. But I am determined to start to sort through things and let them go – no small undertaking for this very sentimental gal. It doesn’t help that there are few relations that follow us who might want our mementos and ‘stuff’!!!

Prior to Christmas I was visiting a local quilt shop that carries my patterns – Eagle Creek Quilt Shop in Shakopee – and in poking around found some printed cork fabric. The creative juices suddenly salivated – absolutely enticed by these printed corks. I’m not talking about fabric printed to look like cork but actual cork with a fabric backing – often used for making purses and wallets. Anyway, I purchased a piece, took it home, and started experimenting. You can see in the photos what I came up with. I hope to write these up as simple patterns/kits – perhaps by this summer. I think they make fantastic mug rugs – or small wall tiles. The cork is washable and the contrast of the wool against the cork is beautiful. I’m still coming up with ideas, so stay tuned! Feel free to comment and let me know what you think!

In the last month I spent time making a few more YouTube videos for my DesignAndBeMary channel. While I will never win any awards for my videos, I do hope that they are helpful. I guess it is the teacher in me that enjoys sharing my techniques and methods. I have a few more that I would like to do but have had to take a bit of a break as I am recovering from a sinus surgery which has left my voice sounding a bit like Donald Duck! LOL! Hopefully that will abate as the coming weeks pass. So please take a look at my videos, subscribe and then you’ll receive notice of future videos.

My last project which I hope to get done in the next few days is a tutorial on the creation of ‘faux quillwork’ in wool – such as done in my pattern Native Beauty. When it is done, a link will be kept on the tutorial page.

I would like to wish you all a wonderful spring season and much joy as you stitch away on your latest project(s). Enjoy the journey of your own creativity.

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