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unique-wreath-connections

The question that I get asked all the time...

Laurie macneill

How did you come up with your invention???

So, one of the most asked questions of me is How did you come up with the UITC Wreathing board??

Let’s go back a little…

I have been a crafter my whole life.  I remember being a young girl going to the ceramic store with my mom and she would always let me pick out a small piece to paint with her.   And we would sit in the Living room and I had my own TV table that I painted on and we would watch Knots Landing, Falcon crest and many, many times our Standby in the VCR of Dirty Dancing.    I still remember a small dog I painted for my second-grade teacher and I forgot to put pupils on it, so it looked like a demon dog…my mom never ever corrected anything I did.  She would always let my creativity flow.    I do remember also her trying to teach me to knit as a teenager.  You never seen anything funnier – I just could not get the coordination right and would end up sticking the knitting needle under my armpit and I would knit with the end of the needles right by my face.  It was the most awkward thing you ever saw but again she would just let me do my thing!   I have to credit my mom for always supporting my crafting habit and even though we didn’t have a lot of money she somehow always found the money to buy me my next new addiction (it changed weekly…latch hooking and string art was always my go to!).  My mom is THE BEST most talented crafter I know…Martha Stewart has nothing on her 😉 Crafting was bred into me as my dad was a very talented and master cabinet maker and wood worker.   I would be down in his workshop constantly helping him and using all the power tools.  I was very lucky to have such talented parents.

As I got into my late teens, crafting wasn’t cool, so a lot of my time was spent partying and having fun…but if anything needed decorating (like the dances at school) I was always right in there with my ideas and vision.  And I am stubborn enough that everyone would end up doing it my way…which of course is the right way!

I got married at 20 and had Kristen a little after I turned 21 and started working at McMaster University.  So the hour commute to work, 8 hours of work, hour commute back home plus being a mom and wife I didn’t have much time for anything crafty BUT my creativity was still running ramped as I was always painting a room in my house or wallpapering, painting cupboards, murals on the kids walls, even gardening that was always coordinated precisely…

As life went on, I dabbled in all kinds of neat things and whatever was trending (back then there was no Pinterest…our Pinterest was going to all the various craft shows to get inspiration).

I took a class on how to make a Burlap Wreath.  I will tell you I was soooo proud of that wreath.  I wish I had taken a picture of it as I am sure I would laugh at it now…but at the time it was the most beautiful wreath I ever saw.   I started making my own signs for my wreaths as I dabbled at graphic designing on and off.  I self taught myself Adobe photoshop to design my signs.  One thing I love is to learn…I am like a sponge.  When I am interested in something, I will research everything I can find on what I am trying to learn…. but one thing I am not terribly keen on about myself is I am like a dog with a bone…I can’t let anything go.  So, if I am interested in something it consumes me until I think there is nothing else to learn on the topic I am researching/learning about.  So, if I had to stay up night after night after the kids went to bed, that is what I would do.

Anyways back the burlap wreath…I loved making it.  So, the day after the class I was at Michaels before it even opened with my list of what I needed to buy to make more wreaths.  I made them for everyone...even if they didn’t want one, they got one anyways.  Well me being the researcher I am I had to go to craft shows to see what other wreathers were making (I wasn’t really a Facebooker at the time and there were not groups like there are now).  I spotted the ultimate wreath at one craft show…it was big and pink and sparkly and had the most gorgeous bow.   I stared and stared at that wreath which felt like eternity, but I was taking mental pictures and as much as I wanted to buy that wreath, I could not afford it.   I couldn’t get home fast enough to start my search on how to make that wreath and trying to find out what the sparkly material was.  The lady at the craft show would not tell me…she was really annoyed with me just staring and not buying!  I didn’t care because I was determined I was going to make one!  I remember I was a few days into my research when the dreaded day hit…the day I woke up to my legs feeling funny.  I  got  out of  the bed to the washroom and collapsed in the hallway.    The feeling in my legs were gone.  I couldn’t move my legs; I couldn’t get up off the floor.  I just laid there screaming and crying.  Dave and kids all came running and we were all in a panic.  Dave called 911 and I have to say that was one the scariest days in my life…the unknown of what was happening, why couldn’t I get up?  I remember Dave getting so angry, the ambulance was taking so long to get to us.  He and Lolly just sat on the floor holding me and telling me everything would be okay.  I ended up having spinal surgery as my spinal cord was stuck inside my spinal column (tethered) and all the nerves in the spinal cord that control the waist down were stuck and pinched.  I woke up from that surgery and have never been so happy to be able to move my toes.  I was fixed and I was going to be fine.   Well I was okay for a few months but found that my bladder wasn’t working, and my legs were feeling “funny” again.  Another MRI indicated that my spinal cord was tethering again and if they didn’t work fast there was a chance my leg function, bladder and bowel function would be gone and never come back.  My problem was beyond the scope of Hamilton Neurosurgeons, so I had to be referred to the Head Neurosurgeon at St. Michaels Hospital in Toronto.  After a 4-hour surgery I woke to feeling my toes again…but OMG the pain was unbearable.  I am pretty tough!  After a 6-day hospital stay I could go home.  I had a 24-hour headache, but the doctor assures me that the headache would settle down.   I was good with that answer as I just wanted to be home with Dave and the kids and my own BED.   I was in bed 24 hours a day with only wanting to sleep.  Which was good with me cause this headache (we are not talking normal headache…I could not lift my head off the pillow, or my head felt like it would pop off my shoulders).  I couldn’t even get out of bed to go to washroom.  Dave would have to put a bedpan under me or carry me to the bathroom while I squeezed my head hard so it wouldn’t pop off.   After 5 days of this with many calls to the surgeon’s office I kept getting told “it will subside” take caffeine pills to speed up the process of “refilling” my spinal fluid.  Okay, even though I was popping many caffeine pills my headache was getting progressively worse.  My best friend came over to check on me and wanted to see how my incision was healing.  She gasped and said we need to get you out of bed and to Dr. A (we have the same family doctor).   I don’t remember how the heck she got me into her van, but she did, and I laid across the backseat screaming in pain.  Dr. A looks at my back and says take her right back to Toronto NOW.  I remember her driving like a mad woman trying to keep my calm as I moaned in pain.  It was the worst pain I have ever experience in my life and I have a very high pain tolerance.   Turns out my spinal cord was leaking spinal fluid and the fluid in my brain was not level which caused the terrible spinal headaches.    Another surgery to put a patch on the hole in my spinal cord.   Another long stay in the hospital but the headache after week was finally starting to subside enough that I could start feeling the extreme pain in my back.  The back pain was always there but the headache just trumped it.  I was bed ridden for which felt like an eternity but all the pain meds I was taking made me sleep so much that I didn’t even realize the weeks being in bed had passed.  I started feeling better and was allowed out of bed a few times a day for only an hour at a time.   But I found when I sat the pain was bad and I would start to feel the pins and needles in my legs again.  Well after 6 months of doing absolutely NOTHING I come to find out that I will not be able to return to my job anymore.  I was DEVISTATED…my career meant a lot to me…especially the people I worked with.  I loved them.  I was in the same department for 25 years!!!  I worked my way up the ladder and was very proud of the work I did and was very much missing my life.  After I was given the news I went into a deep depression.  No purpose in life anymore.  Kids were older and didn’t need me as much anymore.   Day after day was the same thing…binge watching  Tv and popping pills.  And I was on quite a few narcotics.   Dave said to me one day, you need to get a hobby to help pass the time.  Then I remembered that wreath…the sparkling pretty wreath with the big bow.  That sparked a little something in me that I had not felt in a long time.  I was a bit excited to start my research again.  I found out the sparkly stuff was called decomesh, but I couldn’t find it in Canada.  So again, my search started on where to buy this beautiful stuff.  Luckily my brother lived in the USA and I could send it to his house along with pretty ribbon and the wreathing work frames.   Now another problem arose…I can’t stand to make the wreath and I can’t sit at a table for longer then ½ hour without my legs feeling funny…and I can’t make the wreath in my recliner.  Which is how I had to sit from now on, with my legs up.  I wanted to make wreaths as I really enjoyed making them…but I couldn’t physically do it.  Or I could but in spurts of ½ hour…it would take me days just to make one wreath.   I sat and stared at the frame for days and would try and wreath in my recliner.  I just couldn’t make them without standing.  I could make the Burlap ones with a regular wire frame, weaved…but no one wanted anymore of my burlap wreaths (make sure you wear a mask when using burlap!!!).  After staring at the frame, I started drawing out differen’t ideas on a frame with holes that I can put in my lap and just cut pieces of mesh and stick them in.  After MANY MANY MANNNNNYYYYY drawings, I came up with something I thought would work.  I got some corrugated plastic and got my ruler and a big pot to trace a circle and plotted out my holes.    I started trying to cut out my frames with scissors, but it was way too hard and putting a terrible strain on my back.  Dave has every tool you can think of so I asked him if he had something he could cut my corrugated plastic with…and he said his scroll saw would cut it and he could use the drill to drill the holes instead of my poking a screwdriver through the holes I drew on the plastic.  I was just so thrilled I did a rendition of a happy dance...without hurting my back.   Little did Dave know that was the first of hundreds he would have to cut out for me.  He would cut one for me and I would tweak it, he would cut another and I would add more holes, change the distance of the holes, the circle need to be bigger, then it was too big and so on…this went on for a few months but I was determined I was doing to make a frame I could use on my lap.  And Dave didn’t even complain once…I would bombard him as soon as he walked through the door from work to please, please cut me a new one as this I promise would be the last one.  He knew it wouldn’t be the last one, but he did it and never ever complained.  I think because he seen that spark back in me and I was passionate about something again.  While making this new frame I was determined to make, I was also becoming a Pinterest junkie (it was much better than the pill junkie I was starting to turn into).  I saw a beautiful sunflower on Pinterest.  That was it…I was going to make a sunflower on my frame.  The wreath was in Burlap though…and it was a bigger burlap than I would use to weave in and out on the wire frame.  I just had to find out what that beautiful material was.  After searching and searching I finally found what looked close to the material I saw on that gorgeous wreath.  Now keep in mind this was now 2015 and there were not tutorials on YouTube, or nobody was doing Facebook Lives (and back then NOBODY shared how they made anything…not like now) that I could ask or follow along to teach me how to make it.  I messaged the lady that made the gorgeous wreath, but she would not tell me a single thing about the wreath.  I would have to buy it she said if I want to see what it was made from.   My stubbornness kicked in and out of spite I was going to figure it out on my own.  I went to Mississauga and got a roll of the material, which was 12” faux burlap and I bought a roll of the 6” faux burlap for the center.  At first tried making it on just a metal wire frame and the petals kept spinning around on me and would not stay in place and how was I going to make a center and put it on??  Then I thought my corrugated plastic circle may work.  I was already doing poofs with my board and ribbons and using pipecleaners…but twisting those pipe cleaners was aggravating my self diagnosed carpal tunnel.  So, Dave suggested using Cable ties.  He comes in from his workshop with this ginormous zip tie.  I tried it and the concept worked but the tie was just way too big.  So, he was like just go buy the small ones then...omg there is small ones?  I really didn’t know what a zip tie was until he showed me.  So, I went to Home Depot and bought a variety pack of zipties.  I studied the picture and played with this piece of faux burlap I cut. ..and I figured out how that petal was made…ha-ha lady I don’t need you, I figured it out on my own!!!  So off I went Zip tying flower petals to a piece of Dollar store corrugated plastic cut into a circle with holes.  Dave gave me a piece of wood to make a table right on my lap!  Off I went, scrunching this fabulous material... I found and to my surprise it was looking like a sunflower after just putting a few into zipties right on my lap, in my recliner with my feet up!  I remember that day so well…it was just shortly after my birthday and it was one of the proudest days of my life.  I did it.  I was making a wreath on my lap!  And it was the most gorgeous wreath I had ever seen in my life.  But it wasn’t sparkly, I wanted to make a sparkly one…So I pulled out the Decomesh from the previous year I bought and had sent to my brothers.  I played and played and did poofs from 1 set of holes to the next set of holes…and just kept going around.  It was starting to look like a flower…AND I WAS DOING IT ON MY LAP with my plastic board, a bag zipties and a roll of mesh.  I didn’t have yellow though so off I went with my Michaels coupon and paid the $17.99 (with 40% off paid $10.79 which was much more then I had paid for my online turquoise roll), but I was not waiting to order the yellow.  I needed it finished that day (dog with a bone).  I continued with poofs of yellow (just like I had done with the faux brown burlap for the Sunflower) and made a SPARKLY beautiful Decomesh wreath!!!  I did it…but the string I used to hang the wreath was starting to cut through the corrugated plastic holes from the weight of the wreath ☹ and its not going to last that long.  Dave then said, Honey I can cut your circle out of hardwood…what?  You can cut my circle out of wood?  Off we went to Home Depot as at the time I had no clue what hardwood was.  But he knows a lot about wood working so let’s give it a shot.  We bought a 4 footx4 foot piece of it and traced our circle and holes onto the wood and Dave started cutting.  It was not the best circle but it was so much sturdier than my plastic corrugated stuff and the zipties could be pulled tight without the ziptie cutting through the space between the holes so my mesh will stay in better.  It worked like a charm!  Down fall…the edge of my circle was rough and kept scratching up my arm.  I asked Dave if he could sand the edge of the next one for me so it wouldn’t scratch me….and could he run to Home depot get more wood and cut another 10 circles for me.  He is like, the wood is expensive.  But I had all intention of making a few of these beautiful creations and selling them so that would pay for the wood.  He then said to me…it would be so much easier if I had a CNC machine.  I at the time didn’t know what he was yammering about but while he was gone to buy the wood, I looked up CNC cutting….and again like a dog with a bone we were soon cutting them out with a CNC. 

I had come up with a great idea and invention (I was always coming up with crazy ideas for businesses) but this one felt differen’t.  My avid binge watching of Dragons Den and Shark Tank while bed ridden got me thinking…this is a good idea but if I sell my wreaths somebody may ask where I got this funny wreath frame from…I needed to protect it.  So, I paid the $750.00 to a patent lawyer and put a provisional patent on it.  I then felt so much better selling my wreaths…which then led to people asking if I could show them how to make a sunflower like I made.  I had a few crafting parties at my house and I thought hmmm…I could get a room at Michaels for free…get Dave to cut a few boards and advertise on Facebook to see if anyone wanted to make one.  To my surprise I filled up the 8 spots in one day of advertising.  I made a little bit of spending money (which always ended up being spent on more crafting stuff), I got to meet some nice people, get out of the house and socialize…which was really missing from my life of not going into an office anymore and talking to people all the time.   I really liked teaching people and I didn’t’ even have to make a wreath!!!  So, I did it again, and again...then moved up to a room at our recreation center…then to a hall, then to 2 hall rooms adjoined.   Then to a stage for the Hamilton Home and Garden show.  I was having so much fun doing this.  Dave and the kids would set everything up for me.  I would teach everyone how to make wreaths on my board, Lolly was my helper and entertainment.  She even started a little business making cookies and selling them at the workshops. Then Dave and the kids would come back and pack everything up for me.  They never complained.  They knew I was happy again and bringing myself out of the dark place that I was in the previous year.  I had ladies asking if I could teach them how to make other flowers not just the sunflowers (although by this time it was fall so, I would just buy fall colored mesh and call them mums!)  So, I started looking at pictures of flowers and playing with mesh and folding all different ways.  After about 3 weeks I came up with a rose.  As soon as I posted my rose all those same people that made the sunflower/mums were back wanting to make a rose…and they were bringing friends with them.  Holy moly, what have I started… I didn’t know...but I did know I was just having so much fun.  My back was sore A LOT but that feeling of having a purpose that I had back in my life was far greater than the back pain.  If I had to stay in bed for a few days after teaching a class I didn’t care as I felt so good about what I was doing.  And the expressions on people’s faces were priceless.  And I was making a lot of great friends doing this as they would always come back to my classes with differen’t friends.  

I then started seeing more and more pictures of flower wreaths on the internet.  Really pretty ones with beautiful styrofoam centers that had gems on them.  And the most perfect flower petals.  I looked and looked at the pictures of these and I could not get mine to look like the picture.  So, I figured I would message the lady and just ask her how she made her petals.  What’s the worse that can happen…she would say no.  Just like the lady I asked on the burlap one said NO, I moved on.  So, I messaged this Lady that made this flower that caught my eye in March 2016 and asked her if she would share how she made her petals.  She was super nice and told me .  She even sent me pictures of how she did it.   She would cross hers over in the middle…that was the trick to getting them so perfect.   A lot of people must have been asking as a few months later I seen a YouTube video where she showed people how to make the flower. I never did end up making the petals like hers as it was much more time consuming and I finessed my technique of petal folding to the way I liked to do it.

I started doing kits and secret groups were I would post a video on Facebook and the people that bought the kits could go in that secret group and follow along as I made the wreaths and they made them at the same time in the comfort of their own homes.   It was after my first batch of Kits that I knew I had invented something awesome…I called the lawyer who did my provisional patent (as you only have a year to file for the actual patent after you file a provisional patent) and told her I would like to continue on with my patent as I have proved that it works and I think I can make a business with this invention.

I posted a rose and sunflower wreath on 1 Wreathing Facebook page that had about 95% of the people from the USA and asked if anyone wanted to try my board with all the supplies included and they could make one for themselves at home….and the rest of my story is still in progress…

Ellen DeGeneres once said...

Follow your passion, stay true to yourself, never follow someone else's path unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path then by all means you should follow that.


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8 comments

  • Hey Laurie, I am very excited!!!!!
    I bought your large boards straight from you to be shipped all the way to me in the UK, which was fantastic and I adore them, but tonight, whilst making a Lolly wreath, I noted you had a seller over here…luscious lobbies!, 🤪🤪🤪
    Ordered 10 boards again and a few other bits and bobs. I cannot find burlap anywhere over here….any ideas?
    On reading your story I can totally relate, I had spinal surgery in November ‘18 for nerve decompression and has some vertebrae worked on, not as serious as yours, but having the pain in my back and legs for over 2 years I can only imagine what you went through. We own a care business and as you know you never ever switch off, I love my crafting, I do many different crafts from soap making to making Christmas baubles or much more, keeps me sane! Lol. You are amazing, I have been following you for many months now, I love your work. Thank you for your generosity and teaching. Take care 💐 x

    Tracey Jackson

  • thank you for using the regular burlap i was afraid to use it and i see how pretty yours turn out because it is so hard to fine the poly burpal mest in the store you would have to order it but you color is so bright i love it now i know i can use reg burpal and i have the circle to use i just order the tree one thank you.

    diane

  • Hi, Laurie! I have been watching you for the past year or so and could tell you were Canadian by your accent! Yes, they tell us we Canadians have an accent! We have many accents. You can tell where someone is from by their regional accent! My parents were from Saskatchewan and there are words that just aren’t heard here. Here, is Vancouver, BC. I have written to you before when you were talking about McMaster. My son had a full scholarship to study quantum physics, etc. I cried my heart out every time we had to say goodbye. It was worse once they had babies. Not fair. He got his undergrad at SFU and did one year towards his Master’s at McMaster. His prof, Graeme Luke put him right into the PhD program. Have Mitchell say a Hi from Gregory MacDougall. Great people, they had us to dinner when we were there. Graeme gormet cooks! Greg was out here often to work on the adccelerator at UBC. We were there to visit and it was amazing! This thing is monstrous, in the ground indoors. We had to be tested for radiation when leaving! You wear a card around your neck and it picks up any radiation you have been in contact with! Greg said he had to wear it every day. His 3 gorgeous kids are OK!! Never know!!! He got his PhD at McMaster and was offered several jobs all over the world. He chose Knoxville, Tennessee! WTF? That is so far from home! The nuclear lab is actually in Oakridge, Ten.. It is in the middle of nowhere and you have to have all this clearance to get in the gate to the grounds. They needed 3 months to get our info from the federal government of Canada to make sure we were just visitors!!! They would not print our photo visitor’s passes till we were standing in front of them. What a fantastic experience seeing what he did all day! His tittle was a research scientist for the Federal Energy Department. My Kid!!!! (blows us away, even today). I wanted to sit in on one of his lectures at University of Illinois, at Urbana/Champagn. My daughter in law, said it would be boring. That’s my kid up there, I don’t care what he is saying!He’s a popular, young physics prof, voted the best teacher by the students! (Just bragging because i can! I’m not like this in real life, quite the opposite. He is so humble you would never know he was a doctor of physics unless you ask him what he does. He never brings it up. Mama can tell ya!! My older son and daughter are very smart, too, but he has set the bar really high! They have 3 kids all born in different cities! The boys are born in Knoxville and Urbana and the girl was the firstborn in Hamilton. Miss them too much….i was reading your text on this site for the first time tonight and saw the aweful illness you have. Our daughter,Carly was really ill, too two and a half years ago. She was up all night vomiting, high fever, etc and suddenly said, Mike i can’t feel anything from the chest down!!!! He put the kids in the car and got her to hospital. So scared….After millions of tests they said she has Travers Myolitis, a very rare disease. Look it up, scary. it is a sister illness to MS, which freaked us out! She has a little bit of feeling in her right leg to drive with. Divine intervention! They said it would be a year and she would be over it. It has been 2 and half hears and she still feel very little. The feeling is starting to come back in her back the pain is unbearable. The nerve endings are screaming! She gets the kids to school and finds herself dead asleep all day, her body is working so hard. She coaches soccer,, she had a soccer scholarship to Langara College and played on the team. She ended up going up the ladder fast at McDonald’s and thought that would be her career, but it took it’s toll. So much is expected and they will pass over you if you don’t keep working day and night. She went to college and became a legal assistant. Anyway, there is a spot on her spine that is the virus lodged in the vertebrae. Last scan, it had moved down one disc and the neurologist doesn’t know why! i’m shaking writing about it right now… She keeps upright on shear will,, she must think every step to make her legs move and remember she is standing. She has had a lot of falls, and bad ones. i feel so helpless, as I’m not well right now, waiting game for surgery. Her beautiful babies want to help, they’re great. They are 9 and 6. Troy started kindergarten last fall and said,, But who is going to look after Mama? Precious little guy. Avery is scared, too. This is so unfair. i beg her to slow down, but that is not her. She coaches soccer, and it kills me to watch her run down the sidelines with a cane! She was such an athlete! Oh, she also was stricken with Hodgin’s lymphoma when she was 25. i sat through every chemo with her, and it was just killing me..She got well and had a not a dry eye in the park wedding and two beautiful babes. We thought cancer was ugly, now this. We just have to be grateful and we are. I still cry and cry sometimes. She is my Hero! I have been through a surgery, too for lymphoma. it was negative for now, but have swollen glands all across the neck so am going again to see the specialist. That is not the worst issue i have but, another day…..This was meant as a hi, laurie, we have a lot in common, but turned out to be a sob story. sorry. i was shocked about your illness. Where does this stuff come from??? i love what you do, very talented Mama! I do a lot of florals, like a houseful so my wreaths are floral on grapevine rounds. of course, they are over thetop! The neighbours are looking to see what I have done on the front porch eavh season. i’m quirky with my decorating,, rustic, farmhouse, etc. It is so much fun to surprize them! i make gifts for family and friends, but everyone thinks i should sell them. you know what that’s like. A big wreath would have 2oo dollars worth of flowers from Michael’s. I only buy half price and scout around dollar stores, but they aren’t very good quality. Fine for background greenery, etc. So…… we are a colourful bunch, even though we have had many things to deal with (Oh my husband had an anaphalatic shock from a medication and died, but they brought him back!) We found out much later that he had a blood clot go from his leg to his lung and he had a heart attack. We did not know that at the time. He was in agony with back pain, his discs are all arthritis from physical work his whole life. he’s never been right since,, but is still working at a desk job even though we will be 66 in September. We are a really close family, so we have each other. If only Greg and fam would come home! so……now that you are completely bored, love your work and best of luck to you! Keep in touch, maybe. Carol

    carol macdougall

  • I have been watching you for months now and never knew your story behind inventing the boards. Awesome story.

    Cindy ranker

  • Wow! Laurie , I have been following you for about 8 months now! Never knew your back story. I completely understand because I have back issues!( 5 herniated discs and nerve damage…..tingling in my legs 24/7) You are truly an inspiration! Your designs have inspired me to create beyond what I thought I was capable of. Thank you so much for sharing your passion with me! God Blessyou and keep you healthy and pain free!

    Janice Higgins


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