Each month, I send subscribers to the Hopebroidery Box a pattern and full-length, step-by-step video tutorial for that month's project. Subscribers to the physical box also receive all the supplies you'll need for your project, including full skeins of Sublime Stitching embroidery floss, a large cut of that month's fabric, embroidery scissors from Kelmscott Designs curated specifically for that month's project, and more. You can take a look at past boxes by visiting the kits and digital patterns sections of my shop (I keep the sold out physical kits viewable in the shop just in case you want to see what sorts of supplies and designs have come in past boxes, even if they're no longer available).
For the past year or so, I've been writing about how I design each month's project in hopes that it might be helpful to see the different ways I go about designing these sample hoops. Specifically, I hope it's helpful to you (if you're a newer designer looking for examples of how this process might work), and also find that it's been helpful to me (taking the time to process how each project comes to life is informative to my future work!).
In this post, I share the process of creating the crescent moon flowers sample hoop for the November 2022 box, a project featuring a crescent moon stitched onto a dark blue cotton fabric, surrounded by florals and leaves in greens, blues, pinks, and yellows. If you know you're interested in stitching this project with me in November, feel free to skip to the end of this post where you'll find information on when and how to get this box at the subscriber rate!
Sketching, choosing colors for, and transferring the crescent moon flowers project
I typically release a space- or celestial-themed box project each November, including last year's space embroidery project (and you'll find I did a pretty good job of keeping that one in stock - as of today's writing, this fun and beginner-friendly project is still available to purchase!). I’m not sure how I got into this routine, but at this point I think I’m totally fine with keeping that tradition going!
I’ve also got a super fun, texture-heavy space project in my book, which comes out in just a few short months! You can read all about my book elsewhere on my site (and if you’re here in time - please consider preordering, as preorders are incredibly important to first time authors like me!).
To design this month’s project, I started by flipping through a book of quick sketches and choosing a page of celestial-themed sketches. During these quick sketch sessions, I give myself just fifteen minutes to sketch out fifteen potential projects around a given theme, and ten minutes to sketch out a more detailed idea based on my favorite ideas from that initial session.
Next, I imported my favorite composition - in this case, the larger drawing I had spent more time on at the bottom of the page in the photo above - into the Procreate app for the iPad, which allows me to create a cleaner, easier-to-transfer design.
(If you’d like to see a more detailed tutorial for how I turn final projects into easy-to-transfer hand embroidery patterns, make sure to check out my YouTube tutorial, originally published in 2020! Even if you’re using a more updated version of the software or hardware, I think you’ll find it translates well all these years later - and it’s much easier to do than you might think!)
Next, I chose a fabric to work with and a handful of colors from Sublime Stitching embroidery, whose floss I’ve used in all my past box projects. I went with a deep blue cotton fabric and spring-inspired colors – after speaking with my friend and fellow stitcher Leslie Barber about our similar struggles in the colder months, I thought it might be good for my brain to use a palette representative of seasons that bring me more happiness than, say, fall and winter.
I try not to use the same transfer tool from one month to the next - loads of people subscribe for about three months before moving onto their own projects, and I want to be sure those sorts of customers are getting a good range in terms of their introduction to different tools. However, this month, I had to make an exception - these white water-erasable pens, which we also used last month, were the best fit for this particular fabric and design. Pencil marks wouldn’t show clearly enough on this fabric; the ink from blue water-erasable pens was too close in color to the fabric itself; and with all the filling we’ll be using for the project, washable transfer paper just wasn’t a great choice, either. It is what it is!
Once my pattern was transferred, I was ready to start stitching!
Stitching the crescent moon flowers sample
I almost always start with the “most difficult” portion of a piece, but will start with an easier section if it’s at the center. In this case, that meant I would be starting with a simple outline of the central shape - my moon. In my notes, I’d been calling this the “sun, moon, and flowers,” project, but once it came time to stitch I realized I’d be focusing more so on the “moon” aesthetic; this is where I began to do a bit of research into whether I had drawn a crescent or gibbous moon - I suppose I drew it somewhere in between the two, really! It’ll be up to subscribers to decide whether their moon is in a particular phase or not; for naming purposes, I went with “crescent” and moved onto the more colorful portion of my stitching.
Next, I started to add in color, starting with one of my very favorite shades of blue from Sublime Stitching, and a pop of bright yellow. I’m often hesitant at this point to keep stitching, because I know I risk messing things up and having to start all over again - and this is especially true when I’m under some sort of external, not-embroidery-related stress. And so setting aside time to stitch, which helps me to feel both productive and creative, was good for me!
After adding in a few more bright spots of yellow, I moved onto my fourth color, green, stitching in a few leaves and solidifying a plan to focus on a color-by-color design process (much like what I did while stitching the July 2022 floral sampler project).
Once I was done with the green, I began to add in a bit of variegated floss - pink and yellow floss, combined - which led me to my first unpicking moment of the project. I was working a bit too quickly, it happens!
I had been going through a pretty rough period when working on this portion of the sample, and ended up leaving this portion of the project half-unpicked for a few days before getting back to it. If you have trouble with inertia, too, take my advice: do your best to finish unpicking before you finish that day’s stitching session. Otherwise, you might find yourself avoiding the project altogether!
This flower, once finished, made me want to unpick everything and start over - so I elected to give myself a break and take a look at it from a fresher perspective in another session. This is something I recommend in my blog post, Why does your hand embroidery look bad?, a post I wrote for friends and students - but often re-visit myself!
The next day, I added more petals and was grateful to have not unpicked the last session’s work. Some of the white from my pen is showing, but I’m feeling more hopeful about the project in general, which in turn makes me feel more confident that I’ll be able to finish it and either remove or cover up those pesky marks!
I left the next session feeling like this project was really coming together!
This is the point at which I like to hang up my work in progress next to previous months’ design, which you can see in the (poorly lit and originally only meant for me, really!) photograph below. This helps me to have a better sense of when the project is finished, and whether I'm on track to create something that goes well with the other designs. It also gives me a chance to start thinking about the piece as a finished design, allowing myself to stare at it to determine whether gaps look intentional or simply unfinished. It looks unfinished here, don’t you think?
I keep the current years’ hoops hung near my desk, which allows me loads of time to think about how I might improve each month, which colors and design elements might best add to that year’s collection of designs, and even what I might do differently in the upcoming year. I stare at these so much, in fact, that by the end of each year I find myself thinking, “wow, these are all absolutely terrible - I can’t wait for a chance to make something better next year!”
After several hours of working on other things and occasionally staring at the project on my wall, I realized this design wasn’t nearly complete; luckily, the time away from stitching gave me a better sense of what to do next. I took the progress photo below around 2 or 3 am (I sometimes have difficulty sleeping at this stage!).
After staring at the hoop a bit longer, I realized this would actually be an excellent opportunity for me to use an open fill technique I used with a recent non-box project, a simple pear design you can now find as a digital pattern in my shop! Open fill techniques are those that allow you to add a bit of color and texture when filling a shape, without covering up your fabric entirely.
Once I finished stitching the moon itself, I decided to go ahead and back the project to see if it looked finished - I did this before attempting to wash off any remaining marks not just because I’ll often leave them (they’re so hard to notice, anyway), but because our plumbing wasn’t working at the time! No water, no washing of hoops.
A project like this can feel never-ending in that there is always something I could add! I’m sure this is something that will come up in the video tutorial for the project itself, too, as I often mention that we can always take our hoops down from the wall to add in things, remove things, or fix things, when backing with cardboard. This project turned out to be great practice in terms of learning when to stop when something is good enough, allowing myself to play around with colorful spring-like colors in the fall, and reminding myself that hand embroidery isn’t supposed to be perfect!
What am I doing, other than stitching the sample hoop?
As I'm working through the sample project, I'm also doing other things for the box, including choosing and ordering that month's scissors (you'll find scissors from past boxes available for purchase on their own in my shop); purchasing, cutting, and folding that month's fabric; bundling full skeins of Sublime Stitching embroidery floss; and loads of other steps that eventually come together into neatly packaged embroidery kits.
The process of putting together your box projects, kits, and patterns each month works a bit like a puzzle for me, and I absolutely love it! That said, the best part is creating something that you might want to recreate with me; I absolutely love seeing what subscribers make each month, either on social media or sent to me directly via email -- it's such a treat!
Interested in stitching the crescent moon flowers project with me?
Subscriptions for the November 2022 Hopebroidery Box will be open throughout the month of October, and subscribers' boxes are set to be shipped (and patterns sent to your emails) the first week of November. I know subscriptions can be super confusing at times, so please feel free to reach out to me directly via email should you have any questions whatsoever before subscribing!
Thank you for being here, and happy stitching!
Thank you so much for being here! I truly appreciate you, whether you're here to shop or simply here to learn! If you're interested in embroidery kits, but aren't sure mine are the right fit for you, check out my post all about how to choose an embroidery kit -- I want to help you find the right fit for you, even if it's not with me!
Happy stitching, happy fall, and I'll see you next month for another box design process post!