Creating the elephant ears hoop for the August 2021 Hopebroidery Box

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 big box also get all the supplies they'll need for their project, including full skeins of embroidery floss, fabric, embroidery scissors I curate specifically for that project, and more. You can take a look at past boxes that have been sent out by visiting the "kits" section of my shop (I keep up the "sold out" kits so that you can see what sorts of supplies and designs have come in past boxes, even if they're no longer available).


Photo of embroidery hoops in various colors and designs.
Sample hoops for 2021's Hopebroidery Box (so far!).

I've started to write blog posts about how I design each month's project because I think it might be interesting, and also because I think it's helpful to see the different ways I go about designing the hoops themselves. For example, in creating the fish hoop for the June 2021 box project, I shared about how a hoop might start from a random, simple idea taken from my sketch book. In creating the landscape hoop for the July 2021 box, I shared about how I started stitching landscape hoops as a reaction to a beautiful trip and motion sickness.


Today, I'll share the process of creating the elephant ears hoop for the August 2021 box, a potted plant embroidery with satin stitching and gentle shading.


Photo of an embroidery hoop with green elephant ears in a blue pot stitched onto white fabric and surrounded by embroidery supplies.
The final sample for the August 2021 Hopebroidery Box!

First, the inspiration: elephant ears. Here's a terrible photo of elephant ears in my front yard:



I love elephant ears: they're easy to grow, hard to kill, and I'm a sucker for those giant green leaves!


My first step started over a year ago, when I started sketching out initial ideas for an elephant ear embroidery. In the timelapse below, you can see me trying to figure out how to capture the leaves and what composition and coloring might look best:



Ultimately, I decided this would be too simple for a box project and I would need to re-work the design to make it interesting enough for a full kit. I thought adding the plant to a pot, surrounded by other types of flowers and vines, might be the change I needed; you can see me trying to work through that idea in the timelapse below:



I thought this would work, so I gathered potential colors, a hoop, and the notebook where I take all my pattern notes and began to stitch a sample.



Once I started stitching out the rest of the plants, I realized it wouldn't work for me - but I hadn't wasted my time! I loved the way I had stitched the elephant ears themselves, so I decided to keep going until I figured it out.


This is the point in the post where I start to get embarrassed about how many attempts it took me to design something pretty, interesting, and fun to stitch. It doesn't usually take me so long to figure this sort of thing out, and I've been hesitant to share this sort of process in the past! But sometimes, it takes me several tries before I get it right - and that's okay!


I went back to sketching and stitching a second sample. Here's a timelapse of the sketch:



And here's the point of that second sample that I realized I was still doing something wrong:



At this point, I was about as angry with myself as I could be, in terms of designing embroidery hoops. I let this sample sit on my desk for a while, thinking I could fix it, but ultimately decided it was time to start working on a third sample.


I decided I wanted to go back to the initial way I had stitched the leaves, but keep the fullness of the second sample. Here's a timelapse of me sketching out that third and final sample:



Although the progress photos I take aren't super high quality, they do serve to help me see the project I'm stitching more clearly (I talk a bit about how this works in my post, "Why does your hand embroidery look bad?"). Once I started stitching this third sample, my head was so fuzzy with not-so-great attempts that it was hard for me to know if I was on the right track this time - which is why these photos ended up being so helpful to me!


Here's a photo of my third attempt, and what would eventually turn into the final sample for the box project:



While I'm stitching samples, I'm also taking detailed pattern notes, which help me to write the full pattern later. If a sample doesn't work out, I write "nope," and move onto another page until I get it right.


Here's a portion of the pattern page for this project:



(Note: I've marked out many of the specific notes to myself in the page above because this will turn into the actual pattern, and sharing that here wouldn't be fair to customers who purchase the August pattern or kit from me!)


Keeping detailed pattern notes as I stitch is super helpful to me when it comes time to write the actual pattern, later in the box-building process. I keep notes on the colors I've used, the number of strands I use for each stitch, as well as the stitch steps in the order that I've stitched them. If you're a pattern writer, or want to be a pattern writer, I cannot tell you how much easier this process became once I started doing this!


Finally, I had a sample hoop! I can always tells I'm done once I'm able to capture a photo that makes me proud:



As I'm working on the sample hoop, I'm also doing other things for the box, including ordering the scissors (you can find extra box scissors in my shop!), deciding which transfer method will work best, cutting fabric, purchasing floss (which I buy from Sublime Stitching, another small business!), and... so many other steps!


The process for putting together your box projects each month involves so many steps, but the best part is creating something that you will want to recreate with me! I can't wait to see what you make with this kit!


Subscriptions for the August 2021 Hopebroidery Box are open through the end of July 2021, and boxes will be in the mail the first week of August! If you're here late, you can always check to see if I have extra boxes available on the "kits" section of my shop! Happy stitching!