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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