Simple and effective hand embroidery using minimal threads

A Small Wedding Anniversary Gift – and the reason behind the elephant!

A small wedding anniversary gift

Today, hubby and I have been married for fourteen years! When you stop and think about it, that is a long time! Thankfully, it doesn’t feel like a long time. I’m honoured and privileged to be married to such a wonderful man! We have experienced a lot, and done a lot of things together, seen a lot of things, moved countries together a few times. Knowing someone is walking beside you is always a good feeling. The poor man has had to put up with a bit over the years too! I can be difficult at times, my embroidery supplies can go everywhere (he’s only sat on one needle over the years – needless to say I’m much more aware of where I put sharp objects now!). And he was with me, and dealt with all the trauma after my fall. I don’t recall the majority of it, but he remembers every last detail.

So why an elephant?

Gift giving can be difficult can’t it? I’m not great at the activity, and the past few years we have celebrated our anniversary with a nice meal and no gift. But this year, I thought it would be nice to make something small. It’s not expensive or special in any way to anyone else, it is just a small gesture.

Fourteen years. According to the traditional gift giving guide for wedding anniversaries, this means we are up to ivory. For obvious reasons, a tad difficult in this day and age, as it should be! But I thought I could ‘celebrate elephants’ as a symbol of ivory rather than have anything ivory specific.

After looking at images of elephants online, and seeing a couple I thought looked appropriate, I came across an image in zentangle style with the two interlinking trunks, and I thought, that’s it! Perfect for a wedding anniversary. It was an image available on Shutterstock, and even though I had to buy credits for five images to get it, I thought it was worthwhile. I’m sure I will find images to use as part of my RSN work!

And so, tthe elephant was born. I didn’t want all the fancy lines, just the outline – I needed this to be a quick project! So I have adapted it a bit to what it is today for this little project.

design for elephant wedding anniversary gift by Catherine of Hillview Embroidery


Gathering supplies

For this little elephant, I thought it might be nice to make the design up into a little box cover as I had one in my stash. Uncovering one box actually meant finding two so I now had choice! They are little satin covered boxes by Rajmahal threads. They come in a few different sizes and colours and come complete with a padded top that is easy to remove. So minimal fuss on completing the project!

For whatever reason, I have a rather large supply of this silk that I used for my quick Christmas ornament last year. And as it’s ‘ivorish’ in colour that was what I would use! And learning from my mistakes of that project. I definitely backed it with calico (homespun) this time round.

I also used some ornamental threads from Oliver Twist threads, and some metallic threads of various brands.

Starting the design

After tracing my design onto vellum tracing paper, I got out my trusty lightbox, and used a micron pen to trace the design straight onto the silk. Big tip – don’t do this! The micron pen ‘bled’ a little, so my lines were not as sharp and minimal as I would have liked! It didn’t end up being a major problem, but I did nearly throw the whole thing out and start again! If i wanted fine stitching, this would have been a major problem. So, another lesson – trace either onto the background fabric, or use a sharp pencil! I really should have known better.

As I wanted quick, with a bit of sparkle, I used one of the Oliver Twist threads, and couched it down using one of the metallic threads on all of those (large) design lines. I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with the eye, or the ears. For the eye, I used quite a thick metallic thread and used backstitch (I attempted stem stitch at first but the thread just wasn’t co-operating!) to outline the eye, and using an ‘ivorish’  silk thread, used padded satin stitch for the eye itself.

As for the ears, I actually wish I had left them blank! I stitched in the first ear with a couched down metallic thread, and didn’t like it. So I pulled it out, but the fabric did not fare will through the exercise. So I had to decide to start again, or work out if I could do something else. So a couple of attempts later, we have the finished ears. I’m still not happy with them, but they are better than the original attempt. I really need to plan these things out better before just diving in!

And to finish it all off, it really needed something else. So I backstitched a metallic thread around the couched down lines. It might have been nice to add some pearls or beads or something, but I didn’t have anything that was ivorish in colour, and I really wanted to keep it as a principally monochrome piece. Sometimes I get set in my ways and won’t be swayed!

An effective use of materials to create a pleasing and simple design


So to finish it off

Completing the little guy was actually surprisingly easy!

I held the piece up to the light whilst it was still in the frame, and held the removable lid section behind it to work out where it needed to placed. Then I just traced this (in pencil – lesson learned!). I left about a two centimetre allowance, and stitched in some gathering threads. At times I think embroiderers need eight hands, and this was one of those times! Holding the lid, tightening and making sure it was all looking ok was not easy! I probably could have pulled the gathering threads tighter, but I ended up lacing it quickly to make up for that.

I was a bit unsure as to how to actually attach it back to the lid now!  On Rajmahal’s website, they say to use glue, which horrified me slightly (I’m so old fashioned!). But I couldn’t think of a better way, and I didn’t have time to work it out, so I went with it, and here it is!

completed hand embroidered wedding anniversary gift


And to finish the gift off, I bought some elephant cuff links for inside the box. So now he might have a cufflink box that is actually big enough for all of them!

And that’s how I got away with an ‘ivory’ themed gift!


30 thoughts on “A Small Wedding Anniversary Gift – and the reason behind the elephant!”

  1. Great idea! I might use that design for our anniversary some time too. It’d look great using appliqué and the original greys too. 🙂

    Elephants are also a symbol of memory, so the design celebrates all your shared memories too. Happy 14th! ♡♡

    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I was thinking about the memory point as well – such a shame mine is so dreadful these days! I think these simple designs have a number of different ways you could interpret and play with them, which makes them so much fun! Thanks for the happy wishes ?

  2. It’s a lovely gift and beautifully stitched. Which micron pen do you use? I use the Copic archival pens in sepia. They’re very similar to the Sakura micron pens and have never bled on me.

    1. Thanks Dima. I use the Copic Archival pens. I normally use the sepia colour but couldn’t find that pen and used a fine black one instead. Maybe it’s the colour?

  3. Looks gorgeous! The silks I bought on ebay recently were Rajmahal, it’s not a make I’d come across before but they feel lovely, I think I need a nosy on their website!

    1. I’d love to know what you think of their threads. I find them difficult to use but they give a beautiful finish!

  4. That’s a very ingeious way to respond to the theme – well done. And actually, judging by the amount of glue used liberally on a piece of my Grandmama’s embroidery in the 1940s, it’s glue that is old fashioned, not lacing.A conservator of my acquaintance has told me that modern glues are much less acidic than the old ones, so you should be ok.

    1. Oh, very interesting about the glue Rachel! And good to know it has fared well over time. It’s less time consuming than lacing so I can see where your Grandmama was coming from!

  5. Happy Anniversary (Sorry its a bit late). What a lovely anniversary gift it’s practical and very special because you made it.

  6. What a unique gift for your husband for your anniversary! Making gifts for men can be such a challenge when it comes to figuring out what to give them. This may have been a simple and quick gift but I love how much thought you put into it and I’m sure that your husband does too and will cherish it.

    1. I tend to be at a real loss as to what to buy hubby when gifts are required! Well, all the men in my life to be honest! He loved it, thankfully, and I’m glad I could make something for him so it is a true unique gift.

  7. Lovely design, your choice of threads is spot on. I too have made the error using a micron pen when I should have used a pencil. Currently I am working on a piece from a kit, some of the lines are quite thick and I’m not sure they wash out when completed. The cuff links are sweet. Nice job on the finished box.

    1. Thanks Deborah ? I saw your piece and the problems you were having covering the design lines. And unfortunately, micron pens don’t come out, which is both a good thing and a bad thing! We all learn our lessons and adapt to what we are given, even if it is not quite as we originally planned!

  8. I loved this the first time I saw it and I loved seeing it again. Thanks for sharing it in last week’s Stitchery Link Party as inspiration for others for unique and beautiful gifts to give to the men in our lives.

    1. Thanks Sue. It might not be appropriate for all men, but it is good to get inspiration from a few different aspects when gift giving for difficult people!

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