13 May 2022
Meet Emma Horan, cross stitch designer and Cornwall-lover, who shares how it all began with 20p second-hand cross stitch software and how Cornish life inspires her designs, from stitch kits through to colouring books and postcards...
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your business?
I'm Emma Horan, cross stitch designer and business owner at Emma Louise Art Stitch. I'm originally from the Midlands but now live in St Austell, Cornwall with my husband, son and a bossy black cat. Based from my town centre studio shop I create contemporary art cross stitch kits, colouring books and postcard packs inspired by the Cornish coastal life and based on my original artwork.
How did you get into cross stitching?
I was always creative and into all sorts of crafts when I was young and although I'd completed a few cross stitch kits as a child, it wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I decided to give it a go again. I had to take some time out of work and started to paint and create scenes inspired by my beautiful adopted county. I also started to cross stitch at this time and thought I could maybe combine the two.
While walking around Cornwall, I found some second-hand cross stitch software in a National Trust bookshop for 20p so it seemed obvious to have a go at stitching my artwork. It took some practise, perseverance and mistakes to figure out what I was doing as I was using the software, graph paper and amending it as I worked on it. I actually stitched three separate versions of my first cross stitch kit, St Ives North Harbour before it became the kit I sell today.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
Almost accidently! It wasn’t really ever my intention to be a cross stitch designer and have this business – I figured I may have to go back to IT recruitment at some point but many years later it’s all still working out well.
St Ives North Harbour was my first created piece. I posted a photograph of it on social media and a cross stitch magazine retweeted it to a lot more followers and this generated a surprising amount of interest in my design. As I'd really enjoyed the process, over the next few months I purchased some professional software and continued to create new cross stitch designs which I sold on Etsy. I then started purchasing the stock to create my own kits and set up a website, attended some craft fairs and opened my first little studio/shop in 2014.
The business has now expanded into over 50 modern cross stitch kits, colouring books and accessories and I sell wholesale to many shops around Cornwall and the UK as well as from my webstore, Amazon, eBay and my St Austell town centre retail shop.
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Where do you get your design inspiration/what inspires you?
I'm not Cornish but moved here in 2010 after being in love with it from a young age, so I'm obviously hugely inspired by my coastal location and love to live by the sea in Cornwall.
Cornish scenes make up over half of my designs and are also the basis for my Cornwall colouring book but my collection also includes anything which makes me feel happy.
"I love to use a bold, vibrant modern colour palette and create a cheerful vibe."
What’s your favourite cross stitch creation to-date? Can we see?!
Whatever I'm working on at the moment is always my favourite design (until the next one). Obviously my style has changed slightly over time and I have more love for some designs than others. St Ives is special as it was my first and without it I wouldn’t be doing this, but then I love the uniqueness of some of my non-Cornwall designs such as my Abstract Trio and my Retro surf designs.
But my most popular design and still my favourite large piece is Mousehole Harbour. I have a customer gallery on my website and have been lucky enough to receive finished pictures of this kit from lots of satisfied customers all over the world and that feels pretty amazing.
Crafts are known to be excellent for wellbeing – how vital do you find crafting for your own mindfulness and wellbeing?
Absolutely vital! We live in a world that can be overwhelming if you let it.
I first started creating while having to take time out of work and was having counselling sessions when I first picked up a kit as an adult. I now get so many lovely letters and messages from customers explaining how my kit helped them through a tough time, or how a location they'd stitched had an emotional connection for them and I can really relate. That for me is the best part of my job.
I still try and stitch for at least 30mins each evening as it really helps get away from everything and creates calm before sleeping.
What are your top tips for beginners/those who’d like to start cross stitch?
Just do it and don’t worry about getting it right or what anyone else thinks!
The great thing about fabric and thread is that you can always unpick it if you wish and mistakes are a big part of learning. I'm not really a needlecraft expert and haven’t really any interest in the proper ways of doing things – I'm a lover of messy backs, stretched thread and missed stitches – it all adds character. Luckily I have a fabulously neat and organised stitcher who completes my kits for me so that they look exactly the same as the chart.
I'd also recommend joining some of the fabulous cross stitch Facebook groups who treat newbies brilliantly and have loads of experience and encouragement to share.
For more tips take a look at our handy cross stitch guide for beginners.
Are you into any other crafts and if so, what are they?
I love most creative pursuits and also obviously love drawing, painting and colouring, fuelled by a huge art supplies addiction. I find there is quite a crossover between people that stitch and other mindful crafts, which is why I created the Cornwall colouring book and postcards.
My current craft is playing around with mosaics experimenting with 1cm ceramic tiles and cross stitch charts to try and create large mosaic artwork...
I also have five year old who loves crafting so when not working I can be found (sometimes reluctantly) painting rocks, making kitties out of pom poms or racing cars out of toilet roll tubes!
Tell us about your craft room/work space...
In 2021 I moved into a fab new large studio/shop where I spend my days designing, manufacturing and packing orders. Customers can come and peruse my kits and accessories as well as see the finished projects, original artwork and chat all things stitchy with me.
I have a great shop front with all my kits available, all my finished designs on the walls, lots of hoops, needles and frames as well as a 'have a go' wall where customers can just pick up a hoop and put some crosses on it.
I also have a dedicated workshop area and space for cutting fabric and manufacturing kits and I'm surrounded by all the bright threads – it’s definitely a happy stitch space.
Where can people find out more about you?
I like to share the process of being a cross stitch designer online and interact with stitchers so you can join me in the world of social media at:
You can purchase and view my kits at:
Alternatively, you can come and visit me in my studio/shop at 17 Duke Street, St Austell, Cornwall.
Look out for Emma's free and EXCLUSIVE cross stitch chart coming to the blog soon...! Until then enjoy this sunshine chart by Lucie Heaton or brush up on your stitching skills with these 25 pro cross stitch tips for beginners and beyond.