Lauren Holton of Lark Rising stitching
Lauren Holton took a slow-growth approach to building her business, Lark Rising Studios, which offers embroidery patterns and kits inspired by the beauty of nature. In February, she was featured in ads and promotions for Joann Fabric to highlight embroidery month.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Holton and Leah Beachy

Lauren Holton, creator of Lark Rising Studios, never thought of herself as an artist, but she uses color and floss to embroider scenes of flowers, meadows, oceans, even abstract designs, much as a painter uses a brush.

Holton took a slow path in turning her stitch-witchery into a business designing and selling embroidery kits and patterns. Her patience seems to be working, and in February her work was featured in JOANN’s embroidery promotions.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Holton was a crafty child, inspired by nature.

“Being an artist was never on my radar,” says Holton, who lives in Washington. “As a kid, I would do things like collect shells, come home, and make different designs on the carpet.”

She’s done beading, watercolor, ceramics, quilting and more. In high school, instead of buying a graduation dress, she made one, despite having no pattern and few sewing skills. “I just dive into things and think, oh, I can figure that out.”

hands holding embroidery art of a meadow
Holton’s designs run the gamut from colorful meadows and seascapes to modern abstract designs and she often works in themes to create various collections.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Holton and Leah Beachy

She even took her yen to design into her career. With a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, she designed children’s play areas for camps and parks, and taught environmental education.

When she had her first son, she quit her fulltime job to be a stay-at-home mom and turned her creative urges to making baby leggings, toys, and other child-centered items. “I felt like my entire world was wrapped up in my kid.”

Ready to expand her creative options she scrolled through Pinterest looking for something to make for a friend’s birthday. She found embroidery.

  “I haven’t done that since fourth grade,” she remembers thinking. So, she bought a hoop, floss, and fabric, drew “a little bumblebee,” and learned some simple stitches, including a French knot and a satin stitch. Her little bee “turned out cute.

lauren holton stitching a crosstitch pattern work
Holton finds embroidery satisfying, soothing, and almost like meditation.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Holton and Leah Beachy

My friend loved it and I immediately wanted to make something else. It was fun and so satisfying I never stopped.”

A self-described recovering perfectionist, Holton found embroidery relaxing, satisfying, even Zen-like. “It felt good for my nervous system, physically good. That tension in the thread, popping the needle through the fabric, pulling the thread in and out, it’s rhythmic, like meditation. You place a stitch and there it stays, not like watercolor, which goes its own way. And if the stitch doesn’t look right, you can take it out and do it over. I appreciate that.”

Also, she adds, embroidery “was a pretty low-cost investment.” But not yet a business.

Holton had opened an Etsy store in 2014, selling “Pillow Pals.” Using ordinary markers, she drew the fronts and backs of animals, cleaned them up in Photoshop, and had them printed on fabric. “I cut them out in the shape of the animal, and then stuffed and sewed them.”

Sales went well, she says, which helped her realize that she actually could run an Etsy shop. But Pillow Pals didn’t thrill her like embroidery did, so in 2016 she closed that first store and opened Lark Rising with a simple goal: to make enough money to support her craft habit.

She made a few simple floral pieces, put them in hoops and sold them. She was soon getting orders, but making the same thing over and over was tedious and time-consuming.

“Embroidery is slow,” she says. “I spent a lot of time making the same thing, but I had so many other ideas of things I wanted to make. I can only stitch so quickly, so I realized this (wouldn’t make) me any money.”

She thought, “if I teach people how to make these, if I sell the pattern, people can do it themselves, and then I’m off the hook.” Having this semi-passive income, she realized, “gave me the freedom to focus on other things and diversify what I was able to work on.”

olive branch embroidery art
hands holding ocean landscape embroidery
Holton has several ways to sustain her company, such as digital pattern downloads, online classes, and complete embroidery kits.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Holton and Leah Beachy

Her first pattern was a simple Harry Potter-inspired design, “and people bought it. Next month I released another pattern, and people bought that.” She started releasing a new pattern every month, but within about 15 months she realized that between designing the pattern, making the sample, writing instructions, photographing the steps, etc., she couldn’t keep up that monthly pace.

Time to, once again, refine her business. For instance, instead of writing her patterns in a Word document (tedious and time consuming), she hired a graphic designer to create a template.

She also joined Instagram, where she found “welcoming folks in the embroidery sphere. It was a kind, generous space.” She gained followers and found her business growing and evolving.

Today she has several ways to sustain her company, offering options such as digital pattern downloads (which “I really like because it’s no longer any work for me”); online classes at Creativebug and The Crafter’s Box; and complete kits that include pattern, thread, needles, and a printed fabric that Holton pre-loads “as tight as it can be” onto a beach wood embroidery hoop. “One of my biggest pet peeves is when people don’t get fabric tight in the hoop and their fabric bunches underneath their stitches, getting all wonky.”

Putting together kits is a lot of work, she notes, which is why she waited 2 ½ years into her business before selling them. “I feel committed to having both (patterns and kits) because everybody has a different budget and a different feel for what they want to do.”

In April she revamped her website with an expanded product line that includes felt applique, weaving, and other features.

Holton is happy with her slow growth progress as it gave her time to figure out “who I am and what I’m doing in this space. It took time and trying things, building confidence in myself.”

Oh, and while building those skills, she also wrote a book, The Modern Embroidery Studio, and had a second baby. And slowly, she says, she began to feel she was coming into her own style, “and that is ever evolving.”

lauren putting away craft supplies in studio
Holton, who also teaches classes in person and online, has widened her creative repertoire to include felt designs.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Holton and Leah Beachy

Evolving led her to creating collections, such as Meadows (patterns inspired by growing up amidst the fields, orchards, and beauty of Oregon’s Willamette Valley); new Mediterranean sets, and Marbled (flowing abstract designs that use a satin stitch to create swirls of color and a pattern so popular Holton says it has been hijacked by copycats, which has been quite a challenge).

There have been other challenges as well. Pricing is always tricky, especially for kits. “I wanted to be sure that I was getting paid to do the work and not just reimbursing myself for materials,” she explains.

In the meantime, “I feel overwhelming gratitude that I get to do something that I love for my job,” Holton says. “It’s nourishing and filling and I get to connect with other amazing people.”

Turning her hobby into work has not dampened her embroidery enthusiasm. In fact, “It makes me want to do more, to see how I can expand this practice, to try new things and see how I can play and explore in other ways.”

Spoken like a true artist, indeed.

Roberta G. Wax

Roberta G. Wax


Roberta Wax is an award-winning journalist and imperfect crafter. A former news reporter, her freelance articles and projects have appeared in a variety of newspapers and magazines, from the Los Angeles Times and Emmy magazine to Cloth Paper Scissors, Somerset Studio, Craftideas, Belle Armoire, etc. She has also designed for craft companies. Although she has no art background she was a crafty Girl Scout leader. www.creativeunblock.com

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