Spotlight: Palmerton woman wins county, state awards with cross-stitch pieces
Donna Horn poses with the framed cross-stitch project that won first place in last year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show.
A close-up of the cross stitch portrait Horn entered in the farm show. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Horn holds up a photo of her first Pennsylvania Farm Show entry, which took home an honorable mention.
Horn examines her current work-in-progress: a scenic wood cabin porch. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Horn stitches green thread onto her current project. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Horn shows off a flower-themed cross-stitch in progress. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
orn completed this cross stitch of a dog for a friend. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Horn completed three religious-themed cross-stitches like the one above last year. DANIELLE DERRICKSON/TIMES NEWS
Donna Horn learned how to cross-stitch from her mother-in-law.
Horn’s late mother-in-law, Margaret Horn, was a cross-stitcher, and about 35 years ago, Margaret shared some of her knowledge with her daughter-in-law. Horn started out slow, stitching together simple designs of flowers and birdhouses.
Just over three decades later, Horn has truly honed her craft; she’s crafted pieces that took Best in Show at the Carbon County Fair, and even a piece that won first in the Pennsylvania 2020 Farm Show — the country’s biggest indoor agriculture event.
“It’s just relaxing to me,” Horn said of her craft.
Counted cross-stitch is a sewing technique where X-shaped stitches are used to create intricate pictures worked by counting stitches from a chart. It takes time, patience and concentration.
“You change colors quite a lot, so it’s not like you start at one place and keep going with that color,” Horn said.
Born and raised in Palmerton, Horn graduated from Palmerton Area High School in 1969. She later started going to school to become a licensed practical nurse, but was also raising three boys at the time.
“It just got to be too much,” Horn recalled. Still, she was able to maintain a position as a medical assistant for more than 40 years.
But changes in the medical field — such as patient quotas for doctors — left Horn feeling burnt out. She switched careers in 2015, taking a job as an outreach specialist within state Rep. Doyle Heffley’s office.
“It was a big change,” Horn said, “but I love it.”
One of Horn’s favorite parts of the job is interacting with people. Funny enough, that’s also her favorite part of counted cross-stitch.
Horn doesn’t keep much of her work. Most her creations — her pictures of flowers, teddy bears, her wedding announcements — are given to friends and family.
“It’s just very rewarding to see how happy the people are when I give it to them,” Horn said. “Just the look on their faces, it makes me happy that I’m making them happy.”
Most recently, she took up a project requiring more than 30 different thread colors of a log cabin church, which will go to a friend at church. But Horn, who’s never encountered a cross-stitch pattern she couldn’t finish, isn’t sweating it.
“She picked a really hard one out, but I’ll get it done,” Horn said with a chuckle.
For this year’s farm show, Horn took on another difficult project: a portrait of teddy bears sitting side-by-side against a black background. It was her second time sewing that picture; she meant to enter it into the 2017 farm show but missed the deadline.
“I thought that was definitely, to me, a prize-winning picture,” Horn recalled.
This January, she was proven right; that same piece won first in the 2020 farm show, held in Harrisburg.
“I was ecstatic, I really was,” Horn said.
Asked if she plans to enter the farm show again, Horn answered that she probably will. She might even submit that log cabin portrait.
But until then, Horn will continue working on projects for her loved ones. She plans to make a few more teddy bear-themed pieces for her granddaughters.
And she’ll keep tutoring her 88-year-old mother, Valeria Procina, who took up counted cross-stitch recently.
“She’s starting out small,” Horn said, “just little, tiny ones.”