I’ve been to the Festival of Quilts a number of times before and I have enjoyed it every time. This time I also enrolled onto a whole day Academy Class workshop with the Queen of felt embroidery herself, Sue Spargo. The workshop had 14 participants, we were in a quiet room away from the hustle of the exhibition halls. We started at 9.30am and had a few short breaks until finishing at 4pm; the time just flew by.

Sue Spargo’s finished demonstration piece

Sue is an excellent teacher, she explained and demonstrated very clearly and she patiently went over and over each technique until all participants felt they could continue. She was extremely encouraging and adept at getting the best out of us.

Sue Spargo

Sue Spargo’s very own needlecase, an inspiration to us all! Patterns for this are available on Sue’s website.

All the felt pieces are whip-stitched onto the background before embellishment begins.

Notice how the colour of the wool matches the felt perfectly; this is because we were using Sue Spargo’s own product range which has been designed specifically to do this for every type and weight of thread. The felt and thread were beautiful to work with as well as to look at.

The applique pins are shorter than a regular patchwork pin and have a teardrop-shaped head so that the thread gets caught much less frequently. I purchased some later as I was so impressed with how much easier they made the task.

Bullion stitches around the eye of my Little Red Bird. Whilst far from perfect I am very happy with this, it is certainly much better than I have achieved before and this is entirely due to Sue’s patient tutorial.

Feather-stitching around the body. Notice how the perfect colour match makes the embroidery appear to be an extension of the bird itself, again made possible by the use of the matching Sue Spargo products

I can stitch well, or quickly; I cannot stitch well and quickly. Therefore I decided to finish off at home instead of rushing.

Sue Spargo’s fished piece

The stitching embellishment of the berries shows how the patient repetition of a single stitch over and over again has a powerful impact.

Sue demonstrating the basket weave stitch on the beak of the Little Red Bird

Sue also brought some of her work to inspire us and to talk through the various stitches. As Sue explained the crucial thing is to use good quality materials and to use the right thread with the right needle for the job. A milliners no.1 needle and a chenille no.24 were provided in the workshop, for embellishment stitches and whip-stitch respectively. We used Eleganza Perle cotton for embellishment and Ellana wool thread for whip-stitching.

When I booked the course I felt it was expensive at £77 plus £12 for materials, however on reflection, I think it was a very fair price indeed. I enjoyed the experience immensely and learned so much that I think it was a positive bargain!


When I finish my own Little Red Bird I shall post a photo of it here, and on the UKQU Facebook page.

After the workshop I purchased the second edition of Sue’s book “Creative Stitching”, the visuals have been improved and it is very easy to follow. I cannot recommend it, or Sue Spargo’s own range of products highly enough. To learn more you really must have a look at Sue’s own website: www.suespargo.com


  1. Lyn Lewis

    Great review of what you accomplished, many thanks. Wish Id realised she was there, I would have gone just for her! How are the berries made please? Are they bullions in variegated thread, they look as if they are sort of twisted around somehow and raised so theres a hole in their centre?

    1. Alison Ball Post author

      Thank you. The berry stems are worked in Pekinese stitch and the berries are done in trellis stitch using variegated #5 Eleganza Perle cotton. The trellis is worked around and around until it becomes a little “baggy” then the number of stitches is reduced to draw it in and make the 3-dimensional shape, reducing again as and when required. I worked a couple of rounds myself but I’m not happy with them so I’m going to remove them and start again. My initial backstitch around the felt berry was too tight and I struggled to see what I was doing at the end of the afternoon. Trellis stitch is covered in the circular stitches section of Sue Spargo’s book Creative Stitching. It’s easier to do than you would imagine, but then it’s harder to make it look as even and beautiful as Sue does. 🙂