Winter 2018 - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Q&A: Sue Spargo

“Creative Stitching” Exhibit

If there’s one thing for certain about the quilts on display at International Quilt Festival, it’s their ability to challenge the typical view of just what a quilt is. Just taking a few steps across the show floor, you can step into different worlds, traveling between one exhibit to the next.

1.The “Creative Stitching” exhibit featuring Sue Spargo’s artistic evolution is no exception. With her use
of textured materials, layering, detailed stitching, and embellishment, her work showcases a unique style of quilting that lies outside the stereotypical understanding of a quilt.
The exhibit was on display
at the most recent International Quilt Festival in Houston, and will also be seen at the Chicago edition, April 12-14.

Spargo’s variety of environmental and cultural influences give each
quilt a life of its own and the exhibit provides a glimpse into her life
of adventure.

For this edition of Friends@Festival, we spoke with Spargo about the exhibit and her quilting journey.

Friends@Festival: First, please tell me a bit about your background—both personally and your quilting career.

Spargo: I was born in Zambia, but grew up and went to school in South Africa. In my early twenties, I spent some time in England, then went back to South Africa, and finally immigrated to the United States. Since moving to the U.S., I have lived in Connecticut, Tennessee, Utah, and Ohio. I have four children, and three of them work in the [quilting] business. I spent a large amount of the year on the road teaching, but when I am home, I enjoy spending time in my garden, knitting, and cooking.

Friends@Festival: You’ve lived and studied in a lot of places around the globe. How has that affected and inspired your work and your design sense?

Spargo: From a young age, I have traveled to many places and continue to do so. Colors are vibrant in South Africa, from the African art to the textiles, which captured my attention and interest from a young age. I have always gravitated toward the brights. When traveling, I love to go to museums and historical places; I find inspiration in my surroundings. Every culture has its own interpretation of Folk Art. I gravitate toward the simple images in different cultures as inspiration, and then layer and add texture to make the design my own.


Friends@Festival: From where does your love of Folk Art come? And when did you begin to incorporate those elements into your quilts?

Spargo: I think my love for Folk Art comes from my African roots. Fourteen years ago, when I started my business, I also designed my first Folk-Art-inspired quilt.

Friends@Festival: How has your work evolved since you began your quilting journey?

Spargo: When I began my business, I did not know a single embroidery stitch and I was using one layer of wool for appliqué. Through my journey, I realized that layering wools and textural fabrics on wool added great dimension and texture to the Folk Art images. As I taught myself to embroider, I became fascinated with how the embroidery made the appliqué come alive and how it gave the design character. I haven't looked back since!

Friends@Festival: One of the trademarks of your work is your use of saturated colors and dyed wools. When did you first begin incorporating wool into projects? And what is it about wool that appeals to you?

Spargo: We started dying a brighter palette of wool that was not available in the industry 14 years ago. The vivid, saturated colors were more appealing and they reminded me of my childhood, which is what first drew me in to using them. You get amazing depth and texture as you layer that you cannot achieve with thinner fabrics. Good quality wool can be cut into very small pieces and is wonderful to work with.


Friends@Festival: We were thrilled to have your exhibit, “Creative Stitching” on display at our Houston show, and look forward to featuring it in Chicago as well. What do you hope that viewers there take away from seeing the exhibit?  And how do you feel about seeing so many of your works on display in a single exhibit?

Spargo: I hope that viewers of my exhibit see my quilts as art and see my life expressed through them. I aspire to see that my work has activated a creative vision in my audience and helps them find the love of handwork that I have.

It was an incredible experience to see a large amount of my work displayed in one place. It was presented in such a beautiful way that it took the viewers through my journey with me, from the beginning of my design work to what I am currently working on.

For more information on Sue Spargo, visit her website at

Photo Cutlines

1. African Days (28” x 23”) by Sue Spargo; quilted by Carol Rickard.

2. Earth ‘n Twig (47” x 50”) by Sue Spargo; quilted by Janet Joehlin.

3. Butterfly (detail) by Sue Spargo; quilted by Janet Joehlin.

4. Bird Play #2 (16” x 22”) by Sue Spargo; quilted by Janet Joehlin.

5. Travel Journal (detail) by Sue Spargo; quilted by Janet Joehlin.

6. Folk-Tails (38” x 44”) by Sue Spargo; quilted by Janet Joehlin.


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