Community stitch challenge 2021: Sue Stone

Community stitch challenge 2021: Sue Stone

Back in March 2020, when we were all facing the realities of lockdown for the first time, in-person stitch workshops were cancelled and embroidery groups were forced to shut up shop.

During this challenging time, here at we felt compelled to do our part to help you stay connected and keep creative.

The free Community Stitch Challenge was born!

We teamed up with some amazing textile artists working in landscape, illustrative stitch and portraiture to bring you a series of free taster-workshops.

Your positivity in the face of adversity was inspiring!

Over 20,000 stitchers got involved…

“This whole experience has been an unbelievably positive focus and the community of stitchers involved have been generous, supportive and enriching!” 

“I want to express my full appreciation for all you have done for me and thousands of stitchers around the world. It has been an amazing journey expanding my knowledge, skill and appreciation of the many ways to express oneself in textile art! ”

“After a long period of drifting I have my stitching mojo back. The work you all are doing is keeping stitchers from all over the world together and inspired.”

Check out inspirational stories from more of last year’s participants and take a look at some of the breathtaking textile art they made

Introducing… the Community Stitch Challenge 2021

The Community stitch challenge is a 100% free way for you to connect with other passionate embroiderers within the community and take part in a shared stitch experience.

We’re super excited to announce that every Monday (for three weeks only from March 15th 2021), a different textile artist will deliver a burst of inspiration especially for you in the form of brand new online workshops for you to take part in from the comfort of your own home.

But stitching at home doesn’t mean stitching alone. Because every day you can check in and chat with your fellow stitchers in the special Community Stitch Challenge Facebook group.

Not on Facebook? No worries. We’ll be posting the challenge every week here on the website too.

And this week’s challenge is led by someone very close to our hearts…our mum, Sue Stone.

Who is Sue Stone?

Sue is a celebrated textile artist who has taught stitch workshops all over the world, including in the UK, US, Canada and France. She is former Chair of the world renowned 62 Group of Textile Artists and has exhibited her figurative embroidery globally.

On top of all that, she’s the inspiration behind, the reason we started the site in the first place – so who better to kick off the community stitch challenge?

What is Sue’s workshop all about?

In this workshop you’ll explore the basic principles of design and composition to make a small work inspired by your own personal interests.

Using either a photographic image or your imagination, you’ll begin by making a quick two minute sketch. If you’re screaming at the screen, “But I can’t draw!”, no worries! Sue will share with you a simple no-fear sketching exercise (that absolutely anyone can do) to get you started.

The subject of your sketch could be an animal, a plant or a face, or perhaps an object like a vase or a mask, or maybe even a simple building like a shed or a beach hut. Anything goes!

From there you’ll use straightforward materials and techniques such as appliqué and simple hand stitch to explore how line, shape, colour, texture and negative space can all play their part in the design process and how your focal point can be reinforced by using the rule of thirds.

Along the way you’ll develop your understanding of balance, contrast, movement, unity and variety.

Watch the workshop video

What to do next

Sue Q&A replay

Watch all of Sue’s answers to questions during her workshop week in the replay below

Monday 27th, March 2023 / 16:58

About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

View all articles by Joe



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42 comments on “Community stitch challenge 2021: Sue Stone”

  1. Lesley Jackson says:

    Hi Sue, I am puzzled by the idea of mixing cotton and linen together in one composition. I would have thought that the different weights would interfere with each other and given an uneven look. Is it important that you choose particular linens and cottons that are more equal in weight so that they work better together?

    • sue stone says:

      Hi Lesley, I come from an art school background rather than a technically trained embroidery background so, for me, as an artist, anything goes when it comes to mixing fabrics (as long as they are all natural fibres). I use all sorts of mixtures of natural fibre fabrics in my work mostly recycled clothing and domestic or soft furnishing fabrics. A mixture of smooth, rough, different weaves can all be mixed together successfully provided they suit the subject matter and in the case of raw edge appliqué don’t fray too much. Rather than the result being uneven the mixture of the different fabrics can add more texture and interest to the surface of the work. I also use a lot of hand stitching into the raw edge appliqué so everything also becomes integrated, but not flat in the result.

      • Lesley Jackson says:

        Thanks, Sue. Yes I can see how the hand stitching could create a blend between the different fabrics and blur the edges. I will try and persuade myself to give this a try lol.

        • sue stone says:

          Lesley it’s always worth a try even if you decide you’ll never do it again at least you are finding out what you like and what you don’t like. I try to keep an open mind about all techniques until I’ve actually given them at least one go.

  2. Jilly Pigg says:

    Thank you Sue for such an informative and interesting Community Stitch Challenge. Collage is a wonderful technique and love what you have created with such simple, and at hand, ingredients.

  3. JENNY DUKES says:

    A very inspiring video. Thank you, Sue. I have used similar ideas before but maybe I will be more restricted in my use of my colour palette as I do love bright colours and realsise that sometimes less is more! Look forward to experimenting.

  4. Betty says:

    Thank you Sue. What a great and generous teacher you are!
    Betty Bickford

  5. Frances Stock says:

    Such a detailed and generous workshop – much food for thought. Thank you so much.

  6. Thank you – I loved this, and am inspired to use these tips in developing my work further so Sue’s tips and insights here are really useful! I have been making crafts and doing some textiles & felt making for many years and also now doing more illustrations. I am now combining the two skills so this workshop was very appropriate!

  7. Caroline Carron says:

    Hello Sue, your workshop is very inspiring and I love your style of art in your embroidery work.

    Are you able to share any tips or thoughts on developing an illustrative narrative in stitch work. What would the best steps be and where do you find your inspiration?

    Thanks again Sue for a great workshop and I’m super keen to get started.

    Thanks Caroline

    • sue stone says:

      Hi Caroline, I think it always helps to have a clear idea before you start with a narrative piece ie the story comes before the imagery. I also find it useful to use positive limitations so the story doesn’t become muddled in its interpretation. So I would maybe choose 3 main elements to include and this may be a main focal point, some text and a limited colour palette. If you keep it simple in the beginning of the process then you get some thinking time to decide what else needs to be added. Hope that helps.

  8. Hellen says:

    Thank you Sue for another very inspiring workshop. It is really good to see the process from inspiration through drawing and collage before settling on your final piece to stitch. I’m afraid I tend to be lazy as far as process is concerned and want to get straight to the stitching so you have inspired me to make more use of my sketchbooks.

  9. Rosemary says:

    Hi Sue. Thank you so much for the wonderful video and workbook. I am new to stitching and I am really enjoying learning about the process of textile works. I have plenty of ideas of what I would like to create, but having a good process for composing the work makes such a difference, making it feel more focused and achievable.

  10. Maureen Bond says:

    Thank you Sue for the easy to follow video, I began to print out the Workbook, managed 3 pages and ran out of ink. No chance of purchasing more for 2 weeks but I can follow the downloaded workbook on the PC instead. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Carolina Caeiro says:

    I love your work, Sue. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, the process, and the beautiful art pieces you make.

  12. sue stone says:

    Hi Caroline, I think it always helps to have a clear idea before you start with a narrative piece ie the story comes before the imagery. I also find it useful to use positive limitations so the story doesn’t become muddled in its interpretation. So I would maybe choose 3 main elements to include and this may be a main focal point, some text and a limited colour palette. If you keep it simple in the beginning of the process then you get some thinking time to decide what else needs to be added. Hope that helps.

  13. Barbara Davies says:

    Hello Sue. The face I am using has a broad smile showing teeth. How do I stitch them without it looking scary?

  14. Deborah Taffler says:

    Hello Sue – lovely workshop thank you
    Can you tell me why, on the workshop piece, you used ‘open backstitch’ rather than running stitch (on the neutral colour around the portrait) versus the running stitch used on the later example piece? Is there a practical reason?
    Thanks again

    • sue stone says:

      Hi Deborah, The reason for using the open backstitch was to produce texture on the surface as backstitch is more raised on the surface than running stitch would be. The reason I used running stitch on the other piece was to produce pattern rather than texture plus of course it’s far quicker to use running stitch than backstitch and there’s a lot more stitching on the later example. I hope I’m remembering the piece correctly, the one with the 2 profiles?

  15. Janice Mccarty says:

    You are truly an artist and it shows in your particular style which I Love. Thank you for inspiring and sharing!

  16. Jase says:

    Thank you so much for your generous spirit and talent that led to this wonderful class which. Will you be covering anything further related to best ways to finish/mount and frame a completed work? I can’t seem to find much information related to these final steps. Thank you so much.

  17. Deborah Smith says:

    Thanks for sharing this Sue. I loved it. Collage and Textiles are two of my favourite things.

  18. Mrs Carol Yorkstone says:

    So excited by this workshop. Happily choosing fabrics to go behind my doggie pal’s face. Thanks Sue.

  19. Thank you for sharing your process and beautiful work. I think you are really clear and encouraging in the way you teach and share your knowledge. I have been drawing figures and faces this year, but not yet taken them into my textile work and you have inspired me to start now ! Thank you !!

  20. Christine says:

    The face I have chosen has well defined lips. What is the best stitch to fill them in with?

    • sue stone says:

      Hi Christine. I use very few different stitches and normally just use straight stitch on the lips if I’m stitching them I( I often don’t fill them in but just use the shape) but if you know split stitch or long and short stitch I think either of those would work well to fill in the space. Hope that helps

      • Christine says:

        Thanks for your advice. Having now seen the face I have decided that the lips will look better without any filling.

  21. Nancy Costa says:

    Dear Sue,
    Thank you so much for stirring up my creative muse. I am a quilter and love art quilts. Most of my art is done on the sewing machine but I love how hand embroidery adds to an art piece.

    You have inspired me to enhance my art quilts with thread, yarn and anything else that fits through a needle.

  22. Joan van der Star says:

    Dear Sue, have learned a lot about composition from your video. Do I use the rule of three also when I work in a square or a round? Can you let me know if I then also divide it in thirds? Would be very helpful. Thanks so much in advance. Joan

    • sue stone says:

      I have never used it for a round shape Joan but I’m sure it would work in the same way if you mark the diameter of the circle into thirds horizontally and vertically you will end up with a square in the centre and then place your focal point on one of the intersecting lines.

  23. Ellen Smith says:

    I have been a stitcher (machine and hand) for many years, but am enjoying hand stitching now more than ever. I’m very pleased that my lifelong friend sent me the link to your site and to the 2021 challenge. I did a rendering of a Matisse portrait and though I have very few linen scraps, I have loads of cotton that needles easily, and some of it is marked with dyes from some small batch dyeing projects I have done. Hopefully these fabrics along with stitched accents will lend themselves to a finished piece that I am happy with. But no matter what, I am thoroughly enjoying the way this challenge is truly challenging me to think and work in a new way. Thanks very much.

  24. Diane Ballantyne says:

    Hi Sue,
    Thank you for sharing your approach to design and stitch. I was able to take a number of tips and suggestions from your video, which I will now try to incorporate into my designing and stitching work. Can’t wait to see the improvements in my work.
    Thank you for taking the time to share with us all.

    Di B

  25. Grainne Doyle says:

    Hi Sue, A thousand thanks for your open, very informative and wonderful workshop. I have picked up so many tips but the main one I suppose it to plan the piece out and work through the steps. I always rush into doing a piece and end up not finishing it as I’m never sure where its going. Your advice on starting with a story and building from there is the answer. I started a piece for a birthday gift for my daughter in law and its turning out wonderfully thanks to you. I shall also finish many of the started but never completed projects now as you have given me so many ideas. Presents for the next six months will be sewn with love. Having your sons doing your IT for you is the best, a BIG THANKS to them as well.
    Kindest regards, Grainne

  26. Barbara Anderson Friedman says:

    Most grateful thanks, Susan for your wonderful class. How you convey your ideas and design principles in such a “simple” way is a gift. No doubt it is the result of years of experience!
    Now to try to create my Newfoundland dog “hiding” in a bed of Black-eyed Susans!
    Wish me luck, and again, heartfelt thanks for your generosity…

  27. Audrey McGinty says:

    Thank you Sue for this very clear and inspiring tutorial. I absolutely loved completing your challenge – first time I’ve ever done anything like this. I’ve also now been able to complete another project (felted) that I started a few years ago but had no idea what it needed/what was wrong with it. Using my learning from your tutorial it’s now complete and better than I could have previously imagined. Thank you again.

  28. Kathy says:

    This is a great video. I am a beginner in textile art. I know basic stitches and also love mixing types of fabrics for texture and effect. Your use of basic stitches is perfect for me. I am inspired to “keep swimming” with my new creative hobby! Thank-you.

  29. Mimiblue says:

    Indisponible pour commencer les ateliers en même temps que les autres, je viens seulement de pouvoir regarder votre vidéo ; merci pour cette leçon de créativité, prouvant que l’environnement est très important, voire le plus important dans le tableau et sans lequel le sujet tout seul resterait sans écho. J’ai beaucoup aimé ce moyen de s’ouvrir l’esprit et de se mettre dans une ambiance qui déterminera l’aspect général mais aussi les détails du travail !!!

  30. Sandra Fitzpatrick says:

    Hi Sue, Missed this Community Stitch Challenge last year … and am so grateful to be sent the link after completing this year’s Stitch Camp. As always, your teaching is tremendously inspiring for me … and I am in awe of your skills and your generosity. Thank you so much. A wonderful package in all respects again from Textile Artist, Warm wishes, Sandra

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