Sunbonnet Sue: December 11

Good Morning from 24 Blocks. We hope that sunshine is breaking through where you live and that you have time to get in some quilting during this busy holiday season.

This morning we’d like to highlight some of the Sunbonnet Sue quilts that have recently been shared with us by members of our 24 Blocks community on Facebook. We love Sue and love to see all the adaptations.

from: Dottye Bregman: “18 18″ nine-patch w/Sunbonnet Sue applique. I pieced and hand quilted this several years ago. Love the little Sunbonnet girl.”

from: Pat Harvey: “Found the top in utility house on new husbands farm hand quilted it and it was the first quilt that I had hand quilted”

from: Eula Marie Ward: “This is a Sunbonnet sue made from antique embroidery items.This is also one of my faverites.”

from: Eula Marie Ward: “Here is another photo of the Sunbonnet Sue showin how she is set on points. instead of drape over a chair.”

(note: we had earlier featured Eula’s quilt in a photo where it was draped over a chair. She was kind to show us this wonderful photo of it well-displayed)

The popular traditional Sue, with her face hidden beneath a bonnet, probably traces its roots in the kind of redwork we see in Eula’s work above. In 1879, Kate Greenway, a British writer, wrote and illustrated a children’s book called “Under the Window“. In it, her little girls were often dressed in smock dresses, high-wasted pinafores and wore bonnets. It was so influencial that it became the stylish dress for children whose artistic-minded parents were followers of the Aesthetic or Arts&Crafts movements.

Redwork embroidery became popular at about the same time as Greenway’s fashions were in vogue. Red was the first cotton thread that was “color fast”. The outlines for designs were stamped on squares of muslin and then embroidered. Girls often were taught the outline stitches in school. Since Greenway’s girl figures with their bonnets were so popular, it was an obvious commerical advantage to create stamps for them to be done in redwork. Soon sunbonneted little girl figures in wide frocks were appearing everywhere. Boy figures came out in overalls and sometimes were referred to as “Overall Bill”. Redwork quilt patterns for Sue began to be published as early as 1906.

There’s some controversy over when the first Sue applique pattern was created. Some date it to 1911, for a quilt published in the Ladies Home Journal. An interesting Sue called “Sunbonnet Babies” was featured in a 1921 issue of Woman’s World that had 30 different Sue’s doing different things. (Hartcottagequilts.com has a photo of it.) Sue may have been bonneted in 1921, but at least she was active.

We love the work of the famous quilter Jean Ray Luary (1928-2011) who had fun with Sue. Her book “Sunbonnet Sue Goes to the Quilt Show” was a lighthearted look at the effects of modern quilting to traditionalists. The American Quilters Society has also encouraged creative adaptations of Sue. (We love the quilt called “Tubing Sue” by Marian McCoin that was featured in an AQS contest.) Today, the only thing we can say is that we’d love to see Sue’s face underneath her bonnet.

Thanks to everyone who has shared their love of Sunbonnet Sue. We love the traditional and the modern both. Does anyone feel a yearning to make the next step in her development? Can Sue be fashionable?

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