Friday, May 31, 2019

Sunbonnet Sue Finish

According to The Classic Sewing Magazine Sun Bonnet Sue is known by many names including Dutch Doll, Bonnie Bonnet, “Sun Bonnet Baby,” and undoubtedly others, and is a textile image that has been popular for centuries. Widely portrayed in quilts, she is most often-depicted working, playing, and sometimes getting into trouble.

While Sunbonnet-clad little girls existed in quilt patterns of the 1800s, Sunbonnet Sue’s rise to folk image fame began in the early 1900s. Bertha Corbett Melcher published a book, “The Sunbonnet Babies,” in the year 1900, in which she depicted young girls with their faces hidden by bonnets.

In the published applique patterns that followed, Sue is typically shown in profile, wearing a large bonnet and an over-sized pinafore dress, similar to the illustrations in Bertha’s books.

Ladies Art Patterns was reportedly one of the first to issue Sunbonnet Sue appliques in 1900, and they later became available in catalogues. McCall’s pattern company also issued a version of Sue, available until the 1930s.

Sewists were enamored with the simple, happy scenes of Sue’s life, shadowed by her ever-present bonnet. During the years of the Great Depression, Sue’s popularity reportedly skyrocketed as people yearned for reminders of simpler times.

These blocks came to me via one of my husband's Aunts.  The blocks had been machine appliqued and then outlined by a running stitch - most likely by Dave's Great-Grandmother, Mary Chisholm.

As I considered how to set the blocks I thought that the outer border area needed something... but what???  I had time to ponder the options since I first I needed to applique one last Sue...

I'll be honest, I was glad that all of the girls had been machine appliqued onto the blocks... it made it fast and easy!  I had pulled a piece of vintage muslin that had come from a small collection of vintage fabrics I had received from my Dad's sister... she had gotten the fabrics from her mother (my paternal grandmother).  

I then sat down with some black embroidery thread to do the outlining, as Mary Chisholm did.  I had the dress and done and was ready to do the bow on the bonnet when I realized that she had "marked" the stitching line with some basting stitches.

On Mother's Day weekend I had pulled out some remnants of a vintage quilt repair that I had done a few years ago... I have reason to believe that it was a quilt done by the local Christian Church Ladies, including my Great-Grandmother, Lala Teegarden.  With the vintage piece I created a small wall hanging with a sweet message done in primitive lettering.  

I had a few more of these blocks left so I counted out how many hearts there were and I had JUST enough for a heart on each HST setting square and corners.  It was like it was meant to be!

To match the the girls, I did outline stitching on the hearts.  And because I wanted the girls and hearts to be the focus of the quilt, rather than any quilting, I did stitch in the ditch and simple outline stitching.  To finish it off, I chose a soft yellow for the binding

I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of this project.  When I work on such projects I feel a special connection to the past... to family members that I never had an opportunity to meet and get to know.

A connection to a time of life that was so simple, yet satisfying.  Times when family and neighbors would gather in the evening to enjoy conversation, a radio show, a cup of coffee or a glass of tea.  I am not saying that living during the Great Depression (or before the Depression) was a walk in the park... not at all!

This quilt took me back in time and had me thinking of the simpler times of my ancestors... but was it really a simpler time?  Work was a challenge!  Life was a challenge!

They worked so hard for what they had... They lived off of farm animals they raised and food from a garden. They sold crops to earn money. They worked as seamstresses. They sold eggs. They honored the word of a neighbor and knew them by name and would enjoy a sit on the front porch... Maybe life was just less complicated a hundred years ago.

The advancement of machinery and technology have evolved and changed our lives in ways that our ancestors would never have imagined.  What would the maker of this quilt think of today's time?  (Mary Magdalene Graf Chisholm lived from 1871 to 1977) A time where phones are not only wireless, but go everywhere with us?  Would she understand that they are mini computers with access to information that used to be available only in encyclopedias or news papers... AND used as cameras, maps and compasses and more...  

Shoot, my Dad's parents were farmers... would they understand the modern farm equipment with GPS to let them know if the rows are straight and able to offer the best production for the field?  The special feed that is fed to the cows and chickens so that they produce more milk or eggs? Probably not... 

What did your ancestors do in life? 

Leave a comment to let me know... I love to hear from my readers.  Be sure to leave an email address if you are a an anonymous or no-reply reader.

One last photo... I happened to step behind the quilt when I was taking a pictures and had a pleasant surprise!  

Sometimes a look back can be beautiful, yet a little foggy... details of the past can be lost or forgotten or blurred.  Don't lose the memories of your family!  They can be precious and a rare connection to the past... a part of the past that has made you who you are now.

Piece Happy!

Melva Loves Scraps - Home of the Quilters Through The Generations series

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I would love to share your story!

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Linking with:
Wednesday Wait Loss at The Inquiring Quilter
Needle & Thread Thursday at My Quilt Infatuation
Can I Get A Whoop Whoop at Confessions of a Fabric Addict
Off The Wall Friday with Nina Marie
Brag About Your Beauties at From Bolt to Beauty
Scrap Happy Saturday at Super Scrappy
UFO Busting at Tish’s Wonderland
What I Made Monday at Pretty Piney
Monday Making at Love Laugh Quilt
Moving It Forward Monday at Em's Scrapbag
Design Wall Monday at Small Quilts and Doll Quilts
Sunday Stash at QuiltPaintCreate
Colour & Inspiration at Clever Chameleon Quilting


  1. Your little Sunbonnets are a beauty. These girls are my all-time favorite pattern to use for a little girl. I love making these and adding laces and ribbons with lots of embroidery.
    My parents were farmers. I remember them getting up before the crack of dawn and working all day long. When I was very small, we lived in a house without electricity. Mama cooked on a wood burning stove and we used a fireplace for heat.But we still had time for each other. We weren't afraid to roam around the neighborhood with the other kids either. Times were a lot simpler even though they were hard.
    I love the Victorian era. I really love the clothes and the houses. I often wish I could have lived back then, but then I think I prefer having electricity and running water. LOL

  2. I love Sunbonnet Sue patterns, and have books and books of them, some simple like this and some quite elegant. I've done them as swap blocks any number of times, and by hand and machine. It's just a great pattern!

    My father worked in a filling station - what we had before we pumped our own. LOL He was also a mechanic there. In WWII, he was the lightweight army boxing champion, and then he was on Iwo Jima. My mother made extra money by doing ironing for others (no permanent press then!) and babysitting. She also played piano at church.

    My grandfather owned a big forested farm near Leesville, Louisiana, and he and his brothers and father logged it for an income. My grandmother was half Cherokee and knew how to cook and can and make almost everything. Yes, they all worked hard!

    But evenings when I was a young girl involved listening to crickets, sitting on the porch, making ice cream in a crank machine, doing hand embroidery, watching the lightning storms of west Texas, chatting, and just being. Not a lot of any of that going on these days. =) Instead, children play baseball or football or cheer, go to gymnastics or swim lessons, belong to this, that, or the other club, and always have a ton of homework. We're just so BUSY now!

  3. Congrats! on your Sunbonnet finish. What a labor of love!!

  4. This is so cute! What a beautiful finish. I have some Sonbonnet Sue blocks that were made by the lady that sold me her house before she moved into a nursing home with her ill husband. I was not into quilting as much as I am now, but I know that I put them away for a raining day somewhere. I know I didn't throw them away and that they are safe and secure with some other things in boxes in our basement. SOMEDAY I'm going to come across those and make a cute little wall hanging...someday...

  5. Such wonderful stories! This will be a quilt much loved and much remembered. So sweet of you to finish it for your ancestors. Thanks for sharing on Wednesday Wait Loss.

  6. This is a really special piece and a thought provoking post. I am so glad you could finish it for your Husband's Aunt