The infamous Sunbonnet Sue: love her or hate her? Have you picked a side? There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground.
I bought this vintage Sue quilt some years ago because I thought it was unusual. Two Sues in each block! I imagined them to be best friends “Sue and Lu” or Sue Sisters, or just Sue Times Two.
Their bright solid colors appeal to me and I like the shaped border, so carefully bound. Primitive stars are hand embroidered between the blocks, but why in bright orange and blue? I wish I knew the story behind this piece of folk art.
Judi Maxwell’s “Colorado Sue”
I visited a quilt group in Parker, Colorado a few months ago and was introduced to Judi Maxwell, who showed a fun and funny Sunbonnet Sue quilt during Show & Tell. I asked Judi to tell me about her quilt and I learned it wasn’t the first one she has made.
I’ve always had a propensity for making quilts which are really applique samplers. The first Sue I ever made in the ’70s was doing something different in each block—flying a kite, using a watering can. About that time I saw The Sun Sets On Sunbonnet Sue made by some quilters in Lawrence, Kansas. I loved the irreverence of that quilt.
In the late 90s I made a SoCal (that’s for Southern California) Sue in which she is driving a red BMW convertible at the El Toro “Y”, going to the Oscars, celebrating Cinco de Mayo, and surviving an earthquake.
Since moving to Colorado in 2001, I’d tried to come up with nine designs for a Sunbonnet Sue. Suddenly, all the ideas hit me August 26, 2010. I grabbed a sketch pad and the scenes came pouring out.
The nine Sue-scenes in Colorado Sue, beginning with the top row, are:
Sue skis but takes a fall,
tours a prairie dog community,
and climbs her first “fourteener” (for those who don’t live in a mountain state, that’s any mountain at least 14,000 feet high).
caught up in a tornado,
and enduring the rain and hail of spring in the Rockies.
Sue gets lost in the aspens,
Sue learns to fly jets at the Air Force Academy,
and Sue is a snow woman.
I did some research regarding the Sue quilt Judi mentioned above. It was made by a group of quilters who called themselves The Seamster’s Union (Local #500).
The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue sports some rather twisted Sue humor. It depicts a variety of ways in which Sue could meet her demise. A few blocks are shown below.
Eaten by a Snake (look closely so you don’t miss Sue!)
Struck by Lightning
I’ve only shown you the tamest blocks. You can see the more sick-ish Sues at the Great Lakes Quilt Center’s page. When I saw this quilt years ago, I thought it was hilarious, but I have a weird sense of humor.
And if all that was not enough, there’s a fun book called A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue by Christine Porter and Darra Williamson. Among other things, Sue goes to the beach, goes on a quilting cruise and even plays basketball during March Madness. My favorite part is Sue’s feet. In one block she wears Birkenstocks, and in another, she is barefoot but her toenails are painted. I wish I had thought of it.
Quiltmaker has a Best Friends collection of five charming patterns featuring Sunbonnet Sue (times two in some cases) and her male counterpart (sometimes called Overall Bill). If you’re in favor of Sunbonnet Sue, these quilts look so sweet in 1930’s reproduction fabrics.
I’m wondering what Sue would be doing in your state. Leave a comment telling us what state you’re in and some Sue blocks you’d dream up for that location. And, while you’re at it, mention if you’re for or against Sunbonnet Sue.