Not Your Grandmother’s Sunbonnet Sue

When Carrie N. was throwing out ideas for a custom quilted pillow, she shared with me some of the eclectic activities she takes part in, including blacksmithing, science, farming, canoeing and reading.

I have to admit, I panicked a bit seeing that list! How do you tell a story as unique as her’s in fabric?

Fortunately, she also forwarded me a picture of a clock given to her as a child that she’s especially fond of. It showed a little girl in a big bonnet and flowery dress, reminiscent of Holly Hobby or Sunbonnet Sue.

Sunbonnet Sue, of course, has been a quilting staple since the early 20th century. The cute little girl in her oversized hat and poofy dress at first just looked adorable. Over time, though, quilters created various versions of Sue, showing her involved in a number of different activities.*

Ultimately, we came up with a pattern that included vintage Sunbonnet Sue participating in many of the modern day activities Carrie herself loves, creating a personalized “Sunbonnet Carrie” design. 🙂

Sunbonnet Carrie Pillow Sham

I decided to play up the vintage modern feel by using 1930s reproduction fabrics in Carrie’s favorite blues and purples and added in some traditional yo-yos in the corners to represent her favorite flower, lilacs.

It took a very long time to figure out how to quilt this pillow sham. Some research showed that echo quilting around Sue was popular in the past, but I didn’t want to just repeat that. So I finally chose a contemporary geometric design and echoed it, to again emphasize that what was once vintage has now become modern.

In the end, we were both very pleased with this twist on traditional pillow. It’s definitely not your grandmother’s Sunbonnet Sue!


The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue*Perhaps the most famous of the Sunbonnet Sue activity quilts was created by quilters in my hometown (shout out Lawrence!) in 1979. It’s called “The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue” and shows the perky little girl perishing in a number of hilarious ways.


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