Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sunbonnet Sue's Dark Side

I never cared much for Sunbonnet Sue.
Sentimentalism has always grated on my nerves.

Years ago I found the quilt below in Marilyn Woodin's antique quilt shop in Kalona, Iowa.

Apparently, Sue has something to hide---
A Ms. Hyde side to that so-sweet personality.

What is going on in this quilt with Lizzie Borden and the butcher knife?

The consensus has been that it's a variation on this once-familiar imagery.

I sold the quilt years ago.
The thought of a sword-carrying psychopath in my closet was too much for me.
She now has a good home--- in an institution.
The International Quilt Study Center and Museum.
Visit her there by clicking here:
See some similar (but not nearly as scary) Sues by clicking on these blog posts:


  1. Thank you for your comments about Sunbonnet Sue. I'm not a fan of her either. In fact, my sister and I keep thinking we're going to make a quilt called "Godzilla invites Sunbonnet Sue to Lunch" and have the quilt be Godzilla gobbling Sue. It may still happen!

  2. I hope you have seen the Bad Sue site, it does show some of the other side of her.
    Becky Preston

  3. Barbara - I'm thrilled to hear a historian is not a fan of Sunbonnet Sue. Me neither, but I dared not utter that in my guild for fear of a mutiny.

    My favorite Sunbonnet Sue quilt was one at Houston that showed her as a smoking waitress with tattoos. Now that's a quilt!

  4. Well, I enjoyed the post and the links. Interesting view of the girl behind that lovely bonnet! Yes, I love Sue in her finest 1930's fabrics.

  5. Fun post about Sue. . .now I'm remembering the one made many years ago showing various ways to get rid of Sunbonnet Sue. Wasn't it called the Demise of Sunbonnet Sue? It was made soon after the movie Jaws and the incident at Three Mile Island. I guess Sue's the kind a gal we either love or don't, but always makes for good conversation.

  6. Ohhh Barbara..
    You have broken my heart, for you see..I truly love sweet Sunbonnet Sue and all her little friends. She is and has always been my favorite pattern..in anything. Be it quilts,potholders,framed, needlecases, decals, needlepoint, fabric..buttons...she is my favorite. I probably have at least one of every pattern made,maybe two...and my collections grow. I have all sorts of Sue books..as a matter of fact, my blog header is of Sue..*sighs.. I wish you liked her, cause she sure looks cute in her pouffy bonnet and sweet outfits.
    p.s. Ruby,in the above post..is the sweet lady that sent me the Sunbonnet Sue buttons. I'm going to frame them..

  7. You made me laugh, that is a scary quilt. I am not a fan either, just never cared for them.


  8. I will never look at "S.... Sue" in quite the same light! To think how much the image has been used for kids quilts - a bit like the Grimms Fairytale books that were read to me as a child and kept me awake with nightmares.
    Thank you for sharing your research with us.

  9. OMG! That is hilarious. Sun Bonnet Sue on a rampage?

    Keep up the good work. I find your blog so very interesting.

  10. you are a dark horse...

  11. I was always afraid of Sunbonnet Sue, sort of like I am afraid of clowns. Glad to know I'm not the only one who's not a fan! ( Overall Sam is also a suspicious character...)

  12. Gotta wonder who this Sue was going after!

  13. TOO funny !!
    Surely SB Sue was NOT going after Overall Sam with that knife ... or was it Overall Bill, Overall Andy - or Fisherman Sam ???
    Never been fond of SB Sue, but I love the Bad Sue quilts !

    btw - Love your blog, your books & esp. your FABRICS!!! THANKS for making them possible for those of us who love not just quilts, but also their history

  14. I'm not a fan of Sue either--but I have dozens of exquisite SS blocks made by my grandmother before her death in 1932; the early 20th century prints and her sweet embroidery are wonderful. I've planned several quilts from them and made nary a one. Someday I will need to finish them because we have little kids in our family who would love them.

  15. Years ago, I participated in a "Sun Bonnet Sue Gone Wrong" swap with my internet quilters group. It yielded some of the most creative and hilarious Sue blocks ever. I really should put them into a small quilt. This post reminded me of them.

  16. I truly enjoyed the dark side of Sue. Never cared for her light side :-)

  17. From a Sue (now called Susan) I like both however the re-invention of a can only enhance my reputation. she was too sweet just like I was & sometimes am.
    Thanks Barbara for this new life you have give me.

  18. I was never a Sunbonnet Sue fan until I saw some evil Sue quilts a few years ago. She was portrayed as famous "heroines" of the past like: Lizzy Borden, Marie Antoinette, Lucretia Borgia, and Typhoid Mary. I wish I still had the link to that quilt. It was hysterical.