Sunbonnet Sue

By Janet Gilbert

Known by many names including Dutch Doll, Bonnie Bonnet, “Sun Bonnet Baby,” and undoubtedly others, Sunbonnet Sue 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.

Ruby Short McKim, of McKim Studios designed Sunbonnet Sue patterns for a syndicated column that appeared in over 900 newspapers across the United States.

Sue has remained popular over the years, appearing in quilts and even in clothing! Don’t miss her “smocked” in a wonderful gingham top on page 65 of our Fall issue. Each little Sue holds a beautiful flower that mimics the pot of flowers on the matching Corduroy jacket.

Get inspired with our Autumn 2016 Issue!