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!


  1. Just love sewing, my machine broke and unable to be repaired. I am now retired and unable to afford a new one ,I would be so very happy to win this one. As winter is coming I would love to make my baby dog some warm coats for winter. Thank you and God Bless

    • Hi Caroline,

      I would love to help you get a machine so you can sew your baby dog some winter coats.
      I also have a baby dog to sew for, so I think I understand a little about your situation.
      Recently, I gave away one of my sewing machines (I had 3) to a woman’s shelter.

      Just trying to thing of how you could get a good machine.
      You could try a crowd funding request on the Internet, which would probably work
      You could also try a sewing forum on the Internet. Maybe someone has an extra machine
      Or you could try the companies that rent to own
      You might be able to get one through a pawn shop
      Or through Walmart on time payments–some Walmart stores have started that method of purchase
      Sewing machine repair shops often have un-reclaimed machines for sale. I have seen them there
      when I went to have my machine repaired. Perfectly good machines.
      Hope these ideas help.