Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sue's big Sister

Did you know that Sue has a big sister? Yep, she sure does! She has interesting ties to Sunbonnet Sue and there's quite a story to tell about her too! 
I did a little research on the design of this quilt and it was so interesting that I decided to share it in my Sewing Journal. I know that some of you might not be the least bit interested in quilts or quilting - for others, quilting might be what drives you to sew. Wherever you are in sewing, I think you will find some interesting tidbits in what I have to share. When I started this post, I thought I was going to just show you one of my vintage quilts, but instead I got caught up in the history of Sue's Big Sister! I had no idea I would find so much interesting info on the history of this quilt block design!
One piece of research I found indicates that this design was originally used in the "Quilt Code" of the Underground Railroad, which was really surprising to find out.
What is the "Quilt Code?"
The premise of the "Quilt Code" is that various geometric patterns commonly found in American patchwork quilts were used to convey messages in connection with the Underground Railroad. But even among Code proponents, the patterns’ meanings, how the quilts were used, and who used them is a matter of debate: as of mid-2005 at least 15 contradictory versions of the Code were circulating. Some proponents claim the Code as part of their family oral history, but none can point to an ancestor who used it to escape to the North or even participated in the Underground Railroad. 
Another article that I read about this quilt block stated that "Free women in the North wore long dresses with Sue bonnets," and says this block tells slaves they would receive disguises once they reached the North. 
"Dutch Girl"
During the Underground Railroad period and for generations afterward, these deep-brimmed hats were universally known as "poke bonnets". According to West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search findings, the Southern name for the block was "Dutch Girl".
In fact, the earliest "Sunbonnet" figures are in redwork embroidery, and date to around 1905.  Many vintage pieces of linen with these figures are better known as "Crinoline Ladies".
The "Sue" applique block didn’t appear until 50 years after the Underground Railroad disbanded; the earliest known "sunbonnet" applique quilt (by Marie Webster, called Sunbonnet Lassies or Keepsake) was first published in the Ladies Home Journal in January 1911. Quilt historian Brackman notes that the Sunbonnet applique pattern "did not trickle down to the quilt making public until the late1920's. From the 1920s onward, the designs became known variously as Colonial Lady, Southern Belle or Umbrella Girl, she first appeared in the 1920s as embroidery on dresser scarves and as a center medallion on unquilted bedspreads, which coordinated with home decor items ranging from silhouette pictures to lamps to dinnerware. 
vintage linens
I love the history behind the design of my "Southern Belle" quilt! There are a total of 12 Belles, and they are all "dressed" differently, each carrying a parasol that matches her gown and bonnet. 
This quilt is another favorite in my collection. As with my other family quilts, I hope to get the story behind the designer of this beautiful vintage quilt. One thing is for certain, the quilter of my Sunbonnet Sue most definably has family ties with Sue's Big Sister!


MyNorth said...

Interesting and informative post about Sue.
In your research, did you come across Bad Sue quilts? They are hilarious. Sunbonnet Sue gone bad!

Laurie said...

haha - yes, I have heard about her! too funny!

Anonymous said...

I have a Lady with Parasol quilt my Grandmother Orr made for me! I treasure it and love the design. A lot of the gowns were made from scraps left from dresses she made for my mom and my aunt. She made the quilt in Arkansas in the 1980's.


Susan said...

Laurie, so interesting...I have a WIP of this same quilt pattern, mine is called "Ladies on Petticoat Row" can't remember now where I found the pattern. I am using vintage flour sack fabric for the dresses... I see you post on "everything sewing' forum? love that forum

Sue said...

Well, I just love these interesting tidbits you are blessing us with :) I personally like Sunbonnet Sue. I know some quilters do not.

Your vintage quilt is just a treasure. How lucky for you!

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

I love to learn more about the history of quilt designs. Thank you so much for sharing about this one and your other vintage quilts.

Blessings & Aloha!
I hope you get a chance to see my current post, it is about a quilt too :o)


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