Monday, February 4, 2013

Virtual Quilt Show: Grandma Ollie's Sunbonnet Sue Quilt

I am very happy to participate in an Online Quilt Show hosted by my blogger friend Sharon at Hobbies on a Budget. I will be sharing two of my most treasured family heirlooms. I am blessed to be able to have a handmade quilt from great-grandmothers on both of my parent's sides of my family.

I never got to meet my Great-Grandmother Ollie because she died in 1971- 3 years before I was born, but I am named after her and feel a very special closeness to her. Her name was Ollie Eugenia and my middle name is Eugenia in her honor. She was born in the South in 1887 and her family would make their way from Alabama to Arkansas and then Oklahoma, where she would live the rest of her life. I think often about the hardships Grandma Ollie faced in life and it makes me appreciate even moreso the opportunities and advantages I have been given in my 38 years of life. 

She married my great-grandfather and became the beloved mother to my late maternal Grandma Cleva and her 7 siblings as well as a loving grandmother to a number of grandchildren, including my late mother Jan. She was widowed way too early in life at the age of 49 and left with 8 children to raise with the youngest being her 8-year-old daughter Cleva Mae. The oldest of her children, son Gene, was 18 and stepped up into a role as the male head of the household. He served as a father figure to the younger children and as he married and started a family, his intent to care for his younger siblings remained. His sister Cleva credited him as being the father-figure in her life after her Daddy's tragic death from pneumonia in 1936. Grandma Ollie never remarried. During her final years of life, she lived for a time until her health necessitated otherwise, with my grandparents Grandpa A.D. and Grandma Cleva as well as my mother who was a teenager in the home, until . She died in August 1971 at the age of 84. I see now as a young woman touched by grief myself why every year when the month of August came, my Grandma Cleva would have a distinct sadness that always came with the turn of the calendar. This month would again bring Grandma unthinkable loss when my mother would pass away in the month of August 2001. 

Grandma Ollie had a talent for quilt-making and made several quilts in her lifetime. This quilt was passed down to me several years ago by my Grandma Cleva. I set out to learn about the history behind the pattern of this quilt. I located a picture of this "bonnet girl" panel on the Sunbonnet Sue website and I learned this quilt pattern is widely known as "Sunbonnet Sue" and that it is one of the most widely recognized quilt block patterns. 

My husband Craig, before we became engaged, bought me a cherry wood quilt rack with a heart design etched on the sides to display Grandma Ollie's quilt. This quilt, made with love many years ago in rural Cherokee County, Oklahoma now has a place of honor in our guest bedroom in our New York home.
According to the website, you will find the block made into nursery quilts, appliqu├ęd onto clothing and decorated with ribbons and lace. The Sue figure has been depicted working, playing, and getting into mischief. Two ladies are credited with . British book editor Kate (Catherine) Greenaway was known for sweet pictures of little children and girls in bonnets. Many embroidery designs on the patches of fine Victorian crazy quilts were copies of her illustrations. That gave way to Sunbonnet Sue's first appearance in quilts. Bertha Corbett Melcher is credited as a creator of the Sunbonnet designs.  She illustrated children's Primer books in the early 1900s.  Her book, "The Sunbonnet Babies" was published in 1900. In this book, she depicted girls with their faces hidden by their bonnets.

I am honored to have this precious family heirloom and I hope you enjoyed learning both about the quilt's maker and about the pattern's history.

Thursday Favorite Things


  1. What a special story behind the quilt! I've seen this pattern many times but nothing is as special as the story! Love it! It's a gorgeous quilt for sure! Definitely a family treasure!

  2. Thanks for sharing the story behind your quilt. My grandmother made quilts for all of us kids before she passed away. Mine kind of dryrotted though and is sort of falling apart. I started making a Sunbonnet Sue for my daughter when she was younger but lo and behold two more young ones came along and well... it is in the box, unfinished. Hopefully one of these days I will get it done.

  3. I love the present of a quilt rack.

    This is a terrific post. I have a blanket my grandmother knit for me, and three of my four children have the same one in their baby box (baby - sized). She wasn't alive when my youngest was born.

    Such heirlooms are amazingly precious, I'm happy to have read about yours. I found the link on Katherine's Corner!

  4. I want to make a quilt so bad, but I need time, patience and focus. I love the SueBonnet design!

    I'm stopping by to say 'hi' from Katherine's Favorite Things Thursday - better late than never.