Sunbonnet Sue Quilt

I started this blog two years ago with the goal of writing about my quilting. Instead, the blog has become more of a hiking and travel journal, with a side of crafting. Here, at last, is my first quilt story! It is a common lament in the quilt world that many quilts are unlabeled and their stories are lost to history. My first quilt story, which includes a bit of my history, is about my oldest, my first quilt.


Sunbonnet Sue   68″ x 82″   by Margaret Klute 1975

Quilt Story 1: Sunbonnet Sue, 1975

My childhood best friend, Susan, moved from Minnesota to our neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley of southern California in the early 1960s. Her Mom, Sally, often gave us projects to keep us busy – everything from polishing their family’s antique whaling lamps and silver, to baking bread and cookies, to making candles, macrame and clothing.  Sally showed us how to make Sunbonnet Sue blocks when we were about 14 or 15 years old – this would have been about 1970 or 1971.


The dress on this Sue was a scrap from a blouse I wore in high school.

We began by cutting templates out of construction paper. Then we raided our family’s overflowing scrap boxes for fabric.  Both of our moms sewed, and my sisters and I also made some of our own clothing.  We had fun choosing fabrics for the dress, bonnet, arm and shoe patches.  We sewed the pieces onto white background fabric, possibly from an old sheet, using an overcast hand appliqué stitch. We each created a stack of blocks but then lost momentum. My blocks sat in a drawer for a few years.


In 1975 I wanted a warm quilt to take with me to college in northern California.  I made additional Sunbonnet Sues using scraps from recently made clothes, but did not have enough blocks for a bed-sized quilt.  I raided both families’ fabric stashes again and cut out 5 inch squares from a wide mix of scraps.  I sewed the squares together with half inch seam allowances, and determined a layout that would float the Sunbonnet Sue blocks between rows of patchwork.  I found a backing fabric at the discount fabric shop, and I also bought a roll of 2″ thick polyester batting.  I finagled a quilt sandwich with straight pins, and somehow managed to force the quilt under the foot of my Mom’s sturdy Kenmore sewing machine, stitching in the ditch around all the squares.  I found fabric for the binding, again from the scrap box, and attached it by hand.


Backing fabric, which I always thought of as batik saw blades.

I brought the quilt with me to college and continued to use it for a good 20 years. I patched it and restitched much of the appliqué, and eventually the batting flattened down to about a quarter inch thick.


Front binding close up. These fabrics include cotton, polyester, and wool; both prints and wovens; and light to heavy in weight. The edge of the middle faded pink spotted patch shows the bright original color along the seam allowance.


The binding on the back was much wider, and hand stitched. I only added the signature recently!

Construction commentary: This quilt represents to me a big chunk of my youth – and also, I love the audacity of youth that this quilt reveals.  I finished Sunbonnet Sue in a way that made sense to me at the time. I remember thinking I didn’t need the full 5/8 inch seam allowance used for garment sewing – 1/2 inch should be plenty.  I also had  the idea that a patchwork quilt should not be made of new fabric, and should have as many different scrap fabrics as possible – though I did have the option to not use fabric that I didn’t like. There were no blogs or online tutorials – we had one Dover quilt book. I consulted my Mom, but she had never made a quilt, though she had made curtains, bed spreads and cushion covers as well as clothing. (She could also knit, crochet, tat, and change the oil and spark plugs and adjust the carburetor in an automobile engine while single handedly feeding and clothing nine children – but that’s a story for another day.) The wide seam allowances, thick batting and wide binding are not what I do today, but they worked to complete my quilt.


The orange dress print is leftover from our Shasta travel trailer curtains. The streaky red, white and blue fabric reminds me that both tie-dye and pre-bicentennial patriotism were part of the pop culture of the time. The pink striped floral fabric is a pillow ticking weight fabric.


The uppermost flowered patch, now needing a patch, was another favorite blouse fabric. The middle patch is an example of the psychedelic graphics of the time.

I love the personal history of the fabric in this quilt – I see mine and my sisters’ and my friends’ childhood wardrobes, with many fond memories of people, place and time. I also love that this quilt reflects what I considered at the time to be the true spirit of patchwork quilting – making something from the scraps of both material and memories. This was during the early seventies anti-establishment/anti-war/back to the land movement, which defined the paths that I and a few of my siblings would choose as young adults.  We went to war protests, dug up our lawn to plant a garden, joined a food coop, and eventually moved out of the city to northern California or Oregon. Susan never finished her quilt, but during a visit a few years ago we enjoyed looking at all the fabrics and remembering when and where we wore them when we were young. I wish I had photos of us in some of the clothes, but alas, I do not. Just the patches in this well worn quilt.


Weldon Wagon Road, WA


We walked Weldon Wagon Trail on a hot day in May. Balsamroot beginning to fade in the heat. I craved the shade, wished for a breeze in the still air, unlike the windblown walk last week at The Dalles Mountain Ranch. Lupine, clarkia, manroot, various parsleys, cutleaf violets, no sasquatch sighting this year. An enjoyable walk with friends. This will likely be my last of the balsamroot hikes this year! (Hike #22, 5.5 miles, 1300 feet).


Lupine along the trail in the lower woodlands.


First view of the open flowered slope.


Our trail ahead across the balsamroot slope,


and a view of Mt Hood across the valley.


Friends ahead.




Looking straight up at the steep slope above.



Turnaround point


And back the way we came,


Back into the shade on a hot day.

New or notable flowers:

Neighborhood and Garden


Birthday bouquet


Our rhododendron in bloom,


And our native irises.


Giant camas in a neighborhood garden.


Local fairy garden.


I finished the Frost Slippers. The fit is a bit tight, but they should fit someone! Interesting construction, including stranding, steeking, and seaming, and I used up a lot of the leftover Dr Who Scarf yarn.


Yarn for travel knitting!


((This post has the first photos using my new camera (Sony HX90V).)

Balsamroot, Bitterroot, and a Birthday

May 2, 2019 Dalles Mountain Ranch, WA

On a very windy double birthday, we followed the lure of the wildflowers to Dalles Mountain Ranch, Columbia Hills State Park, WA. We hiked the Middle Loop, from the Ranch, downhill and then back up again, over rolling slopes and across streams. Balsam root, biscuit root, lupine, and filaree painted  gold, yellow, purple and pink highlights on the hills, and neither words nor pictures can really describe the beauty! But I try…


We started from the ranch trailhead, Mt Hood in the distance.


Down the balsmroot and lupine filled slopes.


As the trail winds down, the view changes from Mt Hood


to the Columbia Hills.


The Columbia River comes into view,


and so many flowers!


Under oak trees,


Down hill, closer to the river.


Stream crossing,



Puffy mounds of phlox,



A patch of death camas



Another stream crossing,



Back up the last slope to the trail head.

A few less common flowers seen today:

Later, the same day – camas lilies and bitterroot!

On our way home, we took a short hike at Catherine Creek where the open slopes are already beginning to dry out.

DSC03831I was hoping to see swales of blue camas lilies in the vernal pools, and we found them!


Blue camas lilies growing where the vernal pools are drying up.


A few white camas in with the blue camas lilies.

A bonus was finding the first blooming bitterroots of the year! We completely missed them last year when we were in Cornwall, so I took extra pictures to make up for it.


The large pink flowers are so delicately beautiful, and yet grow out of tough black lava outcrops.


Bitterroot blooming on the rocky foreground, camas lilies and buttercups beyond.

This was hike #21 for 2019, about 6 miles, 600 feet overall, but a million in flowers.

Even later, birthday cake and new socks

I made the requested traditional chocolate cake. After dinner out at our favorite local Chinese restaurant, Brian blew out XXVI candles.


Dan will blowout his LXV candles on Sunday when he has his party. Both had ‘medical insurance significant’ birthdays this year. Brian was wore his new socks the next day while watching the Portland Trailblazers squeak out a win over Denver in quadruple overtime! I don’t think there is any adrenaline left in town.


I finished these just in time for Brian’s birthday!

Meanwhile in the garden….

Dogwood trees are blooming all over town in glorious pink, salmon and cream colors. And in our yard:


Only one of twelve camas bulbs bloomed.


Chinese fringe flower and phlox still going strong