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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Red, White and Purple at Three Corner Rock, WA (18-28)

Three Corner Rock   4th of July, 2018    (Hike#40)

This easy hike follows the Pacific Crest Trail south from the 2090 road in Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The beautifully maintained and graded trail switchbacks up a ridge lined with a variety of summer wildflowers. DSC06569The last 3/4 mile is on a rutted red access road which goes to the saddle – and to the volcanic pile of Three Corner Rock that is holding down the ridge from blowing away on this windy July 4th.

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We scramble part way up the rock to a windbreak and have lunch – only one of our hiking party braves the blast to scramble all the way to the top.

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Meanwhile, we admire our five volcano view: Jefferson, Hood, Adams, St Helens, Rainier, along with views of the Columbia River all the way to Portland to the west. This was a good place for a lookout back in the day!

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Mts Hood and Jefferson beyond the cell tower.

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Mts St Helens, Rainier and Adams.

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Silver Star Mountain

Among the flower palette are tons of red paintbrush, white bunch berry, and purple penstemon – nothing blue blooming up here today.

Other wildflowers – some are first sightings this year:

The map and June flower comparison is on my blog post from last year. 4.4 miles/1200 feet.

We stopped in Cascade Locks on the way home to buy fresh salmon for our 4th of July barbecue dinner.

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Bridge of the Gods over the Columbia River.

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Native fish market at Bridge of the Gods. The burned skyline shows how close the Eagle Creek fire was to Cascade Locks.

CRAFTING

Pinwheel Quilt completed and just waiting for baby:

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Fabric baskets for a sister’s birthday:

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I started a quilt for the Welcome Blanket project:

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37. White Christmas in PDX

Holiday   12/25/2017

Right on schedule we received a thin layer of ice and snow on Christmas Eve. We played Settlers of Catan, finished decorating the tree, and baked some cookies in our newly repaired oven. A cozy Christmas; no hikes this week.

Crafting

I made a few Jane Austen themed ornaments and finished the flannel pajama pants that Brian started but never finished – he will find them under the tree.  I continued to knit the green shawl for Emily, which she will find under the tree, needles attached, to be finished soon.

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35. Dreaming of White River, 12/11/2017

A little under the weather, so I missed the hike with Dan and a friend to White River on Mt Hood. He sent me this photo from our usual lunch stop:

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LOOKBACK:

This is a favorite adventure because the grade is gentle and the mountain is in view almost all the way up to a spectacular lunch spot. A few photos from previous years:

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March 2012 – Close up of the peak of Mt Hood

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February 2013

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January 2014

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March 2016

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March 2017

Crafting:

A little of each- knitting, plying, stitching the leftover clams for the back of Atmospheric River, and what fun! deciding to use Fossil Fern as the focus fabric for my long planned hue shift quilt.

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Flyaway Twist: begin the brioche, with lifelines

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Panel of leftover clams for the otherwise light blue backing for the Atmospheric River quilt

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Color wheel of fabrics for a new quilt

 

Other adventures:  Mostly a waiting week – I tried one new med, and also contracted a common cold from my son, so snowshoeing did not seem like fun.

28. Atmospheric River Quilt / Tryon Creek Hike 10/22/2107

Heavy rain predicted for the weekend. Meteorologists describe an atmospheric river headed our way. Hiking questionable. Time for some quilting!

I have finally drawn a successful template for my giant clamshell quilt, and spent some enjoyable moments sorting fabric for the clams. It began with a stack that I purchased approximately 20 years ago at a quilt shop in Bend, Oregon – blue-green-purple with gold metallic accents in geometric patterns.

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I have used small pieces in scrap quilts, but have been more recently plotting to use these in a giant clam shell quilt, inspired by one I saw on a bed at the Metolius River Lodge in August of 2012.  That one had 19 1/2″ wide clams.

 

The dimensions of my available stash limit my clam size to 18 inches maximum. It took me a while to design the clam shell template. I resorted to creating a compass with a piece of graph paper, a pin, and a mechanical pencil.  I traced the half-clam onto freezer paper, and will use the freezer paper template to cut 40 whole clams on the fold, and 20 different half clams, 5 each left, right, top and bottom.  I watched the Latifah Saafir YouTube video on sewing clams without pins, but I have already made drunkard path, apple core and half-circle quilts, so I am familiar with the technique.  These curves will be relatively easy to sew, I hope, with such large circles.

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I visually selected a palette of cool colors to go with the focus fabrics. It makes me happy that I can make this a charm quilt in the sense that each fabric is used only once. After cutting the large clams from my larger fabrics, I placed the smaller pieces around the tentative layout to audition for the half clams.

 

As I looked at the flood of cool, watery colors on the floor, the perfect name popped into mind – Atmospheric River. In the week ahead I plan to finish cutting the half clams and finalize the layout. Then, on to the sewing.

Tryon Creek Hike  10/22/2017   (#51)

Meanwhile, by Sunday afternoon, the atmospheric river had passed over our area, and we headed to Tryon Creek State Park, only 20 minutes away, for a brief hike in the drippy forest.  This beautifully maintained park is one of the oases of nature surrounding Portland. A maze of trails and bridges cross and recross Tryon Creek, providing peaceful moments.

Big leaf and vine maples showing fall color:

 

Moss, fern and cedar:

 

Muddy creek reflections:

 

About 3 miles/300 feet.

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LOOKBACK:

We have hiked in Tryon Creek many times – it is famous for blooming Trillium in the spring.

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Trillium at Tryon Creek, April 2015

OTHER CRAFTING:

Kimono robe and socks I made for my daughter for her birthday.

 

15. Cloud Cap/Cooper Spur/ Timberline Trail, Mt Hood, Oregon 7/28/2017

Timberline Trail High Point from Cloud Cap  7/28/2017  (#39)

We drove up the dusty switchbacks of Cloud Cap Road, through the burned forest from the 2008 and 2011 fires.  Lupine, goldenrod, penstemon, aster and paintbrush lined the road, and the views to the Cascade peaks to the north appeared as we gained elevation.

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Lupine lined road to Cloud Cap through the burned forest

The trail head is at 5600 feet, and we began our hike in the forest.  We soon rounded a bend to clear views of the mountain, and of our trail heading up through loose moraine and across a stream.  Abundant wildflowers lined the trail despite the dry dusty nature of the substrate.

After crossing the drainage, we continued up and soon emerged above timberline on a rocky alpine slope with local patches of snow.  We saw stunning views to the peak of Mt. Hood and it’s eastside glaciers, and to the Washington Cascade peaks of Mt St Helens, Mt Rainier and Mt Adams.

We continued gently up and down on the Timberline Trail, around ridges and across snowfields. We could see the peak, and the Cooper Spur moraine and ridgeline made distinctive by a huge boulder called tie in rock.  We hiked that ridge to the base of the glacier a few years ago, and we could see a few antlike people hiking along the ridgeline today.  We opted to stay along the timberline trail to its topographic high point, about 7300 feet.  We traversed along the ridge adjacent to this point to a lunch spot with 360 degree panoramic views, including views to the south of Gnarl Ridge, Lamberson Butte, and much further to the south, the silhouettes of Mt Jefferson and Black Butte that were somewhat obscured by wildfire smoke in that direction.  To the north, the view was still clear to Mt. Adams and Mt Rainier.

 

Though the landscape looks barren from a distance there were abundant flowers along the trail, some of them short or dwarf varieties.

 

I love to look at the shapes and textures of the glaciers:

These suncups in a melting snowfield on the trail created an otherworldly landscape.

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We stopped to look at the stone Cooper Spur shelter, and get a better look at the upper part of the Eliot Glacier.

 

Our round trip hike for the day was about 6 miles and 1650 feet.

Lookback: We completed this same hike in October of 2015 with friends.  At that time there was an early winter dusting of snow, creating a frosted white landscape.  The clarity and blueness of the sky was remarkable that day, despite the patchy clouds, with Cascade peaks both north and south easily seen.

The three Washington peaks to the north from timberline:

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July 2017

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October 2015

and from above timberline, with the Cloud cap shelter on the left:

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July 2017

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October 2015

Mt. Hood from the Timberline trail high point lunch spot; Cooper Spur/Tie-In Rock on the right:

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July 2017

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October 2015

Looking down Tilly Jane Creek from the trail crossing:

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July 2017

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October 2015

Craft Update:

I made a key basket for my son, and added one and a half knitted tortillas to my collection: