red flannel pantry

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hand-me-down UFOs and Sunbonnet Sue

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Last week my husband spent several days with his sisters helping their parents downsize and move into an independent living community. Many of our friends have gone through this process with their parents, and a key bit of advice they shared was, when offered something, accept it graciously. . . and decide later what to do with it. In the end, my husband didn’t return home with much beyond these two sacks of knitting and crocheting that belonged to my mother-in-law. I know how much angst can be wrapped up in these unfinished projects, so I’m glad my husband knew to take them off her hands. I’ll see if any of my knitting friends (or maybe my knitting newbie daughter) are interested in these supplies. Otherwise, I’ll give them to Goodwill. I hope someday someone will gently part my UFOs from me–and that there will be so few that they will fit in two small plastic bags!

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Inside one of the bags I found this Kansas City Star article published in April 1998. It tells the story of a deviant Sunbonnet Sue quilt named “The Sun Sets on Sunbonnet Sue”. In 1979, the quilt’s creators, members of the Seamsters Union Local 500 in Lawrence, Kansas, created blocks in which they depicted various ways of killing off smarmy Sunbonnet Sue. The needlework judges at the Sunflower State Expo in Topeka, Kansas deemed the quilt “unacceptable” and would only allow it to be displayed face down on a table so visitors couldn’t see the various dastardly ways the quilters had depicted Sue being done in.

I knew I had to see this quilt–a quick Google search revealed it to be at the Great Lakes Quilt Center in the Michigan State University Museum. You can see it here. In looking through the close-ups of the blocks, I learned that Barbara Brackman, a well-respected quilt author, was part of the Seamsters and made two of the blocks–a fun fact.

There’s more to the story. In 1997, another group of Lawrence, Kansas quilters (Seamsters Union Local 925) decided to create a spin-off Sunbonnet Sue murder quilt: “Death Becomes Her.” You can see it and read about it here. The quilt was exhibited at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. While there, it too was found offensive and removed from display (read about it here)–geez louise.

My mother-in-law has a small doll-size Sunbonnet Sue quilt, so a friend must have clipped the article for her knowing she’d get a kick out of all of the fuss–and I did too!

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7 thoughts on “hand-me-down UFOs and Sunbonnet Sue

  1. My favorites are “Eaten by a Snake” and “Strangled by a Sunflower”. Offensive? Somebody is taking themselves way too seriously, IMHO.

  2. You absolutely made my day with the Sunbonnet Sue quilts!! What a lot of fun those quilters must’ve had! And the advice to accept items from loved ones who need to downsize is great–gentle and considerate.

  3. What a great fun fact! Haha interesting read for sure and that quilt is just too funny!

  4. I’m reading back posts of yours (now that I have a little bit of free time) and found this one thoroughly enjoyable. I guess the PC Police have invaded the quilt world, too! How violent can any of these be if they are depicted in cloth and needlework, after all? Too funny!

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