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The ‘Hired Man’s Quilt’ ~ Around The Frame

Recently, Born Again Quilts acquired a very rustic quilt top circa 1920s-30s. It was the shoo-fly/monkey wrench/churn dash/hole in the barn door design made of medium blue chambray and gray homespun plaid blocks. The blocks and medium blue chambray sashing pieces were added all by sewing machine. The blocks didn’t line up well leaving it “off the square”. We found the perfect gray flannel striped fabric to shore up one corner and add a four-inch border to resolve the issue and frame and secure the entire top.

A hired man’s quilt top of drab flannels, homespun and chambray fabrics with an additional 4” striped border to even the outer edges.

When my friend and fellow quilt lover, Priscilla, saw it with its simple design, drab colors and crude stitching, it reminded her of her maternal grandmother and her hired man’s quilts:

“My grandmother, Ida Augsburger, grew up at the turn of the 20th century on a farm in central Illinois. She started hand piecing her first patchwork blocks while she was still in grade school. When she had finished a good dozen or more, her mother helped her sew them together into a quilt top. Then they “made the sandwich”, stretched it on the frame, and quilted it. As they were finishing the quilt, Ida’s grandmother stopped by. Looking over their handiwork, she said, “Well now, this will be a good enough quilt for your hired man!”

The hired man was a young man, usually in his late teens or early twenties, who hired out to a neighboring farmer to help with the chores. He often ate with the family, but slept in the barn, or another out-building. When Ida’s father, Daniel J. Augsburger, built their home outside Flanagan, Illinois, he had included an extra bedroom above the kitchen. This isolated room was intended for the hired man and was accessed by climbing up a narrow and steep staircase off the kitchen. It had a low ceiling, narrow windows, and was sparsely furnished. Only the second-best quilts were placed on the hired man’s bed. By contrast, a wide staircase off the living room led up to the family’s bedrooms above the main part of the house. These rooms were wide and airy, with multiple windows and tall ceilings. The walls were papered with a flowered print, and a special quilt was made for each occupant.”

When Priscilla told me about her grandmother’s hired man’s quilts, it brought back memories of Hoosier Poet James Whitcomb Riley’s The Raggedy Man: bit.ly/3vVcDC4. Although this Raggedy Man doesn’t live at the home, it is with deep affection that he is remembered: Not for his clothes, but for his character and the joy he brought to ‘Lizabuth Ann. With its delightful rhyme scheme, children will love having it read to them. It begins, “O the Raggedy Man! He works fer Pa; An’ he’s the goodest man ever you saw!”

It will be interesting to see what its future owner will make of it.

Lois Levihn is the owner of Born Again Quilt where quilts are restored and unwanted fabric finds a new home. If you have a textile story you’d like to share, contact her at 260-515-9446 or bornagainquilts @frontier.com

Lois Levihn

She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer