Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cotton Boll Quilt Block

This 12" Cotton Boll quilt block is the fourth block of my Irish Great-Grandpa Sampler Quilt.  I found the pattern for this quilt block free on-line here.  This pattern is for an 8" block, so I printed off the pattern on Block Base.           

While my maternal grandmother was still in high school, she interviewed her father, James Lynch, at the urging of her older brother Will, who was living in China at the time.  (Read his letter to her here.)  Later, she wrote a biography of her father from the notes she'd taken during the interview.  Following is the fourth part of this biography:  

"When they came to America, they started working in a cotton mill in Fall River, Massachusetts.  James was given the job of putting the wooden spindles of thread on the pegs.*  He was given the job for one day to see if he could do the work.  He did it so well that he was given the job permanently.  That was when he was still twelve years old.  He earned six dollars a month and stayed for a year.  The three brothers and three sisters lived together in a frame tenement house that was barely furnished.  They slept on the floor.  Some worked nights, some days.  The work shifts were twelve hours.

"They then went to Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and the boys did farm work.  Later, sister Ellen married James Main.  They lived at Oak Grove and later at Juneau, Wisconsin.  Sister Mary married Alonzo Wagner in Beaver Dam and later moved to Reading, Kansas."
       - by Hazel Lynch Skonberg, James Lynch's daughter

*James would have been known as a doffer for the work he did in the cotton mill.  A doffer was someone who cleared the full bobbins or spindles holding the spun cotton and replaced them with empty ones.  Although the day was long, doffers only worked for about four hours each day.  In 1830, a doffer boy in Massachusetts would earn 25 cents a day.    

“In the cotton mills, children were good at monotonous repetitive tasks that often required little physical strength, but where small bodies and nimble fingers were an advantage.  Girls started as spinners while boys were doffers and sweepers.  When the bobbins on the spinning frames were full, the machinery stopped.  The doffers would swam into the mill and, as quickly as possible, change all the bobbins, after which the machinery would be restarted and the doffers were free to amuse themselves until the next change-over.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doffer

Are you interested in reading more about this quilt?  You'll find it all right here.   

You might also enjoy reading my previous blog post


  1. Your choice of fabric makes that such an interesting block!

  2. This is the first quilt block I ever made. I enjoyed reading the story that was the journal on the site where you got the block pattern. The story happened about an hour away from where I live. Thank you for sharing your history with us and pointing us to other interesting things.

  3. How interesting. I've never thought about all that goes into making the fabric. When they moved to Wisconsin, they moved to a lovely state. We love to take trips there.

  4. What a wonderfully rich family history you have, thanks for sharing it with us. Love the block too!


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