Redwork, an almost forgotten part of our quilting and needlework history, is now enjoying a revival! Antique Redwork coverlets and other Redwork linens are sought-after items these days. Home furnishings, catalogs and stores feature reproductions. Redwork coverlets have been the "forgotten quilts" of the 1900s by antique dealers. Finding a completed antique Redwork quilt today is highly unusual. There are a few left, but they command a high price. Due to the mass popularity of Redwork today, hundreds, maybe thousands of vintage designs are reproduced for use.
Redwork became popular in the late 1870s. It took the name from an embroidery thread known as Turkey Red. The manufacturing process for "Turkey red" was complex and a well-kept secret for decades. The complete "recipe" for the original dye is still a mystery. Redwork was extremely popular among the common people because the cotton thread was not only colorfast, but it was less costly than the silk threads commonly used at the time. And the designs were easy to embroider. Redwork began in England at the Royal School of Art Needlework in Kensington where students decided to work on designs simply using the outline stitch embroidery. For this reason, the stitch became known as the Kensington Stitch. All one requires to get started is the Kensington Stitch along with the stem stitch, French knots or colonial knots and back stitch. Although little girls often learned how to embroider in school, they practiced embroidery on "penny squares" provided by their mother. A square of white cotton with a stamped design cost a penny, as did the skein of red floss. Today we simply refer to these penny squares as Redwork. Our fore-mothers used Redwork designs to adorn many items such as, quilts, coverlets, dishtowels, laundry bags, splashers, bureau scarves, pillow covers, mantel covers and other household items.
Redwork lost its panache as other colors of embroidery thread became available. It is now seen as an umbrella term signifying a certain kind of embroidery, rather than the color of the thread used. When another color is used such as purple, blue, or green, the work is called "Purplework or as some call it "Redwork in Purple" (My personal favorite color-purple).
One is never too old or too young to enjoy this pleasant and most rewarding pastime. So pick out a Redwork pattern from my site or another Redwork site, take out a needle, and stitch, stitch, stitch.
copyright 2005-2015 Scarlet Today/Redwork, Rosie deLeon-McCrady