Embroidery Term of the Week: Redwork

comments (0) May 9th, 2008     

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JenniferStern Jennifer Stern, contributor
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Traditionally, redwork was hand stitched, but today, there are many
machine-embroidery patterns that can be used to create
the same handmade effect. You can find a wide range of free, downloadable redwork patterns online.
Tricia Cribb’s Redwork Quilts is an excellent source of redwork examples and patterns such as this stunning hand-stitched piece
displayed as the center of a quilt top.
Traditionally, redwork was hand stitched, but today, there are many
machine-embroidery patterns that can be used to create
the same handmade effect. You can find a wide range of free, downloadable redwork patterns online.

Traditionally, redwork was hand stitched, but today, there are many machine-embroidery patterns that can be used to create the same "handmade" effect. You can find a wide range of free, downloadable redwork patterns online.

Photo: Len Hasemann

Redwork is the art of outline stitching, stem stitching, and French knots that became popular in the 1870s. It was originally named for a cotton embroidery thread known as "turkey red." This thread was less expensive than silk thread, and it was colorfast, making it a very popular for the art. Typically, the designs used were very simple, making them easy to stitch out.
If you are interested in creating some of your own redwork, Tricia Cribbs has designed a book that features a collection of four vintage designs.

These redwork designs reminded me of stories my mother told me about my grandmother giving her penny squares to work on. While my grandmother adorned her aprons, table linens and tea towels with simple designs, my mother practiced stitching on these little squares of cloth that had a design stamped on them.

Today, redwork is a more general term that refers this kind of outline embroidery—not the color of the thread that is used. Redwork is also popular among machine embroiderers; all sorts of outline designs can be stitched out by embroidery machine.

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