In the United States, redwork history can be traced back to the late 1800s. Redwork embroidery was very popular across America. Usually it was used in coverlets and spreads as well as household linens. The coverlets were thin, consisting of only a top and bottom with no filler and were used in the summer.
At first red thread was used for this type of embroidery because the method of dyeing the “red” color resulted in a color fast thread . Other colors would run when washed and did not hold up with repeated washing. By the 1920s, dyes improved and other colors became available.
Penny squares were a very popular method of making redwork quilts. Each square had a design stamped on it and could be bought for a penny, hence the name. Some of the antique redwork quilts available today were made from penny squares. There was a variety of designs available. These included children, animals, nursery rhymes, flowers, fruit, vegetables, or designs of historical importance. These designs were worked in a variety of stitches. The outline or running stitch were used the most. Other stitches included cross stitch, chain, stem, and double running.
Redwork designs are very popular today. The popularity of redwork, which declined in the 1920s, has been revived and they are again a very popular form of embroidery amongst the modern embroiderer. Now machine embroidery is used to re-create traditional penny squares, quilts, and to decorate a large number of household and childrens items.
Perfect for quilts and stippling. Modern Redwork Embroidery designs are generally outline designs and are not filled in with various embroidery fills. This makes them very quick and easy to sew out, and perfect for stippling in quilts. Try using a layer of batting on top of your stabilizer when stitching out the redwork design. This will give you a fabulous embossed or quilted look.
Experiment with different colors. Modern Redwork embroidery designs these days are sometimes known as Blackwork, Greenwork, or Bluework depending on the thread color used to sew them out with. Try experimenting with your various threads, and even use variegated threads for different results. Generally, a darker color on light fabric shows the design better, but you can try the reverse and sew out the design in a light colored thread on dark fabric for some stunning results, like gold thread on navy blue satin cloth.
Try heavier threads, or diferent textures. Some redwork or Stipple designs are perfect to sew out in heavier weight cotton threads as there is no fill detail in the design, and the designs can handle a heavier thread without becoming too dense. Quilting is a rich and honored tradition. Colors, fabrics, patterns, and designs reflect your artistry and your personality. Ensure you use a needle that can accommodate a heavier weight thread.
Always test sew your design. If you experiment with different colors, thread weights, or textures of threads or batting, always ensure you test-sew your design first to ensure it will work and give the finished result you would like. As you are changing the reccommendations given by the designer for the threads to use, you need to ensure the embroidery design will sew correctly with the thread size and needle you are using before you sew it on your final project.