Grandma loves to do Redwork! That’s why we carry one of the largest selections of Redwork Embroidery to be found on the Net. You’ll find a very large inventory of books, patterns and stamped goods that are sure to inspire you to create your own bit of Redwork History and Nostalgia. Visit our Redwork Department
Redwork Embroidery was very popular from about 1880-1920. Patterns were stitched in red (sometimes blue) on a muslin background. This type of stitching, popularized by the Kensington School for Girls in England during the 1880s, was called the Kensington stitch but we know it today as backstitching or outline stitching. The reason Red was chosen is because it was a sturdy cotton thread that could be counted on not to fade or bleed. This time period was also before DMC floss was available in the United States and other color choices were available only in silks.
Catalogues of the time period offered "penny squares"--small sheets of muslin with stamped patterns that sold for pennies apiece. Older women have told us that they can remember going to the local dry goods store as a little girl and picking out a pattern to have stamped for embroidery. They would stitch this design during their free time each week. Many looked forward to the Saturday trips to town to pick out their next design.
Themes on penny squares included historical figures, animals, flowers, household items, fruit and vegetables, children and nursery rhymes. Pictures had different meanings. For instance, horse shoes were a sign of good luck, angels ensured the safekeeping of children, and each flower had a secret meaning. Children were often given penny squares to work on, especially when convalescing from an illness. My own grandmother, recalling how she learned "fancy work," decided that I should learn to stitch using penny squares when I was nine years old. (In Redwork’s heydey, nine would have been considered quite "old" for learning how to stitch!) Table and luncheon cloths, dishtowels, quilt blocks, pillow shams, pillowcases, tea towels and splashers (used behind a wash bowl) all featured redwork.