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We are seeing more and more references, books and links online to red work embroidery sites (sometimes the words are written separately as 'red work' or sometimes together as 'redwork'. 

running stitch imageRedwork is a term applied to a very simple linear style of embroidery done with red floss (but sometimes also done with blue floss and called 'bluework'). The stitch is usually either a simple running stitch or a more dense stem stitch. A split stitch would also look good. The image is a simple line drawing, often of children, animals, flowers, birds, vegetables and fruit, or other homey subjects. Sometimes the images were to celebrate special events such as a World's Fair. There were very limited colors of embroidery floss available in the late 1800s that didn't run or fade and turkey red and indigo blue were both "safe". 

Another term sometimes used to describe these embroideries are "penny squares". The term, Penny Squares, is left from the late 1800s and continued into the 1920s and 30s.  Muslin squares were sold with the patterns marked for a penny each. These then could be used as quilt blocks with sashing added around the borders. Here are some in assorted designs that were done for sewing machines with embroidery units.

The DMC floss red colors #304 or #498 are often chosen as the most authentic "turkey red" colors. But, redwork can also be "blue work" - blue floss on white or ecru fabric base is also done.

The RedworkInfo offers a free redwork how-to on their site for hand embroidery.

Web sites with free redwork patterns:

Redwork.info - holiday designs

The Moses House - a free pattern that changes often

Butterfly Redwork - a PDF file to print

A Barn Owl - in redwork style

Bobby Socks Quilt Co. - some really nicely drawn redwork in modern style. Use drop down menu to see each.

Commercial sites with Redwork patterns or books to Purchase:

Betty Alderman Designs - Redwork and Bluework books

Calico Cat - some lovely vintage looking designs

Folk Musicians drawings for redwork and applique

Grandma's Attic - Grandma Rachel's Redwork patterns

Machine Embroidered Redwork

If you own a computerized sewing machines, check your dealer's catalog of listings for redwork machine embroidery patterns. There are some lovely ones available. Here is an example of patterns in a variety of formats:

Sew Terific This site often has a free pattern or two to offer as well.

Victorian Girls at Sew Terific

Thread Artist has a variety of red work designs including necklines and more.

Advanced Embroidery - a large set of designs including for Christmas

Or go to Google and search for 'redwork machine embroidery'


Susan Druding

copyright 2000-2006 Susan C. Druding


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