I think of Redwork as an embroidery design style, a line drawing in thread. And that style can be stitched with any color. You've heard the term Bluework? Bluework is just Redwork sewn with, any guesses? Anyone? That's right! Blue thread.
Unless you're recreating an antique look, you can use any thread color with Redwork designs, but to maintain the allure of the design, stitch it with just one color.
The term 'Redwork' originally applied to a very simple linear style of embroidery that became popular in the United States in the late 1800's when Turkish cotton processors developed a secret technique to make a red colorfast thread, creatively known as 'Turkey red'.
Until Turkey red came on the scene colored cotton thread would fade or bleed when washed and line dried and couldn't be used for everyday items such as towels, bed sheets and bedcovers. Embroidery with colorful silk thread could only be afforded by the wealthy. If the rest of us had anything embroidered it was with common white or natural cotton thread. Kind of boring.
Redwork designs were basic and rather quaint line drawings of children, birds, flowers, a water pump, and other objects found around every homestead at the time. The charming simplicity and affordability of Redwork was very popular among the immigrants and middle class of America, partly as a backlash against the excessive ornamentation of the Victorian culture of the time.
Redwork's popularity lasted until the 1920's when the development of synthetic, colorfast dyes opened up the world of color to embroidery, not just for the wealthy but for everyone. But no embroidery style has ever had, or continues to have, the grass roots appeal of Redwork.
What goes around, comes around, and the same is true of the Redwork style of embroidery. With the advent of embroidery digitizing software, skilled digitizers, computerized embroidery machines and thousands of thread hues, colorful embroidery continues to reach new heights. Those same skills and technologies allow for the creation of Redwork designs that are much more intricate than those of the past. But no matter how non-traditional or simple the pattern, there is something undeniably appealing and elegant about all Redwork designs. Perhaps in the case of Redwork, less really is more.
Deb Schneider - Windstar Embroidery Designs