Most quilt blocks were made six to ten
inches across and were originally sewn
together without sashing or contrasting
colors. Feather-stitching was often done
to strengthen and hide seam lines; much
like earlier crazy quilts had been done.
Some of these coverlets were lined and
quilted, while others were simply backed
and tied at the corners of each block.
Popular designs and themes included
beloved children and pets, animals,
nature, flowers, toys, and cherished
household items. Family portraits, famous
people and buildings were also used,
along with storybook and nursery rhyme
characters for children's quilts.
REDWORK is a term used to describe a
style of embroidery done using one color.
It originated in 17th century Europe
when red-colored floss was all that was
available for fine stitchery. Eventually,
other colors were adapted and became
known as "redwork in black" or bluework.
Colors vary, but "turkey red" was the most
popular and widely used; hence the term
"turkey work", (not to be confused with
the Turkey Stitch.) It is guessed that the
color originated in Turkey, and was the
first commercially dyed thread that didn't
run or bleed. Today, the DMC floss colors
#304, #498, and #666 are often chosen as
the most authentic redwork colors,
although blue, black and sepia brown are
The stitches most often used were the
outline or stem-stitch; however a
split-stitch or double running stitch was
more desirable for creating a neater
appearance on the back of a piece.
Initially, redwork was used to decorate a
variety of household items such as
tablecloths and napkins, tea towels,
linens, pillow shams, and runners for
mantles, shelves and furniture.
Early patterns were simply traced onto
the cloth, but in the late 1800's
commercial transfers were developed.
There were many types; from perforated
papers with dyed chalk powders, to wax
and ink varieties used with a heated iron.
"Penny Squares" became popular at the
turn-of-the-century as pre-printed blocks
selling for a penny apiece.
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