1/19/16

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose

After working feverishly the entire day yesterday, I managed to get the five roses sewn together for the Quiltmaker's Garden quilt. Also, thanks to all of you for your supportive messages about this quilt. A few smart people also informed me that you'd actually seen finished quilts in Quiltmaker magazine and on Pinterest. It's good to know that finishing it is possible.

When I took a break to do my walk on the treadmill, I had taken them this far:


It was getting late by that time, and I was really hoping to get them finished. Mainly, I was concerned about my little helper here rearranging them when I walked away. 


When I came back, all was well, and it was pretty quick to finish sewing them together. Ta-Da! The bottom two are just partial ones. They'll be sewn together when the whole quilt is sewn together.


And I don't know about you, but when I work with that many little bits and pieces, my accuracy suffers. They're a little lumpy, but no pleats. I figure anything else can be quilted out. Ha!

Last night was my monthly guild meeting and one of our own guild members, Jean Gordon, gave an excellent talk on Redwork last night. I sure learned some things I didn't know before. Here's a picture of Jean as she introduces her husband, who operated her interesting slide show.




So, why red indeed? As it turns out, redwork came to America from Europe, where it was called "Turkey work". Turkey red was one of the few colorfast colors of the time. This special type of red thread was developed in Turkey more than 200 years ago. Prior to this "Turkish red," thread wasn't colorfast. Colors would bleed in the wash, so colored thread couldn't be used on quilts or garments. With the introduction of a colorfast red thread, quilters and embroiderers could adorn everyday items such as quilts, blankets, dishtowels, and clothing, and the color wouldn't wash away. 

But not all redwork is done in red. It can be done in other colors as well. What distinguishes redwork from other forms of embroidery is that it is traditionally done using stem stitch, or outline stitch.


A search online for more about this revealed that by tradition, the main stitch that was used to outline the designs was the Stem Stitch (right, worked with the working-thread to the right of the needle) or Outline stitch (working-thread to the left of the needle). This type of stitching was called the Kensington stitch and was popularized by the Kensington School for Girls in England during the 1880s. Satin Stitch could be used sparingly to fill in small enclosed areas.  Backstitch or the split stitch could be used to cover tight curves and occasionally to outline the designs. Straight Stitch was used to cover small straight lines and French knots were used for eyes, strawberry specks, and any other place where a small dot was needed. Feather Stitch was sometimes used along the seams of pieced quilt blocks. If you're interested, you can read more about redwork by clicking right here.

Jean showed us one of her quilts all stitched in black with black and white fabrics. Despite its black color, it is still considered redwork because of the stitching. Redwork done in black is referred to as "black redwork".


Blackwork is something different altogether. Below is an image of Mary Queen of Scots wearing blackwork designs.


In general, it was reserved for aristocracy and was also known as Spanish blackwork. Here is an example.


In the earliest blackwork, counted stitches are worked to make a geometric or small floral pattern. Later blackwork features large designs of flowers, fruit, and other patterns connected by curvilinear stems. In the third style of blackwork, the outlined patterns are "shaded" with random stitches called seed stitches. This style of blackwork imitates etchings or woodcuts. If you'd like to learn more about Blackwork, you can find more information by clicking right here.

In her own work, Jean created this wall hanging of the Pledge of Allegiance in which she used blackwork stitching to create the corner stars.


Here's a close-up of Jean's blackwork on this wallhanging.


Jean has created some wonderful patterns. If I'd had my checkbook along with me last night, my bank account might have suffered. As it is, I'm going to have to figure out a way to purchase this next pattern that I fell in love with. It's her Christmas Tree wall hanging. The ornaments have snaps attached so that it can be treated as an advent calendar, if you so desire. Again, it's done in green and red, but it still conforms to traditional redwork stem stitching.


Jean told us she grew up in a small town in a family of 12 children. She created another of her quilts during a difficult time in her life. During this time, she wanted to return to her small town, and so she created this quilt to represent aspects she missed from small-town living. 


Most of the pictures for this post are taken of slides that were projected onto the wall, but I have a few of the original quilts Jean showed us as a part of her trunk show. The three images below are close-ups from the quilt above.




This next quilt is one she made to celebrate fall.


Here are a few close-ups from the original quilt. Look at all those French knots making up the center of the sunflower!


I love her simple quilting that accents the beautiful embroidery without competing.


In this next image, she's embellished with seed beads.


The leaves are three dimensional.


Shading is done with colored pencils. Jean explained that some of the shading in vintage redwork has become stiff and brittle. She is hoping that colored pencils will not have this same troublesome characteristic.



Jean has a "Redwork Club" that meets at one of our local quilt shops, Sharon's Attic, from 6-8 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month. She uses this next piece as a teaching piece, and this is Jean's original design.


She left it unfinished so that she can teach how to make the back look as pretty as the front. Take a look at the back of this piece:


Even getting in very close, it looks amazing!


These are some of Jeans quilts that were hung for display. This next one is from six patterns she inherited after the death of a friend. Six of the patterns were from Workbasket magazine. Six designs were missing from the original set, and Jean drew the remaining designs herself.


This next one was made from penny squares. Redwork patterns came to the United States sometime before the Civil War. Prior to the war, cotton was plentiful and affordable. General stores sold 6 inch muslin squares that were printed with patterns in red ink. The patterns called for simple stitches, so they were easy for everyone to complete and use. Children used these "penny squares" to practice their sewing and embroidery skills, and the completed squares were often made into Redwork bedspreads and linens. Jean explained that she and a friend took their penny squares to work on while their children took swimming lessons. This quilt is the result.


Themes on penny squares included historical figures, animals, flowers, household items, fruit and vegetables, children and nursery rhymes. Here are a few of Jean's in detail.




Jean created our guild's raffle quilt back in in 2013. You can read an article from our local newspaper about the quilt right here. Here is a picture of Jean with her quilt.


 Since that time, she's created a similar quilt, and she notes that this is one of her few quilts without any red. She calls this one Dresden Nights.


Here's a close-up of some of her beautiful embroidery.


Jean's trunk show was very enjoyable to this lover of embroidery. I sure learned a lot about redwork I didn't know before.

So it's time for me to be getting on with my day. I have just two blocks left to finish Section 3 of the Quiltmaker's Garden. It might be overly optimistic to say I'm hoping to get these finished today, but I'm hoping it anyway. 

And just so you know, Smitty has resumed his position as king of the quilts-to-be-quilted pile.




16 comments from clever and witty friends:

works4me said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! :) :) :) :) :) (5 exclamation marks and 5 happy faces, one of each for each rose block.) We all knew you could do it.

That looks like quite the trunk show last night. Those French knots in the sunflower are something else. And in more than one colour, no less. I do not know if I have the patience. I only have one question for you - when do you start your version of the redwork kitties?

Lana Ku said...

Thanks for sharing all the pictures and wonderful info.

gpc said...

The roses are beautiful. And what an interesting presentation. Now that I have started, thanks to you, doing redwork, it is good to learn something about it. Looking at the close-ups of her work, mine is pathetic, but I'm still enjoying it. I still haven't attempted those french knots . . . I'm going to need to dig back for your directions!

Dana Gaffney said...

That quilt is going to be beautiful, that's a lot of work for those roses but I think it will be worth it.

Christine M said...

Your rose blocks look wonderful, Barbara. Thanks for sharing all those photos of redwork and the information.

Vroomans' Quilts said...

The roses came out fantastic - wouldn't worry on perfections sweetie - tiny is tiny and difficult to work with. Oh, I would have loved to have gone to that trunk show.

Quilting Babcia said...

I think your rose blocks were well worth the time and patience to get them completed. Your reward - that fabulous trunk show at your guild. What a treat. I especially loved her small town quilt.

Susan said...

Your roses look better than if I had tried to make them. I like the colors together. Thanks for the education on red-work and black-work. Here all this time, I thought it was called that just because it was done in red or black. I may just have to give this a try. I just need a few of those "penny" squares.

beaquilter said...

those rose blocks are amazing, looks so complicated but yet simple.... and great eye candy

Teresa in Music City said...

Great job on your roses - and bravo for persevering with this project! One bite at a time, right? Loved the share on redwork! I suppose then that my blue Winter Wonderland would be correctly called "blue redwork?" I've always wondered. "Bluework" has never sounded quite right to me.

Dar said...

Your rose blocks look very good. I don't see any lumps from my chair over here in cold Missouri. Keep up the good work.

MoniqueB said...

That's fascinating information about redwork and blackwork. Thanks for sharing

Brown Family said...

Very interesting post. I did not know what red work was. I knew it was embroidery done in red thread, but not that it was dine in just two main stitches. I never knew about left and right thread on a stem stitch. I was taught the right side thread and that is what I use in all my hand work. However, I an teaching myself back-stitch

Kate said...

Wow! Gorgeous quilts! My grandmother did a lot of embroidery, but I never saw her do redwork. I like that Christmas tree pattern too. It's a good thing I live far, far away!

Mrs.Pickles said...

Lovely rose blocks! Looks and sounds like a fabulous trunk show too

quiltzyx said...

The roses did turn out looking FAB!
It's funny, on my monitor (at work at the Colleges tonight), almost all of the Blackwork looks red! She has some amazing works to show, indeed. I would be so sick of French Knots after doing that Sunflower!! But it is wonderful.