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Redwork, popular in the late 1870s, got its name from an embroidery thread known as Turkey Red. The manufacturing process for "Turkey Red" was complex and very popular among the common people because the cotton thread was not only colorfast, but it was less costly than the silk threads and the designs were easy to embroider.

Redwork began in England at the Royal School of Art Needlework in Kensington where students decided to work on designs simply using the outline stitch embroidery. For this reason, the stitch became also known as the Kensington Stitch. All one requires to get started is the Kensington Stitch, the stem stitch, French knots , and the back stitch. Although little girls often learned how to embroider in school, they practiced embroidery on "penny squares" provided by their mother. A square of white cotton with a stamped design cost a penny, as did the skein of red floss. Today we simply refer to these penny squares as Redwork. Our foremothers used Redwork designs to adorn many items such as, quilts, coverlets, dish towels, laundry bags, splashers, bureau scarves, pillow covers, mantel covers and other household items.

Redwork lost its panache as other colors of embroidery thread became available. It is now seen as a certain kind of embroidery, rather than the color of the thread used. When another color is used such as bluework, the work is thus called bluework and so on.