Posted in What is ....

What is REDWORK?

The term “Redwork” refers to designs with an outline embroidered in red thread on a white or unbleached cotton fabric.  The outline is worked with a running stitch, a stem stitch or back stitch. Occassionally cross stitching or French knots are added.

Redwork became popular in North America in the late 1800’s after a Turkish-made colorfast red thread became available. Before “Turkey Red’ was introduced, the color in threads washed out or “bled” onto  light-colored fabric.  From 1910 to 1930, a colorfast blue thread was popular (called Bluework).


Redwork was popular in the United States from 1855 to 1925. Napkins, tea towels, chair cushions, sofa pillows and chair back covers were the typical projects women would make for their homes.

Most designs were simple to stitch. Popular themes included animals, the classic French rooster weathervane, flowers, toys, nursery rhyme characters and scenes with happy children at play.


Designs preprinted on fabric squares cost about a penny. The designs on these “penny squares” were stamped- a process for transferring designs onto fabric that became a source of income for many women working from home. Around the 1870s, iron-on transfers were developed. Using a warm iron was an easier method to apply the design onto the fabric.

The squares were embroidered and stitched together into bedcoverings or quilts (often without sashing). Redwork quilts were mostly “summer weight” with no batting.

It’s interesting that a method of stitching that started because of a lack of access to good supplies has continued into modern embroidery, including using a machine for the stitching!

Some resources:

Barbara Parrish has posted a wonderful assortment of free Redwork patterns featuring vintage scenes and motifs. Be sure to check out the main sections of her webpage for helpful redwork tips and information.

Bird Brain Designs

This site features quite a few designs suitable for redwork embroidery. Most of the designs are whimsical and will fit nicely on a flour sack kitchen towel. The free patterns feature a variety of themes including Holiday and every day.


Tipnut offers a series of Kitchen Proverbs for redwork embroidery:  A Watched Pot Never Boils, Too Many Cooks Spoil The Broth, and First Come, First Served.

Embroidery Library

If you’re a history buff, you’ll love learning a bit more of the history of redwork, along with blue work and blackwork. Embroidery Library, a site that sells patterns and files for machine embroidery, gives a great overview of the types of patterns used for this style of embroidery, as well as how and why redwork came to be.

Redwork Patterns by Barbara Parrish    and  Barbara Parrish

Barbara Parrish has posted a wonderful assortment of free Redwork patterns featuring vintage scenes and motifs. Be sure to check out the main sections of the webpage for helpful redwork tips and information.


Posted in American Sashiko

American Sashiko: Sylvia Pippen

Sylvia Pippen is famous for her beautiful Hawaiian sashiko designs. She combined hand appliqué with sashiko stitching to create pieces celebrating the flowers and foliage of Kauai and the Big Island of Hawaii.sylvia 2

Sylvia moved to La Conner, Washington and opened a shop near the wonderful Pacific Northwest Quilt & Fiber Arts Museum.

Her designs now embrace images of oceanic and sea life,  American and Australian Wildflowers.  Sylvia offers a collection of threads and accessories sure to please anyone interested in embroidery, applique and SASHIKO.

If you can’t visit La Conner, you can purchase Sylvia’s designs online. 


Posted in What is ....

What is Boro?

What is Boro?

The story of Boro begins in the early nineteenth-century rural Japan.  Weather in the northern provinces was too cold for growing cotton, so women in farming and fishing villages wove fabric from hemp and ramie. Preparing the plants and weaving the coarse fiber was time-consuming, so out of necessity women patched clothing and futon covers with scraps of fabric and sashiko stitching.

Over many generations, the repaired textiles acquired more and more layers of patching and stitching, until the original fabric was unrecognizable.  The remaining examples of  these garments are on exhibit in museums and have become known as Boro – a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags”.

Boro-Style for MODERN MAKERS

2019 BORO Hip Stitch Class - SCARF.jpgNot unlike quilting, boro developed out of necessity and is now a creative textile tehnique. Modern makers practice extreme patching and visible mending as both an artistic expression and a statement of the recycle/reuse/re-purpose movement.




Posted in What is ....

What is Sashiko? (SA-SHE-KO)

What is sashiko?   I have two answers – a stitching style and a stitching technique.

JAPANESE-STYLE sashiko stitching developed in rural Japan in the 1600’s.  Today the most popular technique for sewing Japanese-style designs is a running stitch.

Beautiful repeat designs were stitched on indigo blue fabric with white thread to patch and mend worn garments and bedding.

Related imageImage result for boro in Amuse Museum

Patches and stitching were added until it became what we call BORO, from the Japanese word BoroBoro, meaning rags.  The Amuse Museum in Tokyo exhibits original boro pieces.


The repeat design on the boro vest is available to stitchers today as a sampler, pre-printed on fabric with a dashed line to guide your stitches.

Sashiko Pre-printed Sampler – # 0004 Saya-gata (Key Maze) – White

Japanese-style samplers were my introduction to sashiko.  I appliqued the finished pieces onto pillows and garments.




Sashiko is a one-stitch embroidery TECHNIQUE: 

  1. Outline stitching
  2. Pattern embroidery
  3. Stitched shapes

Outline stitching:

  • A running stitch is used for outline embroidery and repeated designs (often overlapping).  Horizontal, vertical and curved lines are sewn with a space between each stitch; no stitches touch one another or cross over. Japanese:  Sashiko Moyozashi

Redwork is a form of outline embroidery.




Pattern embroidery:

  • A grid of stitches creates a pattern; horizontal, vertical and diagonal stitches often cross over (like cross stitch).  Japanese:  Sashiko Hitomezashi

Darning sampler, cotton, embroidered with silk, Zeeland, The Netherlands, mid-18th century.

Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London, acc. no. T.186-1921.

Pattern darning is a form of grid stitching.


Darning samplers were made in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands between the 8th and early twentieth centuries. They were usually made by school girls as part of their education, either at home or in a school class.




Stitched shapes:

  • Varying lengths of closely worked stitches create a shape.  Japanese: Kogin

Image result for antique needlepoint flowers


Needle point is a form of shape stitching.



GLQC Quilt Museum:
Another resource for images is the Quilt Index.


Posted in Hitomezashi, Kogen, News, PINS - Hand Stitching, POSTS + Conversations, PROJECTS, Quilting, Sashiko

Happy New Year 2019

Thanks for joining me this morning!

Are you excited about the start of the new year? There are so many possibilities in beginnings – a stitching project, a quilt pattern, a new skill learned in class.

I must admit my list of resolutions is shorter than it was when I was twenty.  Could be I’m more realistic or perhaps less hopeful. Who knows.  This blog is #1 on my 2019 list. So let’s get started getting to know one another.

I’ve been a member of the hand-stitching community through several groups on Facebook. Members from all over the world have inspired me with their work. I’m a member of the Modern Quilt Guild, but I wouldn’t call myself a quilter.