Friday, January 3, 2020

A new home for the redwork

Historic preservation was a popular trend when I lived in Brenham, Texas, in the late 1970's.  People from Houston were discovering Brenham and Washington County for weekend and retirement living.  Both newcomers and long-timers were restoring the town's big Queen Anne houses and less-elaborate dwellings  There was new interest in late-Victorian furniture and decor.   .

Natalie and Charlie lived in what had been the Lutheran Teacherage -- where the (unmarried) women teachers at the Lutheran school had boarded.  The house originally had three rooms down and three rooms up, 16x16x16.  There was a wide hall with a very steep staircase. The wall up the stairs was lined with framed redwork pillow shams.

I was smitten.  I had discovered needlework (mostly needlepoint but also other embroidery). I loved antiques. I was earning a living and setting up housekeeping, defining my tastes and starting collections -- and redwork was among them.

Redwork has been extensively documented and described (here is just one example).  Technically I purchased "outline embroidery" because they weren't all red floss-on-white.  My collection remained modest because as much as I admired redwork it didn't fit my decor (and was not to my husband's taste).  The redwork stayed in a box in the Deep Stash.

It occurred to me that redwork would be an ideal complement to the decor at Bonnie Hunter's
Quiltville Inn .  I wrote to offer my collection to her and she said yes!   I took pictures before I put the pieces in the shipping box -- but I didn't iron them because then I'd have had second and third thoughts.

These shams are unhemmed. I always thought the child's eyes (on the right) were scary.

Some of the pieces are beautifully finished. The fabric was fine percale.

Oops -- someone's floss was not colorfast.

Peacocks were a popular motif.

The German piece is embroidered on ribcord fabric. The top piece folds over, like a reverse pillow-tuck. The housecleaning scene makes me think that this was for a daybed off a kitchen, maybe. (The ribcord is too heavy to be a curtain.)

The pieces on the right are Swedish.

This is a 100+-year-old UFO.

And some pieces I'm keeping . . . for the time being, at any rate.

When I had a guest room these were over the twin beds.

I don't always remember when/where I buy specific pieces, but I do recall this:  an antiques store in Naples, Maine, circa 1993.  The fabric is a heavy-ish twill and it must've been hard to poke the needle through.

It says:

Ring out the old
Ring in the new
Ring out the false
Ring in the true 

(In Memoriam by Tennyson)

.....certainly a good thought for the new year!


  1. I have been working on a redwork quilt for years. It's the perfect travel project--just red floss and the image. My goal is to finish it this year. The main pieces are joined with pieced work. I created a border--one side finished, working on the other.

  2. How kind of you to gift it to someone who will be able to use it. I think many of us are have reached the decluttering stage of our lives.

  3. Hooray for relocating the redwork to a setting so ideal! So much better than it staying in the Deep Stash.

  4. Love the red-work pieces that you have/had. What nostalgia they bring to mind.

  5. Wonderful to bring the red work out of a box and get it to a place people can appreciate it!

  6. Our guild just put ourselves in the lottery to go to the Quiltville Inn! If I make it there, you bet I will brag on knowing you and take lots of pictures!!!!!!


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