In 1876 the Centennial Exposition saw held in Philadelphia, and The Royal School of Art Needlework exhibited a display of redwork items. The simplicity of the work really caught on in the US and it became very popular.
Redwork is traditionally stitched on calico with red thread, which makes a great contrast! (In the US calico is known as muslin, - this confused me for ages - as here in the UK muslin is a very loosely woven cotton fabric, and calico is plain woven, unbleached cotton!)
The original thread was red because Turkey Red dye (from the root of the Madder plant,) became available during the late 19th
century. It cost a little more than synthetic dyes - but it was colour fast, which was a huge plus!
Now you could embellish quilts, coverlets, tea towels, laundry
bags, table runners, pillow cases, and loads of other other
household items - and they could be washed.
In the late 1800s, calico/muslin was cheap, and a skein of Turkey Red thread cost about a penny. Designs were printed onto squares ready to embroider, and this gave rise to the name 'Penny Patches'.
These were ideal for teaching young girls how to stitch. Magazines often sold penny patch patterns and kits.
Bluework originated a little later, when a colour fast Indigo blue dye became available.It used exactly the same stitches. The style fell out of fashion when other of colour fast threads became available, but the simple one colour style has picked up popularity again in recent years. Other one colour work is usually called 'Green redwork', or 'Purple redwork'. I think I prefer 'Purplework' etc though!
(Sorry for the weird text size and paragraphs, Blogger and I have had a tiff this morning and it's obviously not forgiven me yet!)
Have a sunny, stitchy week!x