Getting Ready for Your First Redwork Project

Red love heart made with needle and thread

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Redwork, a project worked in red embroidery thread on white or natural-colored embroidery fabric. For example, this Chicken Weathervane is a favorite type of embroidery with the contrast between the dark thread and the fabric.

As you explore the different Redwork patterns and instructions available in print or on the internet, you'll find there are a lot of different ways of doing things. However, most of these things come down to personal preference.


For example, some designers fuse a stabilizer to the wrong side of their fabric to make it easier to give it some stability, making it easier to stitch through. However, if you are finishing your project as a quilt or wallhanging, this backing can make the fabric too heavy, making the hand quilting after assembly less pronounced. For a quilt, it is best to forego the use of a stabilizer. Instead, use an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut, helping you make well-formed stitches that won't pucker.

If your project is for a runner or doily, using a stabilizer is fine—but why go through this extra step or expense when it's not necessary? If you need a more stable fabric to stitch on, start with a heavier-weight cotton or linen fabric, rather than fusing a stabilizer to it. Bottom-weight and suit-weight cottons and linens are perfect for this and come in a huge range of colors and fabric counts.

Most stitchers use cotton embroidery floss when working Redwork, but other embroidery threads can be used as well, including pearl cotton, linen, bamboo, and silk threads.

Dealing With Bleeding Threads

Remember that some threads—especially red—tend to bleed when laundered, and should be tested on a small scrap of fabric first by washing normally in room-temperature water. If you do get some crocking (color bleed), try giving it a second washing or rinse. The slight loss of dye will usually wash out completely during the second wash.

Marking Fabric Designs

When marking designs on fabric, anything goes, and you can use your favorite transfer technique to mark the designs onto your embroidery fabric. Remember to pre-wash the fabric and press it to remove the starch or sizing and any wrinkles before marking the fabric. This will help give you a clear marking that won't rub off. If using iron-on transfer pens or pencils, prewashing will give the ink a better bond on the fabric—but remember that this transfer method is permanent and must be completely covered by the thread when working the embroidery for it not to be noticeable.

Use a sharp embroidery needle that will pierce the fabric easily and has an eye that is large enough to accommodate your choice of thread, but will go through the fabric without tugging or leaving a gap or hole in the fabric around the thread.