A century ago, you could walk into a dry goods store and purchase a Penny Square. Given their name because they only cost one penny, they were squares of muslin with a simple pre-printed outline design. Penny Squares were also known as Redwork since the only embroidery thread color available at the time that would not bleed or fade, was Turkey Red besides a colorfast blue. Usually worked with a simple backstitch or outline stitch, with designs ranging from simple to difficult, and cute to elegant, they were perfect for teaching little girls the basics of how to embroider and were useful in decorating the home. Redwork embroidery was highly popular in its day, being used to decorate a huge variety of useful household items such as tea towels, chair covers, splashers, dressers scarves, tablecloths and runners, napkins, pillows, and later on, quilts. Today, this charming craft is even more delightful since we now have access to a beautiful palette of many colors.

For this Redwork quilt (in this case it was actually Maroon-work!), we chose to use one of the Aunt Martha's Patterns #3920 entitled "Bonnie Bonnet." There are seven designs featured in this envelope, all of which are various scenes of a little girl with a kitten or two. Aunt Martha's patterns are extremely versatile and easy to work with, perfect for Redwork embroidery. There are many other designs available commercially for use with Redwork embroidery. You can also get creative and draw your own, or use designs from coloring books and other sketches.

We made this baby quilt in shades of Antique Pinks, Cream, and Maroon, and chose to work the embroidery on traditional muslin squares. Each square measures 12" so we enlarged six of the Bonnie Bonnet patterns to be centered on each block. We traced the enlarged patterns using a washable blue fabric pen. The sashing measures an inch wide for each strip, and we made small nine-patch blocks for each corner. All of our embroidery was done in Backstitch, because it is precise, with a few French Knots as accents.

We used a ruler and the washable blue fabric pen to draw criss-crossing lines over each block as a guide for our quilting lines. We measured and marked every two inches of the sides of each block and then drew the lines so that there were six half-diamonds along each side and 60 complete diamonds across each embroidered block. We did not quilt over the embroidery design, but allowed this area to be loose and slightly puffy. We also quilted in the ditch on either (outer) side of the inner sashing strip.

The finished size of the quilt was approximately 33"x48". We added the words "Holy Bible" to the design where Bonnie Bonnet is reading a book. We wanted this quilt to be a reminder to the little girl of her privileges as a future keeper at home. These designs portray, even through their simplicity, several qualities that are noble, sweet, and biblical (caring for babies, reading God's Word, providing food, sewing, etc.).

Click here for another short history of redwork.

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Here are a few pictures of the completed quilt and some close-ups of the embroidery. Hover your mouse over a picture to see a short description, and click on the thumbnail to see the picture in a larger size.

A view of the finished quilt along with our grandmother's violin. The back of the quilt.  Here you can see the quilting stitches that criss-cross around embroidery and how the actual embroidered areas are left unquilted so that they are slightly puffy. The quilt is completed.

Bonnie Bonnet pushing a baby carriage. Bonnie Bonnet with a basket of apples. Bonnie Bonnet reading the Bible.
Bonnie Bonnet embroidering. Bonnie Bonnet playing with kittens. Bonnie Bonnet holding a teddy bear.

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This website is run by Ruth and Rachel Short under the direction of our parents, Richard and Reba Short.