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The Deborah Harding Redwork Collection

Holy Bible Quilt
Maker Unknown
Provenance Unknown
ca. 1892-95
70 1/2" x 73”
MSUM #2001:160.4
Deborah Harding Redwork Collection
Photo by Fumio Ichikawa, all rights reserved Michigan State University Museum

Redwork quilts became popular between 1885 and 1925 and are currently enjoying a revival at the beginning of the twenty-first century. They consist of images outline-embroidered with colorfast Turkey red cotton floss onto muslin squares intended for quilt blocks or household linens such as pillowcases, tidies, and splashers (cloths displayed in back of sinks or washstands). Popular designs included images inspired by Japanese designs; copies of Kate Greenaway's illustrations of children; animals, nursery rhymes; floral designs; Biblical scenes; and images commemorating historical events and figures.

Textle scholars believe that the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia probably helped stimulate interest in both the technique and content of redwork. The exposition featured both a Japanese pavilion and a display organized by the Royal School of Needlework of Kensington, England. Styles of ornamental embroidery showcased at the exhibit became popular among American needleworkers and prompted a trend to make "art" needlework rather that just "plain sewing."

By Mary Worrall, excerpted from American Quilts from Michigan State University Museum.


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