Two weeks ago, I noted that I attended my first meeting for Ties, Needles and Threads (a.k.a. TNT). Within that larger group of crafty women (mostly quilters), there is a smaller group that also meets once a month and focuses on embroidery. Right up my alley. And, they are called the Violet Threads. I was happy to meet with them this past Tuesday, and, already, I have learned so much.
The biggest surprise of the evening came at the very beginning. I was trying to make sure I had met all of the members, and when I came to the final one, she looked at me and said, "I know you." I looked at her and said, "Yes, I know you too." I even knew her name was Mary, but I couldn't remember why. So, I just stared at her for a handful of seconds and then it hit me! She is my neighbor from down the street. In fact, many of the church folks had met her during our annual yard sales on my back lawn or when she and her boyfriend were building her new front porch. She and I just laughed and laughed when we finally realized who the other person was, and I think the rest of the members thought we were nuts. It was nice to catch up with Mary, especially since we rarely see each other anymore.
As you can see, the gathering is small and intimate, but wonderful. It's especially wonderful to someone who has so much to learn. A kind member talked to me for a long time and loaned me books and magazines on smocking. This is the gathered technique you might see on the front of girls' dresses. Tracy, Lydia, and I have been talking about learning for a few years now, and I found out we must save up for the pleating machine that is necessary. In the meantime, I learned some techniques that one can do with lined or gingham material that is just as effective and pretty.
I was also able to take a second glance at some quilt squares that a member was creating. Since then, I've done some research on redwork and discovered that women were willing to pay extra (starting back in the 1880s) to have "Turkey Red Thread" because - unlike so many others of the day - it was colorfast. Women started embroidering tea towels, seat covers and almost anything else with simple red patterns. Around the turn of the century, however, pre-printed quilt squares were sold for a penny... and redwork and quilts became intertwined as a hit! The tradition continues today, and you can read more about redwork here and here.
*Soon after Turkey Red was produced, a color fast blue was created. So, bluework quilts are also popular!
*Redwork should not be confused with scarletwork or blackwork, even though the basics are the same: one color embroidery. For the origins of these earlier traditions, check out this page on Elizabethan costumes or this page on general history.