Redwork became popular in the late 1800's because of a colorfast thread made
in Turkey, from a secret recipe.
Up until then, colored threads did not hold their color in the wash and
therefore, could not be used successfully to adorn everyday items like
bedspreads or dish towells.
The simplicity of redwork designs, and the fact that they were embroidered
with very simple stitches on inexpensive muslins, meant that nearly everyone
could have decorated linens. Children often learned how to embroider on "Penny
Squares", little designs printed on muslin and sold at the general stores for a
penny. Redwork quilts were mostly "summer weight" linens, meaning they had no
batting. The Redwork squares were usually stitched together without sashing, and
either quilted to a backing with a feather stitch or simply tied with string or
When synthetic dyes began to be manufactured in the United States, the
popularity of Redwork diminished and embroidering with colors became very
popular. Redwork can be embroidered in any color, Bluework is still Redwork,
only it's done in Blue, and usually called Blue Redwork.
The Best blue I have found is DMC 824. It is dark enough to be seen from a distance and goes well with many blue fabrics. The red I like the best is DMC 321 for the same reasons.