|Were the redwork penny squares that were sold a standard size?|
My guild is doing a redwork project and we have a question. Were the penny squares that were sold a standard size? I find that some of the old patterns are different sizes but put into one quilt. Thank you for your help. Karen
Hi Karen –
Although there were varying sizes for redwork patterns (especially a larger one that would be used like a medallion in the center of a quilt, or those for pillows and pillow shams, doilies and chairback pieces, etc.), they seem to be mostly in a standard block size. This varies, depending on the catalog or source – and many women also traced patterns from advertisements, which were usually enlarged to whatever size they preferred.
I’ve seen blocks in every shape and size imaginable, but they generally fall in the 6”-12” block size. If you want a ‘standard,’ I guess it would be 8”.
The term ‘penny squares’ only holds true for a brief time, when a square of fabric stamped with a pattern was a penny – and so was a skein of red cotton floss. You can see a good example of this in Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN. However, the price changed very quickly!!
You could buy redwork patterns through mail order (magazines and catalogs), your local drygoods store…and via ‘stamping outfits.’ These were purchased by women, but often used to make duplicate sets for friends and relatives. Redwork patterns were also sold as souvenirs during special events, like world fairs. The Pan American Expo of 1901 in Buffalo, NY is probably the best-known example of this.
Oh, and just for fun…the appraiser calls the METHOD Redwork. The color is extra! So to me, red—on-white would be technically ‘red redwork,’ although I usually just stick to the one word.