Fast, inexpensive, and easy to create, this Redwork Chicken Tea Towel makes a fun addition to your kitchen, or a lovely, thoughtful gift.
What's the Story on this Redwork Project?
Redwork is form of embroidery that rose to popularity in the 1870s, and rode that wave through the mid 1920s. It is currently enjoying a revival, especially among modern-day quilters.
Redwork takes its name from an embroidery thread called Turkey Red. This colorfast cotton thread was commonly used by 19th-century working class women, who found it more affordable than the silk embroidery threads ordinarily used at that time. Women used redwork designs to embellish all sorts of household items: tableclothes, quilts, pillow cases, laundry bags, and of course, dish towels.
In Redwork, designs are stitched using an outline stitch, along with a few other basic embellishing stitches (e.g., stem stitch, lazy daisy, French or Colonial knot, and backstitch).
FYI: This tea towel project uses only the outline, lazy daisy, and colonial knot stitches.
Easy Done-in-a-Day Project
Don't you ever just want to start and finish a DIY in the same day? That's what inspired this project. When I decided to do a redwork project, these little ladies had just joined our family (Spring 2015), and I had chickens on my mind.
This chicken tea towel was a perfect afternoon project! Fast, inexpensive, and simple to create. Plus - so cute!
Meet Mamie Eisenhower, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Lady Bird Johnson, Rosalynn Carter, and (for all you history buffs) Harriet Lane Johnston.
Free Redwork Embroidery Pattern
With its newfound popularity, there are tons of redwork embroidery patterns online. I found a nice collection of free vintage embroidery patterns. Even better, the images themselves are from the 1940's and are all in public domain!
I drew up my own version of "chicken & chicks" for this project. You can download the pattern PDF here → FREE Redwork Chicken Pattern
NOTE: You are welcome to share this pattern with others if you link it back to this webpage.
You can make one of this tea towels for the price of a couple dollars and a long afternoon. It is well worth the time, and makes a fun addition to your kitchen, or a lovely, thoughtful gift.
What You Need for this Project
The materials listed here are those I used to create this project. Nothing is set in stone; use what you have.
- Embroidery floss - DMC #816: Redwork gets its name from working in red embroidery thread, but there is no reason you need to limit yourself. Embroidery floss comes in every color of the rainbow; you can use any colors you want.
- 100% Cotton Tea Towel: I used a cool retro tea towel that I found online. You can also use a plain flour sack tea towel, or make a simple tea towel out of muslin. Or you can use a dish towel, tablecloth, baby bibs; anything you want to embroider chickens on.
- FREE Redwork Chicken Tea Towel Pattern
How to Make this Redwork Project
Download and print the FREE Redwork Chicken Pattern.
Transfer the pattern to the front of your flour sack tea towel. For a design this simple, I usually just trace the main parts of the design directly onto the fabric with a soft pencil or washable ink. You can do this by using a light table, or just holding it over a window.
Hoop up the tea towel and start embroidering! Most of the needlework is done in a simple outline stitch using 2 strands of floss. The chicken eyes and the tiny flowers are worked in Colonial knots, and the larger flowers are a Colonial knot surrounded by lazy-daisy stitches.
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Redwork Chicken Tea Towel
Fast, inexpensive, and easy to create, this Redwork Chicken Tea Towel makes a fun addition to your kitchen or a lovely, thoughtful gift.
- Download and print the FREE Redwork Chicken Pattern. Transfer the pattern to the front of your flour sack tea towel. For a design this simple, I usually just trace the main parts of the design directly onto the fabric with a soft pencil or removable ink. You can do this by using a light table, or just holding it over a window.
- Hoop it up and embroider. Most of the needlework is done in a simple outline stitch using 2 strands of floss. The chicken eyes and the small flowers are worked in french knots, and the larger flowers are a french knot surrounded by lazy-daisy stitches.
Tea Towel - I used a cool retro tea towel that I bought at Joann’s (3 for about $5 with a coupon). You can also use a plain flour sack tea towel, or just make one out of muslin.
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Thank you so much for this super cute and free pattern. I'm having fun embroidering it!
Renée B. says
I'm so glad! Happy sewing!
Carolyn Smith says
How do we download a free pattern when you. have your 'name' printed across the edge of the pattern. I would like to see if this pattern is compatible on my Cricut - to draw the image and than embroider the image. Not able to do this with you signature across the pattern!
This pattern is for hand-sewing, which is easily done with the watermark. You can, however, edited it in Photoshop or PicMonkey if you would like.
Julia Wright says
Renee- Just love this darling red work pattern! Let me know if you are ever up in Bellingham, WA- I love doing red work and would love to meet for tea and crafting!
Marlynn @UrbanBlissLife says
Um, the ONLY projects I ever want to do are projects that I can start and finish in less than a day! 🙂 This is adorable! And so are the chickens!
My craft room is full of unfinished projects too! Glad to know I'm not alone 🙂
I am not very crafty but I love this towel! I'd be proud of myself if I am able to make it. 🙂
Renée ♥ says
I always tell people, "I'm not very athletic," because I've never been any good at sports. But lately, I've been trying to become more fit, and it is interesting to me that even though I'm no more coordinated or "sporty" than I've ever been, I feel more athletic, just be virtue of how I see myself. So maybe you will feel more crafty just by virtue of trying more crafts. It isn't how well you do something that defines you - it is your inner image of yourself.
Tirralan - Tinseltown Mom says
This towel is so adorable and so are the chicks, named after the First Ladies. Such a cute post!
Renée ♥ says
We had originally planned to name them after famous historical women, but when we started brainstorming and the First Ladies came up, it all came together. "Mamie".. that is just a name made for a chicken. (She's my favorite, by the way.)
Charlene Asay says
Love this. I have a bunch of tea towels that I should do this to.
Renée ♥ says
You really should check this Link. (It's also in the post.) She has a tons of old patterns in many different themes.
Sandra - The Foodie Affair says
My grandmother used to sew her tea towels with fun patterns like yours. I think I should pick up a needle and thread 🙂
Renée ♥ says
It is so rewarding to do - especially simple patterns like this one that come together so fast. I love the feeling of accomplishment, even if it is just a little one. 🙂
I love the embroidered tea towels from my grandmother-in-law. I can't decide if I show embroider or crochet when I get older. Right now sewing and blogging are too much! The striped towel makes them extra cute.
Renée ♥ says
I totally understand what you mean. However, I made this one in the evening while I was relaxing after work, so it wasn't really time-consuming at all in the traditional sense. I find this kind of thing very soothing.