The Color of Love

Eileen Lee's Red Poppy Cowl was inspired by a red crepe-paper poppy that her grandmother wore on her coat. The poppy was to honor  Eileen's grandfather,
a WWI veteran.
In a nod to Christian Dior's 1954 pronouncement that red is "the color of life," Vicki Square used Dream in Color's Smooshy with Cashmere yarn in Valentine. The yarn's variations in value add a contemporary flavor to the otherwise 1950s' look of this smashing twinset.

It's Valentine's Day and the world is awash in the color red.

Red is one of my favorite colors; it's all over my house and in my wardrobe. I love it here and there, preferring a pop of red more than a large swath. I haven't always been a fan of the color red, but I remember when I first started to admire it.

In my first job out of college, an art director came to work wearing a red dress, red tights, and red cowboy boots. The dress had a skinny black belt and she wore a black jacket over it. She looked amazing; and it didn't hurt that she had the coloring of Snow White. I've been on a quest for red cowboy boots ever since. I've had lots of neat-o pairs of red shoes, but the red boots elude me.

I gravitate towards red in my knitting, too, especially in knitted accessories; they provide that pop of color that I love.

The new issue of PieceWork magazine celebrates the color red, and in true PieceWork fashion, the editors went deep into the origin of red and why we love it so much. Here's Editor Jeane Hutchins to tell you about it:

Oh My, It's Red!

We've devoted this issue to the color red. But why red? Amy Butler Greenfield in the prologue to A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (New York: HarperCollins, 2005), explains it perfectly:

Carol Huebscher Rhoades's instructions for these spectacular gloves were adapted from a pattern for nineteenth-century Swedish mittens.
Anna Dalvi's Seth shawl. It's named for the Egyptian god Seth, the god of the desert, storms, and chaos. In ancient artwork, he had red eyes.

"As a species, we prize color and attach great significance to it. Yet few colors mean as much to us as red. Proof of our attachment lies in many of the world's languages, English among them. We roll out the red carpet, catch crooks redhanded, and dread getting caught in red tape. We stop at red lights, ignore red herrings, and celebrate red-letter days."

Greenfield's book is about the world's quest for cochineal, an insect dye discovered in the New World by Spanish conquistadors. Cochineal made Spain an enormously wealthy country; most other countries wanted the same. Greenfield says, "To obtain it, men sacked ships, turned spy, and courted death."

Dagmar Klos's article, "Cochineal, Kermes, Lac, Madder, and Brazilwood: Red Dyes from Nature," offers additional information on cochineal and other sources for achieving the color red. From time immemorial, red has played a role in the lives of people across the globe. Those roles and the lengths people have gone to to produce the color red are fascinating.

In "Red: The Universal Color," Mary B. Kelly discusses the significance of red for the Estonian Setu. The women embroidered ritual cloths and clothing with red thread and "referred to their embroideries as ‘red scripts' in reference to the symbols that covered them."

Irina Stepanova presents a traditional Russian towel stitched by her maternal grandmother, Tatiana D. Romanenkova, in 1929, when she was eight years old. Worked on handwoven linen, the towel has bands of red-and-gray cross-stitch. One of the motifs is a female figure, a motif prevalent in many cultures. Known as a goddess or mother, ". . . this Slavic female deity guards the waterways, watches over spinning and weaving, and protects women in childbirth. She is a simple Russian woman who wrote her story with fiery red lines on a radiant linen canvas and left it for us as a tradition not to be forgotten."

We owe a debt of gratitude to that Russian woman and all the other needleworkers, past and present, who have chosen the color red, whether for its symbolic meanings or out of personal preference. Needlework, worked in red or not, is certainly a "tradition not to be forgotten."

As for me, I love the color red. One very large wall in my house is painted a brilliant red. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Enjoy our look at red, and happy Valentine's day!

P.S. Get the March April 2013 issue of PieceWork magazine today, and celebrate red!

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