From Academic Kids

Applique (or appliqué) is a technique in which pieces of fabric are sewn onto a foundation piece of fabric to create designs. It is particularly suitable for work which is to be seen from a distance, e.g., Banner-making.

A famous example of applique is the Hastings Embroidery whose designs are appliqued onto the backing fabric using a variety of embroidery stitches.

Applique is also used extensively in quilting. "Dresden Plate" and "Sunbonnet Sue" are just two examples of well-known quilt blocks that use both patchwork and applique to construct.

Baltimore album quilts and Amish are famous examples of applique quilts due to the quality of their designs.

Types of Applique include:

Decorating using Appliqué

The basic idea of appliqué seems easy - cutting a shape out of one fabric and sewing that shape onto another fabric. However, it is actually a fair bit more complicated than that: there are a few things that you need to consider such as whether to hand sew or machine sew, what materials to use, how to stop the edges from fraying, etc.

Appliqué is a simple and effective method of decorating fabric whether you are using hand appliqué or machine appliqué. Hand appliqué means you sew it yourself, so you have to know at least one type of stitch such as the slipstitch. Machine appliqué is of course done mostly on sewing machines. Appliqué doesn't just use fabric; it can also be used with other materials such as beads, sequins, etc. and is often combined with other types of needlework such as embroidery to create the desired effect.

Appliqué is suitable for small or large scale work but not every material is appropriate for every appliqué project. If you are planning appliqué for something that will require frequent washing such as table mats you must choose fabrics that wash well, e.g. linen. If you are planning something purely decorative such as a wall hanging there is a wider choice of fabrics to select.

There are two important steps in appliqué. The first includes the designing and transfer of the design to the fabric, the second is the appliqué itself. There are two approaches to designing for appliqué. The first approach is to work directly with materials, cutting shapes, arranging and rearranging the shapes, and stitching them to a background either by hand or machine without any planning. The second approach is to plan a design on paper, using cut paper, tracing shapes out of books, or drawing simple forms such as leaves, butterflies, fish, etc. The colour and texture of the material should be carefully chosen as they are a very important part of the design.

Historical Perspective

The word appliqué comes from the French word 'appliquer' meaning to put or lay on. As a method of decoration appliqué has been a popular technique and has a long history with the earliest known example being a canopy of leather in Egypt believed to date from 980 BC. However, it is highly likely that other cultures were using appliqué before this time. Over the centuries many different materials have been used in appliqué including beads, fabric, fish scales, and leaves. They have been sewn on to almost any stitchable material imaginable: linen, beaten bark, leather, etc. Needles are the main tools used in appliqué whether by hand or machine. In the past needles made from bone or twigs were used but nowadays metal needles are used. Many cultures use appliqué to decorate clothes, quilts, curtains, wall hangings, cushions, bags, etc. Today appliqué is a craft in its own right, and is done for pleasure and profit.

Cultural Perspective

Appliqué is widely used throughout the world as in many cultures it is common to decorate oneself and one’s surroundings. Various cultures have even developed their own style of appliqué, e.g. the Cuna Indians of the San Blas Islands, off the coast of Panama have developed a style of appliqué called mola work. The designs used are often symbolic. Often, the women get together to appliqué and have a social time. Appliqué has also been used by various churches for religious garments, decorations such as wall hangings, and altar cloths. Often these items have symbolic or ceremonial significance with the appliqué consisting of symbols such as the star to represent the bright star that shone above the manger of baby Jesus, and the cross to represent Christianity. Other designs like spirals are used simply for decoration.


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