Appliqué (or applique) 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, for example, Banner-making.
Baltimore album quilts and Amish are famous examples of appliquee quilts due to the quality of their designs.
Types of appliquee include:
- Broderie perse
- San Blas appliquee, the mola
Decorating using applique's
The basic idea of applique 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.
Applique is a simple and effective method of decorating fabric whether you are using hand applique
or machine applique. Hand applique means you sew it yourself, so you have to know at least one type of stitch such as the slipstitch. Machine applique is of course done mostly on sewing machines. Applique 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.
Applique is suitable for small or large scale work but not every material is appropriate for every applique project. If you are planning applique 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 applique. The first includes the designing and transfer of the design to the fabric, the second is the applique itself. There are two approaches to designing for applique . 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 color and texture of the material should be carefully chosen as they are a very important part of the design.
The word applique comes from the French word appliqueer, meaning to put or lay on. As a method of decoration applique 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 applique before this time.
Over the centuries many different materials have been used in applique 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 applique 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 applique to decorate clothes, quilts, curtains, wall hangings, cushions, bags, etc. Today applique
is a craft in its own right and is done as a hobby and profit.
Applique 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 applique, e.g. the Cuna Indians of the San Blas Islands, off the coast of Panama have developed a style of applique called mola work. The designs used are often symbolic. Often, the women get together to applique and have a social time.
Applique 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 applique 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.