In its broadest sense, an appliqué is a smaller ornament or device applied to another surface. An appliqué is usually one piece. In the context of ceramics, for example, an appliqué is a separate piece of clay added to the primary work, generally for the purpose of decoration. The term is borrowed from French and, in this context, means "applied" or "thing that has been applied."
Appliqué was first discovered when clothes ripped and needed fixing so they used to sew over the top of the rip - patches of different material otherwise known as patchwork.
In the context of sewing, an appliqué refers to a needlework technique in which pieces of fabric, embroidery, or other materials are sewn onto another piece of fabric to create designs, patterns or pictures. It is particularly suitable for work which is to be seen from a distance, such as in banner-making. A famous example of appliqué is the Hastings Embroidery.
Appliqué is used extensively in quilting. "Dresden Plate" and "Sunbonnet Sue" are two examples of traditional American quilt blocks that are constructed with both patchwork and appliqué. Baltimore album quilts, Broderie perse, Hawaiian quilts, Amish quilts, Egyptian Khayamiya and the ralli quilts of India and Pakistan also use appliqué.
Applied pieces usually have their edges folded under, and are then attached by any of the following:
- Straight stitch, typically 20-30mm in from the edge.
- Satin stitch, all around, overlapping the edge. The patch may be glued or straight stitched on first to ensure positional stability and a neat edge.
- Reverse appliqué:several layers of material are stitched together, parts of the upper layers are cut away, and the edges are stitched down. The largest cuts are made in the topmost layer.
Appliqué is also used for school badges.
Appliqué and electronic sewing machines
Modern consumer embroidery machines quickly stitch appliqué designs by following a program. The programs have a minimum complexity of two thread colors, meaning the machine stops during stitching to allow the user to switch threads. First, the fabric that will be the background and the appliqué fabric are affixed into the machine's embroidery hoop. The program is run and the machine makes a loose basting stitch over both layers of fabric. Next, the machine stops for a thread change, or other pre-programmed break. The user then cuts away the excess appliqué fabric from around the basting stitch. Following this, the machine continues on program, automatically sewing the satin stitches and any decorative stitching over the appliqué for best results
In this sense, appliqué refers to using fabric shapes or designs usually on the trim of a garment. This can be sewn or glued. Many appliques are more often imported from China and used here to keep costs down. Since many designers use appliques that are mass-produced, one can easily find matching accessories and such from competitive stores. Each may carry various items with the same applique.
- Appliqué armour, in military use, consists of extra protective plates mounted onto the hull or turret of an Armoured fighting vehicle.
- Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework. The Reader's Digest Association, Inc. (March 1992). ISBN 0-89577-059-8, p. 192-206
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