An appliqué is ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn or stuck onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern. This technique is very common in some kinds of textiles, but may be applied to many materials. 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 originates from the Latin "applicare" and subsequently from the French appliquer or "apply". Appliqué is a technique used to decorate an aspect of a garment or product. The technique is accomplished either by hand or machine.
In the context of sewing, an appliqué refers to a needlework technique in which patterns or representational scenes are created by the attachment of smaller pieces of fabric to a larger piece of contrasting colour or texture. 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: the attached materials are sewn together, then cut away where another material covers it on top, before being sewn down onto the edges of the original material.
Electronic sewing machines
Modern consumer embroidery machines quickly stitch appliqué designs by following a program. The programs have a minimum complexity of two thread colours, 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.
Learn more about the applique process for machine embroidery designs here.
In this sense, appliqué refers to using fabric shapes/designs usually on the trim of a garment. This can either be sewn or glued. Many appliques are exported from China, since many designers use appliques that are mass-produced.
- Collage, a technique of art production, primarily used in the visual arts, where the artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole.
- Khatwa, the name given to appliqué works in Bihar, India.
- Appliqué armour, in military use, consists of extra protective plates mounted onto the hull or turret of an armoured fighting vehicle.
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