Appliqué

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.Applique is mostly used at school in technology.

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.

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.

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.

Coming soon: A Directory to Appliqué suppliers in South Africa and a Listing of Appliqué Resources