Applique comes from the French work appliqué, which means to “put on”. Appliqué means to ‘place on’ fabric pieces that are sewn onto a larger piece of foundation fabric in order to create designs.
Patch work Vs Applique work
While patch work is meant to repair or cover holes, appliqués are meant to add decoration and flair. It is a quilting /embroidery technique that allows you to create perfect blocks on your fabric. It is created by placing small fabric cutouts to create intricate designs. The fabric is then stitched on with a sewing machine or by hand.
Applique work is distinct from what is known as patch work. In patch work, small pieces of cut fabrics are usually joined side by side to make a large piece of fabric or for repairing a damaged fabric.
Procedure of making appliqué:
The basic material for appliqué is cloth. Flat motifs or patterns are first cut from cloth and specially prepared motifs are made separately. With appliqué, the main step for perfection is cutting the fabric precisely as per the desired pattern. If more than one of the same motifs is required then normally, a stencil is used. These cut motifs are then superimposed on a base cloth in predetermined layout and sequence. The edges of the motifs are turned in and carefully stitched on the base cloth. The special motifs may be coloured or white. These motifs could have sequence work or mirror work on them, too.
Most appliqués can be sewn to your cloth and some can be glued on. While sewing, you can use a ‘fusing paper’ to hold the cut motif in place while you sew. A zig zag, tight stitch should be used to keep the ends from becoming frayed during wash. If appliqué work is to be done by gluing, ensure special fabric adhesives are used to attach the decorative pieces to the cloth.
Hand vs Machine appliqué:
Applique stitch: Hand-made appliqué work is done by beginning from the left hand side and working towards the worker whereas correct buttonholing is worked away from the worker. The latter stitch makes a knot, which appliqué stitch avoids. This stitch is necessary worked very closely over the raw edge of the appliqué material, to avoid fraying. In case of machine stitching, a zigzag stitch is used to stitch around all the raw edges of the motif pieces.
Hand appliqué is quite time consuming and is a painstaking process however the result is well worth the time and effort put in. Machine appliquéing, on the other hand, is faster and gives your design a bolder, professional look. This type of stitching can result in a stiffer piece of work, and is generally used for items for clothing. While cutting the fabric, hand appliquéing would require cutting the pieces leaving an allowance for the seam, whereas for machine appliquéing the fabric can be cut right on the traced template lines.
Whether it is hand stitched or machine stitched appliqué work, one tip is to use contrasting colours on the thread, fabric and motifs for your appliqué to have a bolder look.