Add Surface Decoration and Texture to your Work using this Technique
Add applique to your sewing and crafts to bring additional decoration, or apply to garments and accessories to customize or give a unique touch to your work.
Appliqué is the craft of applying pieces of fabric to the top of another piece of fabric to form a decorative surface or pattern. The fabric is stitched on using embroidery stitches and the combination of the fabric and embroidery brings a rich texture to the work. The word ‘Applique’ comes from the French word ‘Appliquer’ which means to apply. This is an old and traditional technique and is often used in quilting.
Applique remains popular today and many contemporary crafters use this as a way to adorn and add decoration to clothes and accessories. Appliqué is an effective technique to know, and can be as simple as adding a small flower to a t-shirt, or as complex as making an intricate and detailed wall hanging. Appliqué is popular with textile artists. Embroiderers and quilters enjoy the dimensions that appliqué brings to their crafts. It is even possible to use bonding products to ‘bond’ applique in place to reduce the need for sewing! When combined with fabrics such as felt (which doesn’t unravel) is great for crafters short on time.
As with many sewing techniques, there are no hard and fast rules, and sewers like to develop their own style, varying this depending on the materials used. For instance, appliqué pieces normally have the seams hidden to ensure a neat edge. However, some fabrics, such as voile, can look great with a rough edge. A voile flower with a rough edge would look very ‘shabby chic’ stitched onto a t-shirt or bag. Odd scraps of fabric, including vintage fabrics are all useful for applique.
Choosing a design
The choice of an appliqué design depends on the project and the material. It is best to start with simple shapes. Anything with points, sharp or tight edges or curls will be harder to work with. However, this does not mean that extremely attractive appliqué adornments cannot be achieved using more basic shapes. For instance, take a simple heart pattern or flower pattern and cut this out of three or four remnants of fabric, altering each in size by half an inch or so. These can be layered and stitched. Again, a raw or rough edge will add to the texture.
There are many websites that offer free appliqué designs, and these often have galleries for inspiration. These extend from the traditional and historical, to more contemporary designs. Designs are also widely available for purchase and there are a variety of books and publications on the subject.
Preparing the shapes for appliqué
Unless the edges of the appliqué shape are being left raw or rough, they will need to be neatened and stitched. There are different methods for doing this, hand basting (sewing the edges down by hand), using freezer paper as a template to stitch around, machine sewing, etc.
The stitching, again, is a personal choice. Some designers like to make a feature of the stitching, using different embroidery stitches within the appliqué. Whereas other people prefer the stitches to remain in the background and opt for invisible bonding techniques and similar colored threads.