Demonstrations>Trims and Embellishment>Appliqué
The Art of Appliqué -
The word appliqué usually strikes enough terror into
the hearts of many costumers that they never try this versatile
and extremely period embellishment technique. Somehow, appliqué
got the reputation of being advanced or difficult to master.
It does require the mastery of a set of hand stitches but
that's about it. If you can sew, you can appliqué.
Read on, intrepid textile adventurer!
Appliqué comes from the French word 'appliqué'
(pronounced 'ap-lee-kay'), which means to put on or
lay on" or to "apply". Essentially, to place
a cutout decoration onto another larger piece of material
and affix it to that material. There are many period appliqué
techniques and modern equivalents that make appliqué
a joy to work.
Historically, appliqué is often worked first and then
used as a ground for embroidery and other types of embellishment.
It is thought to have originated as both a means to artistically
patch holes and as a means to use up scraps of precious fabric
so that nothing went to waste.
Appliquéd and embroidered Rus
gryphon, wool on wool and silk.
The Elizabethans used the appliqué technique extensively
both by itself and in conjunction with quilting. In Patterns
of Fashion, by Janet Arnold, there is a beautiful example
of a pink satin doublet with an all-over appliqué of
'gilly' flowers in cream leather. Other examples, especially
from fine leather, abound.
In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, examples such as the
gryphon above, as well as clothing, door hangings, saddles,
rugs, bags and other household items all show heavy use of
appliqué as a means of embellishment.
The technique used depends on the textile used and the use
of the finished product.
Wool, leather, and other non-raveling
Once woven wool is fulled, it usually does not unravel at
the cut edge. Like wool felt, the fibers have matted together.
This means that you don't have to turn the cut edges under
when tacking them down. Likewise with leather.
Since you don't have to worry about the edge, you can simply
cut out your shape and tack it to the ground fabric using
whatever stitch suits you.
Cottons and other raveling materials
Any woven fabric except wool will need to have its edges
treated in some fashion when used as appliqué material.
You can approach this in one of two ways. First, you can leave
the edge raw, tack the shape down and apply cording on top
of the edge to hide it and prevent it from further fraying.
This is a good method and a period one, provided you make
sure your raw edge is tacked very securely down and won't
slip out from under the cording applied on top of it.
The other way of approaching the edge is to roll it under
as you are tacking it down. This is a good method if the article
is going to be washed quite a bit. Depending on how small
the appliqué piece is, you might even be able to iron
the edges over prior to stitching down, which will make things
much easier. One problem you will face with this method is
when you come to tight interior corners. You will need to
clip your seam allowance to allow the fabric to fold around
the curve without too much fuss.
If the fabric chosen wants to unravel the second you cut
it, you might consider using an alternative fabric for appliqué.
You will have a devil of a time working with it unless you
use Fraycheck (a edge bonding agent) or the period equivalent
of Fraycheck, Gum Arabic. There is ample evidence in period
that Gum Arabic was used not only as a deterrent to ravel
prone edges but also as a sizing bath. Fabrics such as velvet,
velveteen and other slick or napped fabrics respond very well
to Fraycheck. Fraycheck makes it possible to not have to roll
the edges under which makes working with velvet/velveteen
Types of stitches
|Common tacking stitch
||Blanket or Buttonhole stitch
The above three types of stitches are the ones most commonly
used in period appliqué. The common tacking stitch
is best used on a turned edge rather than a raw edge. The
running stitch is good for both raw edges and turned edges.
The blanket or button hole stitch, if worked very closely
together is great for covering a raw edges. If worked loosely
as above, it makes a nice embellishing stitch especially when
done in a heavy thread.
Fun with modern
In period, a piece of appliqué was usually held to
the ground by some method during the stitch process. Various
methods included simple pinning and actual use of weak glue.
With this in mind, I use a product called Heat 'n' Bond Lite
Low Temp at Jo-Ann's Fabric Store. It comes in sheets and
rolls. Essentially it is a waxed paper coated on one side
with a heat activated bonding agent. The 'Lite' denotes that
it is for light weight fabrics - I use this even when working
with wool, however. The 'low temp' is exactly that. It was
developed for fabrics that couldn't take an extremely hot
|The first step is to develop
the design. Once that is done, it can then be traced on
to the Heat 'n' Bond paper (it's fairly transparent).
||Place the design, 'sticky' side down on the wrong side
of the fabric and iron it on. Note that this will give
you a mirror image of your design.
|Cut the design out of the
fabric/Heat 'n' Bond sandwich.
||Remove the paper backing. The design is now ready to
be placed on the ground and ironed down.
If you are working with a fabric that needs to have its edges
turned over, you can lightly tack the edges over using the
tip of your iron and then iron in place as above.
Below are some of the different types of projects I've done
in the past using appliqué techniques and various embellishment
methods. Click on a picture for a larger view.
|Appliqué and embroidery using wool and perl cotton.
||Appliqué, embroidery and bead embellishment using
wool felt and perl cotton.
||Appliqué, couched cord and pearls using an edge
|Appliqué and quilting using wool and pearl cotton.
||Appliqué and embroidery using wool and perl cotton.
||Appliqué and embroidery using wool and perl cotton.
|Appliqué, embroidery and beads using wool and
||Appliqué and embroidery using cotton with the
edges turned under and perl cotton.