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Applique, Patchwork and Quilting

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Applique, an Old Craft used in Patchwork and Quilting

Story by Penny Swift

Applique Duvet

 

Applique is a decorative craft that involves cutting out different fabrics and then sewing them onto another piece of fabric to create a design.

The word appliqué comes from the French word that means “work applied or laid on another material”. But today is in a term that is well-entrenched in the English language.

Traditional Appliqué

Applique was originally a handcraft, used long before sewing machines had even been thought of.

One of the earliest examples of this craft can be seen in Cairo, in the Boulak Museum. Made by the ancient Egyptians from the skin of a small antelope (a gazelle), the work is in the form of a funeral canopy that is appliquéd with serpent symbols and blossoms that were dyed in a variety of colours, including pink, yellow and blue.

Appliqué was very common in Europe many centuries ago. Then, from the 15th century it was used to decorate household linen, for instance bed curtains.

This absorbing craft became popular in America from the early 1800s, and was frequently used for quilting, and to make fabric pictures that recorded historically important events. Wedding quilts were part of American culture in those days, with different people contributing their own quilt block that was added to the wedding gift.

Appliquéd quilts were also very popular in Asia and South America during the 19th century, where fabric was traded between the continents.

This is a widely appreciated craft and it has been used to decorate clothing for centuries. For instance:

  • The Kuna Indians from the San Blas Island off the Panama Coast used reverse appliqué techniques to make traditional molas (blouses) – which were appliquéd with shapes of brightly coloured plants, animals and people.
  • The Hmong from Asia, who also traditionally used reverse appliqué to embellish clothing, bed covers, hats and other items. Their work incorporated embroidery. Today their pa ndau work (flower cloth appliqué) can be found at local craft markets.

Contemporary Appliqué

While traditional designs are still favoured – especially for quilt designs – many contemporary textile artists use sewing machines to join the bits and pieces they need for their appliqué work. Many also take the craft to another level, for instance by incorporating machine embroidery to embellish their designs.

If you are stuck for appliqué ideas, the good news is that there are hundreds – if not thousands – of books about appliqué that explain the basic techniques and also supply a multitude of appliqué block designs.

Quick and Easy Appliqué

Jenny shows you a quick and easy way to quilt and applique.

7 Responses

  1. Jesse
    |

    This might seem a silly question to more experienced quilters, but I’m making a quilt for my baby sister and was thinking about putting an appliqued ladybug in the center of it, since she loves them. But my mind is blanking on how to quilt an applique. Do I put it on and then quilt? Or quilt and then applique?

  2. balinderk2000
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    I have started crocheting a blanket for my own personal use. I have a decent start and don’t want to start over, however I have a brilliant idea for a theme. Is there a way to attach a crochet applique to the blanket or can I stitch on the top of it and have it look good? Links with directions (or typed directions) is what I am looking for. I don’t need patterns. Just the best way to add to the blanket when I am done. Thanks.

  3. Kobe
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    I have always wanted to do a Sunbonnet Sue quilt, but have no desire to do traditional hand applique where you have to turn under the edges. I don’t know a whole lot about applique. Can any of you quilters out there tell me other options?

  4. Erin
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    I have started crocheting a blanket for my own personal use. I have a decent start and don’t want to start over, however I have a brilliant idea for a theme. Is there a way to attach a crochet applique to the blanket or can I stitch on the top of it and have it look good? Links with directions (or typed directions) is what I am looking for. I don’t need patterns. Just the best way to add to the blanket when I am done. Thanks.

  5. Lachlan
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    I have an assignment for textiles to research appliqued bags, I have no idea what they are, so I need a little help! Its due soon, so I need the help quick!

    Thanks 🙂

  6. Katie
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    Yes sure you can, no problem it sounds like a good idea.

  7. llb443
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    I’m knitting a scarf for a friend & would like to add several bits of bling. I’m wondering if you can add applique to a knitted scarf. I’m just to use a plain garter stitch for the scarf on Lion Brand Jiffy yarn.

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