Applique Applique is a method of decorating fabric by stitching another layer of different fabric (or other items) over it to form some pattern or design. There is also “reverse applique” where the decoration color is underneath the main color (ground cloth) and forms the design or pattern by showing through holes in the ground cloth. Applying woven or emboidered trim or sewing on beads are common methods of applique, but this class will deal with applique of shapes to form designs such as heraldry on fabric. Applique is often combined with embroidery, where the applique provides a background color, and embroidery provides image details. Historical Background While applique has been known for about 2500 years, there are very few extant pieces. This doesn't mean applique was necessarily rare, however. Textiles usually only survive the ravages of time if they belonged to someone very important. Very important people would have generally spared no expense and gone for the more laborious (and therefore expensive) embroidered pieces. There are very few extant pieces of lower and middle class garments of any kind. Even garments from minor nobility (Dukes and Counts) are very rare. Because of weight and drape issues with applique, it appears to be far more common on items such as wall hangings, pillows, and curtains, but it is not unknown on garments, especially items where weight and drape are less of an issue, such as hats and gloves. European Examples Intarsia from Skokloster church, Uppland. This cushion was made from a larger 14th century object. Uses "intarsia" technique of opposite color scheme applique. Historiska Museet, Stockholm, Sweden Banner of the de Blonays, a prominent family in Vaud. Photo: Stamm and Saxod, Lausanne. Islamic Examples Embroidered and quilted hat; Mamluk period; Silk fabric appliquéd to linen and quilted, with additional embroidery in silk; Ashmolean Museum Sword Bearer Blazon, Bahri Mamluk period, 14th century; Wool, appliqué and couching; Museum of Islamic Art Issues with Applique The primary issue with applique is getting the applique material to stay flat. The second biggest issue (trailing only by a thread) is preventing the applique edges from fraying. Using materials of similar weight and content helps with the first. Be sure both materials are pre-shrunk. Choose a fabric that doesn't slide. The choice of fabric in applique can make all the difference. Do not applique gauze. Wool to wool, on the other hand, is wonderful (after making certain that both fabrics are completely shrunk). The second can also be influenced by material choice. Fulled wool (a woven material that has been beaten in a mill until it is partially felted) works very well. Felt is idea, but looks like felt... In some extant intarsia pieces (several medieval Scandinavian ones, probably wall hangings, come to mind) the intersection of the two fabrics is hidden by a couched strip of gilded leather or parchment to give the effect of a corded outline. The way most applique was done in period is cut out the piece to be appliqued to size and apply it to the ground cloth without turning under. They sometimes used glue or beeswax to control the initial fraying of the edges. They almost always (like 99.9999% of the time) put cording overtop the edges, which also controled fraying. This method produces very little puckering, but also does not stand up to repeated machine washings. Watch the grain when cutting. Fabric stretches more one direction that another (pull vertically, horizontally and both of the diagonals and see how it works). If you cut a triangle, at least one side will be along the bias and have a very different stretch when sewing it to the ground cloth. Make certain that the tension when sewing the ground cloth to the decorative fabric is consistent for both fabrics. If one is stretched more than the other, puckering will occur. The Modern Method: Use a paper backed Iron-on fusible web interface such as Wonder-Under. Iron this onto your applique material (not the ground cloth) Paper side up, applique material good side down. Cut out your design. Iron onto the ground cloth. This does a double duty. It fixes the applique to the ground cloth and seals the edges to prevent fraying. If this is a one-time use object (special banner for an event, etc) then you may be done. If you need it to last through more than a few events/washes, you will need to stitch the edges. The web will eventually peel. Applique Stitches: Needle Turn Method You start by cutting the appliqué about 1/4” larger than the marked design. You make a row of stitches roughly perpendicular to the edge of the piece. As you stitch, you use the needle to fold the seam allowance under. This works very well for simple designs, especially if most of the cut is on the bias. It is prone to puckering for complex designs as the turn under may gather the fabric and you end up pushing the slack forward. For a difficult shape, you can sew a very light gauze to the applique right-side to right-side in the seam allowance area. Leave a small gap along one of the straighter edges. Make small clips in tightly curved areas. Turn it inside out through the gap and iron the turn under portion down. For flat stitches you are machine stitching, a blanket or whip stitch is best. This can be done by hand or machine. Go slow with the machine to keep the straight part of the stitch even with the edge of the applique. A hand blanket stitch with embroidery floss gives a very nice outlines edge. A very dense zig-zag (machine embroidery) will give a faux corded applique look (ie; will pass the 10 foot rule). If your machine does not have a blanket stitch, a loose zig-zag will work, Again go slow to keep the outer edge of stitching even with the edge of the applique, and choose thread that is as close a match in color to the applique material as possible to hide it. Zig-Zag stitching looks very modern.
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