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Use of Embroidery Appliqué

Appliqué is a French word that basically means “applied” and if you think about it, it’s a perfectly fitting word for something that has been applied to something else such as an appliqué has been. So in embroidery, it means that you will utilize an additional kind or type of fabric to be applied to the bottom fabric. This allows the creator of the appliqué to be as creative as they want to be, leading to many “one of a kind” appliqué work.

Granted, they did not think that they were creating something as fashionable as today’s use of appliqués, but in the old times, especially in the new world, clothing tore or wore out, and the dutiful woman would then add a patch to the clothing. Thus, were appliqués born, out of necessity of course. This is why the use of appliqués is sometimes called patchwork. The best example of that is of course a patchwork quilt.

As a matter of fact, using appliqués in quilts often gives the type of quilt you will see. This means that if you are searching for a particular quilt block, it will have a name that anyone familiar with quilting will know what kind of appliqué was used on it. Examples of various types of quilts that are appliqué work are “Dresden Plate,” “Baltimore Album,” “Sunbonnet Sue,” “Broderie Perse,” “Amish,” “Hawaiian,” and we cannot forget the very special ralli quilts of Pakistan and India that also utilize appliqués.

It is said that the art of working with appliqués comes from Benin, West Africa. There it is traditional to work with appliqués, and it has been used since at least the 18th century. If you are interested in its history, you need only look up the Kingdom of Danhomè.

Today, there are two common stitches used to stitch an appliqué in place. These are the straight stitch and the satin stitch. The way to tell one from the other is that the very edge of the appliqué will show in a straight stitch, whereas a satin stitch will cover up the edge of the appliqué. These days since we have a variety of glues many of which will dissolve in the wash, it is common to utilize glue to hold down the appliqué while working with it ensuring that there are no folds, creases or any bulging taking over and marring the work.

In the present day we of course frequently utilize electronic sewing machines, or embroidery machines, for appliqué work. The way that this works, is that a software program actually programs the machine to do the work, and do it perfectly too. Let’s assume that there are two different colors of thread being used: White and Black First the machine will do all the white thread, and then it stops so that the operator can switch the thread to black. Ordinarily when using appliqués, the first stitches are basically basting stitches to anchor the material to the underlayer material. Then, the operator can trim away the portions of material no longer needed atop the bottom material. That’s when the electronic embroidery machine will then perform the last work: that of the final satin stitch or whatever has been chosen by the operator.

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