Stumpwork, Gold & Silk Painting
Introduction to Embroidery

Appliqué table linen, ca. 1910
Dianne Ayres, Arts & Crafts Period Textiles

Appliqué – Graphic Design and Mixed Media

Appliqué is an extension of plain sewing, coming from the French verb, ‘to put on.’ In its simplest form, it involves applying one piece of fabric to another, and forms the basis for understanding the structures of other techniques, particularly Goldwork. It is a fun technique that offers the freedom of an infinite range of design ideas and materials to play with.

A Little History

Appliqué is one of the oldest methods of decorating cloth and has been used for centuries in traditions around the world.

Native Americans in Arizona sewed dried leaves to leather thousands of years ago, the Dahomey Kingdom (1600-1900) of Benin on the West African coast appliquéd geometric heraldic panels in cottons, and the Guna in San Blas (Panama) create blouses of historic significance called Molas, layering fabric and employing reverse appliqué by cutting away the top layers to reveal the layers beneath. Traditionally, North American appliqué combined patchwork quilting with embroidery in geometric patterns.

Appliqué is also seen in fine Whitework, where it is known as Shadow Work.


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