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quiltingWhat is Quilting and Patchwork?
quiltingWhat is Appliqué?
quiltingWhat is Art Quilting?

Applique (or appliqué) is a technique in which pieces of fabric are sewn onto a foundation piece of fabric to create designs. It is particularly suitable for work which is to be seen from a distance, for example, Banner-making.

Appliqué is also used extensively in quilting. "Dresden Plate" and "Sunbonnet Sue" are just two examples of well-known quilt blocks that use both patchwork and appliqué to construct. Baltimore album quilts and Amish are famous examples of appliqué quilts due to the quality of their designs.

Types of appliqué include:
what is appliqueBroderie perse 
what is appliqueSan Blas appliqué, the mola 

Decorating Using Appliqués

The basic idea of appliqué seems easy, cutting a shape out of one fabric and sewing that shape onto another fabric.

Appliqué is a simple and effective method of decorating fabric, whether by hand or by machine. In order to use hand appliqué, one needs to know at least one type of stitch, such as the slipstitch. Machine appliqué is of course done mostly on sewing machines. Appliqué doesn't just use fabric; it can also be used with other materials such as beads, sequins, etc. It is often combined with other types of needlework such as embroidery to create the desired effect.

Appliqué is suitable for small or large scale work but not every material is appropriate for every appliqué project. Appliqué for an item that will require frequent washing, such as a table mat, is better done with fabrics that wash well, e.g. linen. For something purely decorative, such as a wall hanging, there is a wider choice of fabrics to select.

There are two important steps in appliqué. The first includes the designing and transfer of the design to the fabric; the second is the appliqué itself. There are two approaches to designing for appliqué. The first approach is to work directly with materials, cutting shapes, arranging and rearranging the shapes, and stitching them to a background either by hand or machine without any planning. The second approach is to plan a design on paper, using cut paper, tracing shapes out of books, or drawing simple forms such as leaves, butterflies, fish, etc. The color and texture of the material should be carefully chosen as they are a very important part of the design.

Historical Perspective

The word appliqué comes from the French word "appliquer", meaning to put on or to lay on. As a method of decoration, appliqué has been a popular technique and has a long history, with the earliest known example being a canopy of leather in Egypt believed to date from 980 BC. However, it is highly likely that other cultures were using appliqué before this time.

Over the centuries many different materials have been used in appliqué, including beads, fabric, fish scales, and leaves. They have been sewn on to almost any stitchable fabric imaginable: linen, beaten bark, leather, etc. Needles are the main tools used in appliqué. In the past needles made from bone or twigs were used but nowadays metal needles are used.

Cultural Perspective

Many cultures use appliqué to decorate clothes, quilts, curtains, wall hangings, cushions, bags, etc. Today appliqué is a craft in its own right and is done both as a hobby and for profit.

Appliqué is widely used throughout the world, as in many cultures it is common to decorate oneself and one’s surroundings. Various cultures have even developed their own style of appliqué; for example, the Cuna Indians of the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama have developed a style of appliqué called mola work. The designs used are often symbolic. Often, the women get together to appliqué and have a social time. Appliqué has also been used by various churches for religious garments, decorations such as wall hangings, and altar cloths. 

Art Quilting - What is it Exactly

by Linda Matthews

Art quilting has become immensely popular in recent years as more women and men take a step beyond traditional quilting and venture into this very creative field. But what exactly is an art quilt?

An art quilt is most commonly defined as having the basic characteristics of a quilt, i.e. a layer of batting sandwiched between two layers of fabric and held together with stitching, however this is where the similarity ends.

As with traditional painted art, an art quilt comprises the same elements and principles of design and is intended to hang on a wall, but because of the nature of fabric it can be manipulated or cut to any shape or size and has a tactile quality and surface design texture not found in painted art. Further embellishment of the surface of the art quilt can provide additional interest and texture.

Special Techniques

Art quilting requires special sewing and quilting techniques that are used to create the surface structure and texture of the art quilt, some of which include:

what is art quiltingAppliqué: hand, machine, raw edge, turned under, fusible, reverse
what is art quiltingColor Application: hand-dyeing, tie dyeing, stamping, fabric painting
what is art quiltingEmbellishing: beading, hand-stitching
what is art quiltingEmbroidery: hand, machine, free-standing
what is art quiltingMachine Stitches: decorative, faux hand-quilt, zig-zag, satin-stitch, twin needle
what is art quiltingPiecing: straight, curved, strip
what is art quiltingQuilting: hand, machine, free motion
what is art quiltingThread: thread painting, free motion embroidery, free motion quilting, bobbin-work, couching

These special art quilting techniques can be studied through books or in live workshops or on-line classes. They are fun to learn and provide the art quilter with their own unique art quilter's palette of skills. There are also many on-line art quilt groups offering information and resources for art quilters who want to stretch themselves further.

Additional Techniques

Additional art quilting techniques can be used to create interesting and unusual textures, shapes and design elements. Some of these techniques include:

what is art quiltingNeedle felting
what is art quiltingPhoto transfers
what is art quiltingFoiling
what is art quiltingUsing a heat gun to distress fabric
what is art quiltingUsing papers and plastics as structural elements

Express Yourself

Art has always been an expression of ourselves and our environment; a reflection of our thoughts and dreams, and can be either subjective or objective, and so it is with art quilting. The only difference is the medium - fabric and thread instead of oils or watercolors; batting instead of canvas. Plus the added ability to add further surface embellishment and texture through the use of special art quilting techniques.

The journey into art quilting is addictive and seductive and can be very rewarding. Either as a recreational hobby or a serious art form, it is a great outlet for self-expression.

About the Author: Linda Matthews is a textile artist, designer and teacher, and her website CreativeTextileAndQuiltingArts.com offers an abundance of inspiration, education and motivation in the creative aspects of textile and quilt art.

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