Applique Work

Applique work is an age old sewing craft in which small pieces of fabric or an embroidered patch is sewn or glued onto a larger base fabric to form a design. The word Applique is derived from the french word ‘Appliquer’ which means something applied. This form of art can be dated back to the 18th Century. A small town called Abomey in West Africa had applique manufacturing as their important tradition in the kingdom of Danhome.

Paisley Appliques

This simple form of art style was initially adopted by the craftsmen for mending ripped areas of a garment by patching up the area with another piece of fabric to make it wearable. Later on this technique came to be known as patch work. Ever since man discovered how to stitch with a needle and thread, applied fabrics have been a boon to mend and rejuvenate clothing. With innovations in textile fashion, applique work was not only been used as a method of repair but also as a means of decorating clothes.

Foliage Applique patterns

Applique as an art

What once started as a way of repairing clothes soon became a style statement. Craftsmen employed applique work on ethnic and contemporary clothing. Striking and colorful patches were applied onto bland silhouettes to add attraction and bring life to the fabrics. Not only does it add a pop of color but it also gives a depth to the fabric. Appliqued cardigans and denim pants became a favorite among the younger generation. On the other hand sarees and lehengas with embroidered floral and decorative appliques were also welcomed by the ethnic lovers. This trend has also become a household need. Applique methods can be seen used extensively in quilt making. Ratti quilts and Hawaiian quilts are some examples. Moreover, Applique art is also seen in many Pakistani quilts and bedspreads.

Types of Applique stitching

The most common type of stitches used for attaching an applique onto the base fabric are straight stitch and running stitch. Satin stitch is done all around,overlapping the edge. The patch is either glued or straight stitched first to ensure stability and a neat edge. In the reverse applique method the attached materials are sewn together,then cut away where another material covers it on top, before being sewn onto the base material.

Appliques on Indian wear

Applique designs are one of the most sought after art styles when it comes to Indian ethnic wear. Floral motifs, foliage patterned applique designs and paisley appliques with lavishly embellished stones, sequins, zardosi and mirror work are used to beautify the pallu and borders of sarees. The hem and dupattas of lehengas are also adorned with larger applique patterns to add richness to the outfit.

Applique pattern adorning a saree


This particular form of art style is very versatile and can be easily carried at formal and informal occasions like mehendi, sangeeth or even get together and parties as applique work is widely used in both contemporary as well as ethnic outfits.


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