What are Appliques?

Updated February 21, 2017

Appliques used as decorative elements can be fitted into your home's decor, used as part of a gift or as a decoration for a religious banner. The art of appliqueing has a long history and is common to many cultures throughout the world.


Appliques are needlework decorations or ornaments that are made by cutting pieces of fabric and sewing them to another fabric. Appliques can be applied to many different types of sewing and needlecrafts.


Applique as an art can be traced back to the Middle Ages. However, this form of needlecraft came into its own during the Colonial days as a symbol of neighborliness, according to Patricia Ryan. Colonial women made appliqued fabric blocks that were joined into a quilt, which was given to friends.


One form of appliques, called "mola," is made by women in Panama. Persian applique (broderie perse) is another form of appliques from another part of the world.


Appliques can be used in quilts, with designs made on individual blocks of fabric; childrens' clothing can be decorated with appliques (animals, vehicles or flowers). Religious banners can be decorated with large pieces of appliques.

Other Materials

Chintz and muslin are most commonly used; the material used depends on the item and its intended use. Natural fabrics are best for applique; synthetic fabrics are harder to work with.

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