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What is Appliqué? - Machine Embroidery Basics

(It’s easy for folks like us  who have been in this industry for years to forget to explain the basics when we discuss apparel decoration with our customers, family and friends. To that end, we’ll be posting Basics posts from time to time to answer customer questions. – EC)

FDNY Flame Applique Sample from Albuquerque's Black Duck Embroidery and Screen Printing

Simple letters with a single color stitched accent really pop when filled with a shiny twill applique.

Recently, a customer of ours wanted to create a design something like the rocker patches seen on motorcycle jackets. For the uninitiated, rockers are the arc-shaped patches, generally containing text, that are placed above and below the main emblem patch. Our customer, however, wanted us to apply this design to shirts in-house. I immediately asked, “Do they want us to create patches, or to appliqué patch-styled designs?”

This was (surprisingly to me) met with a little confusion. While most customers know that a patch or emblem is a design stitched on a free-standing piece of material, usually with a finished, overstitched edge, not all are familiar with appliqué.  After I had launched into an explanation of the different methods of creating the design at hand, I realized that our customers and friends who read the Black Duck Blog might just find this information useful should they find themselves with the same kind of design.

Appliqué is a french term, meaning ‘applied’ or ‘a thing that has been applied’ which really describes the process handily. When we use applique, we custom-cut a piece of applique fabric, usually polyester twill, to fill a large area in an embroidered design. The fabric is generally cut on a computerized plotter which takes its cues from a vector line drawing prepared by our embroidery designer.  These pieces are applied to a garment during the process of embroidery. Our machines trace an area on the garment where the cut piece is to be applied, then after the piece has been placed with a small amount of tacking spray, the machine tacks down the edges with a zig-zag stitch. For those who prefer a very clean edge, a tightly spaced satin stitch then sews to completely cover the edges.

This Eco-Friendly Award Winner has decoratively stitched rough-cut appliques, both standard and reverse!

Appliqué is most often used for outerwear, but can be used anywhere that a design calls for large enough filled area. We won an award from Impressions Magazine for our own eco-friendly combination of rough-cut jersey applique and reverse applique– a technique in which the added fabric is stitched underneath the top fabric and is revealed by cutting away the areas of the garment where the applied material should show through. By using this process we reclaimed a damaged garment and made a truly unique, retail styled piece.

When you want to try your hand at making your team name really stand out in shiny twill, bold printed materials, or edgy distressed appliqué, come see the friendly staff at Black Duck. We can help you make the most of any application!


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