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What Is an Applique Patch?

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  • Written By: Anna B. Smith
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
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An applique patch is a piece of fabric designed to be attached to the front side of a fabric project. This patch may be cut from a larger print of material, or purchased as a separate unit with a high level of detail and layered design. The finished patch may be used on quilts, pillows, bags, and clothing to create a design that is unique to the user.

The term applique patch can be used to refer to a wide range of fabric pieces. A medium sized print or motif may be cut from a larger piece of fabric and used as a patch for another project. For example, a large bolt of lightweight cotton fabric may feature a recurring pattern of birds nesting in a bird house. The seamstress may wish to only use one set of this print, and cut the nesting birds out for use as a patch on another project. The seamstress must typically cut around the central print that she will use to within a quarter inch (0.635 centimeters) of the edges of the design, or directly against the edging when using an iron-on attachment method.

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An applique patch may also be found sold in individualized form made from multilayered fabrics, designed specifically for use in these types of projects. Multiple pieces of heavyweight felt are typically mounted onto a thin backer piece of material and embellished with embroidery, which can be attached to other fabrics. This type of patch may be preferable for projects requiring a specific emblem or item with a high degree of detail. For example, letter jackets worn by high school and college athletes feature large capitol letters and sports emblems that are sold as individual applique patches and attached to a uniform school jacket design.

Depending on the style of applique patch chosen, the fabric may be attached by hand stitching or using a peel away backing that allows the product to be ironed directly onto the sewing project. Patches that have been cut from larger material patterns are often sewn onto other fabrics using small stitches that are hidden beneath the edge of the design.

The iron-on method of applique can be used on both lightweight fabrics and heavyweight felts. The backing material used in felt patches that are designed to become applique is often made with a unique type of adhesive. A protective paper covering is peeled away before placing the item onto fabric, and a hot iron is then used to activate a permanent type of fabric glue, binding the two pieces together. A similar peel away backing may be added to lightweight fabric as well. When using this method with lighter fabrics to do not contain backing materials, it is advisable to stitch completely around the edge of the design with a satin stitch on a sewing machine to permanently secure it.

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