12 Beautiful Ways to Customize Anything with Appliqués
It may have once originated from the practical need to patch and mend, but appliqué is most celebrated for sheer decoration. And it's no wonder: The two-dimensional surface of appliquéd pieces are beautiful to behold and vary in texture, inspiring you to consider small embellishments in new ways.
Traditionally, the technique's name originates from the French word appliquér (meaning, "to apply"), and it involves placing shapes that have been cut from one fabric onto another fabric background in order to create a pattern. There are three basic appliqué methods: hand-turn, machine-sewn, and iron-on. While you can appliqué by hand or with a sewing machine, we used the iron-on method for most of our ideas. It is quick, easy, and well-suited to all kinds of textile projects. Today, appliqués can be used in all kinds of modern art beyond fabric.
Usually these embellishments—or motifs, as they're called—contrast with one another, whether in color or texture, but you can also appliqué pieces of the same color for a subtle effect. Once applied, the motifs bring visual interest to all manner of household items, including pillows, lamps, and furniture, as well as apparel and accessories, such as hats, scarves, and sweaters. Sometimes, the decorations are used to embellish the lapels of a cardigan, a pair of loafers, or the front of a zippered clutch finished with embroidered details.
Throughout this collection, there are several attractive projects that make good use of appliqué. Look for inspiration in bits and pieces—embroidered patches, rhinestones and beads, stampings—and keep in mind that any imperfections in your appliquéd motifs will only enhance their handmade appeal.
The usual winter forecast: you in the same hat, every single day. That's why we brightened this basic beanie with vintage bullion appliqués and iron-on metal studs. Since your hat and coat may be the only part of your attire people see for months, you want them to stand out. To wash a bedazzled hat, dry cleaning is best.
Shop Now: Tinsel Trading Pewter-Color Metallic Bullion Ornaments, $9 for 2, tinseltrading.com. Toho Shoji Iron-on Studs, $4 for 12, (212) 868-7465. Portolano Ribbed Cashmere Hat, in Light Heather Gray, $95, saksfifthavenue.com.
Leaves of Brass
Turn a low-intrigue lamp (you know, the one hiding in the corner of your den) into the highlight of the room with custom 3-D details. We used ceramics glue to attach a cascade of brass oak leaves to this moss-colored base. Before gluing, do a dry run with poster tack.
A plain mirror and dresser become an elegant matched set, thanks to botanical accents and chalk paint. "Its matte finish makes things look aged," says home editor Lorna Aragon. Paint vins and furniture separately, and one both are dry, secure them using a caulk gun loaded with heavy-duty construction adhesive. Before you paint, lay the mirror and drawers on the floor to map out vine placement.
Shop Now: Decorator's Supply Leaf Appliqués, starting from $45 each, decoratorssupply.com. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, in Paris Grey, $35 for 32 oz., shop.robynstorydesigns.com. Loctite PL200 Projects Construction Adhesive, $12.47, amazon.com.
Transforming a seasonal sweater from plain to oh-so-pretty is as easy as ironing or sewing on flowery fabric appliqués. These two large beaded motifs only required a few stitches for each leaf and petal, since sturdy mesh backing holds them together. If you use two of the same embellishments, mix things up; one of this pair was sewn on upside down.
No need to buy a new vase for every tablescape—just whip up a few couture sleeves to suit different moods. Wrap a piece of felt around a vase and cut it to size, then cut decorative trim or ribbon to the same length, and glue or sew it on. Glue or stitch the ends of the felt together, and slide it right on. For a big impact from minimal effort, choose a single, extra-wide accent.
Shop Now: The Felt Pod Mustard Felt, 18" by 18", $8.50, thefeltpod.com. Lauren Trimming Beaded Trim SP-2166), $29 per yd., (646) 964-5734. Jamali Garden Clear Cylindrical Vase, 6" by 12", $15, jamaligarden.com.
Another reason to love removable throw-pillow covers: You can create any pattern imaginable with appliqués. For a high-traffic couch, use iron-ons. For extra insurance, add a couple of stitches where the pillows curve.
Here's a brilliantly budget-friendly way to indulge a shoe fetish: Use leather glue to add chic details to new pairs—or older ones. Give suede pumps a vintage flourish by wrapping ornate florals around the sides and back. Jazz up loafers with strips of sequined flower trim between the toe seams. Apply glue precisely with a toothpick to the edges of add-ons, so they don't curl upward later.
Shop Now: Shine Trim Tulip Appliqués, $4 each, shinetrim.com. M&J Trimming Sequin Flower Trim, 5/8", $10 per yd., mjtrim.com. Zara Suede Ballerinas with Heels, in Brick, $70, zara.com. Everlane Modern Loafers, $, everlane.com.
Bag of Tricks
Who knew? Embroidered patches can even be ironed onto a plain leather clutch to make it pop. The festive finishing touch: a metallic tassel looped through the zipper pull. If you're worried about applying heat to a delicate or dyed bag, use leather glue instead.
To give your comfiest chinos a speedy refresh, apply contrasting trim à la track and tuxedo pants. Cut two strips of ribbon—velvet, preppy grosgrain, subtle metallic, or twill—six inches longer than the waist-to-hem length, then sew them onto the outer side seams, or adhere them with fabric glue or iron-on bonding. Continue up the insides of the legs so they show when you roll up the cuffs, and you’re off to the races.
Shop Now: M&J Trimming Striped Grosgrain, 1 1/2", $3 a yd., mjtrim.com. M&J Trimming Velvet Ribbon, 2", in Baby Pink, $4 a yd., mjtrim.com. M&J Trimming Metallic Ribbon, 25 mm, in Gold, $2 a yd., mjtrim.com. Pacific Trimming Cotton Twill Tape, 1", $1.75 a yd., etsy.com.
Even little boys and girls can't resist customizing their own jackets, backpacks, and wearable accessories such as this beret. A lively, petite design with iron-on red roses is simply parfaite for her French cap. And because they're all iron-on patches, no needle or thread is required.
School in Session
When school bells ring, it's time to send them off with the best supplies. But how do you distinguish Sally's homework from Bobby's? A few zig-zag strands of rickrack in their favorite color personalizes these pencil pouch enough to say, "this one's mine!"—no monograms necessary.
While Jimmy and Jamie are busy high-kicking and sparring their way through karate class, they can try these on for size: slip-on shoes are made more fun when appliquéd with snakes, bumblebees, or any motif that speaks to their spirit.