Aplique: A Traditional Brazilian Embroidery Art Form


Aplique, also known as “apliqué” in Portuguese, is a traditional Brazilian embroidery art form that dates back to the 17th century. It is a unique style of appliqué that involves stitching brightly colored cotton or silk fabric onto a larger base fabric, such as linen or cotton, to create intricate designs and patterns. This technique is commonly used to decorate household items, such as curtains, tablecloths, and bedspreads, as well as traditional costumes worn during festivals and other cultural events. In this article, we will explore the rich history and cultural significance of aplique, as well as its techniques, tools, and materials.

History and Cultural Significance

Aplique has its roots in the colonial period of Brazil, when the country was under Portuguese rule. It is believed that this embroidery technique was introduced by the Jesuit missionaries, who used it to decorate the churches and religious artifacts they created. Aplique soon became popular among the local population, who began to use it to decorate their homes and clothing.

Over time, aplique became an important part of Brazilian folk art and culture. It is now an integral part of many Brazilian festivals and celebrations, including Carnival and the Festa Junina (June Festival). During these events, people wear colorful costumes that are adorned with aplique designs, creating a vibrant and lively atmosphere.

Techniques and Tools

To create an aplique design, the first step is to select the base fabric and the smaller fabric pieces that will be used for the appliqué. The base fabric is typically a neutral color, such as white or beige, while the appliqué fabrics are bright and colorful. Once the fabrics have been selected, they are cut into the desired shapes and sizes using scissors or a rotary cutter.

Next, the appliqué pieces are pinned onto the base fabric in the desired pattern. Then, using a needle and thread, the appliqué pieces are stitched onto the base fabric, either by hand or by machine. The stitches used in aplique are typically small and tight, to ensure that the appliqué pieces are securely attached to the base fabric.

In addition to fabrics and needles, other tools commonly used in aplique include embroidery hoops, rulers, and tracing paper. Embroidery hoops are used to hold the fabric taut while stitching, while rulers and tracing paper are used to create accurate patterns and measurements.


The fabrics used in aplique are typically cotton or silk, and are often brightly colored. Common colors include red, yellow, blue, green, and orange, as well as various shades of pink and purple. In addition to fabric, other materials commonly used in aplique include thread, sequins, beads, and other embellishments.

In some cases, the applique pieces may be made from other materials, such as leather or felt. These materials can add a unique texture and dimension to the design.


Aplique is a beautiful and vibrant embroidery art form that has a rich history and cultural significance in Brazil. Its unique style and techniques have evolved over centuries, and it continues to be an important part of Brazilian folk art and culture today. Whether used to decorate household items or to create colorful costumes for festivals and other events, aplique is a testament to the creativity and skill of the Brazilian people.

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