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Machine Sewing or Stitching with Paper: Tips, Ideas, and Projects

Rose is a full-time freelance writer who frequently writes about education, special education, DIY projects, food, Milwaukee, and more.


When I picked up my interest of making greeting cards again a few years back, I started browsing card ideas both for personal inspiration and for articles. During this browsing, I found a number of great cards that had sewn elements. My sewing skills are pretty basic, but I'm also pretty fearless when it comes to tackling new projects. I was intrigued and started researching this concept. Like most things in life, sewing with paper does take practice and a fair amount of patience, particularly in the beginning. Don't let this deter you. The effect is very satisfying and can be applied to a wide variety of craft projects. Happy crafting!

I've broken this article down into three sections:

  • Tips. These are general tips about sewing with paper that you will get you started. If you've never sewn with paper before, please read through this before attempting a project.
  • Project Ideas and Tutorials: Now that you've set with the basics and have some practice under your belt, I'm sure that you're itching to try a project. I've included a wide variety of project ideas as well as a handful of tutorials.
  • Elements for Any Project: There are a number of paper sewing techniques that you can add to just about any project. Mix and match the ones that appeal to you the most to create one of a kind, personalized pieces of art.


If you're like me and have limited machine sewing experience, I know that you want all of the tips that you can get before getting started. Even if you are very familiar with your machine, keep in mind that sewing with paper is not the same as sewing with fabric. Taking the proper steps initially will save you a lot of frustration. Don't get overwhelmed by the amount of information here. As you begin practicing, many of these tips will become second hand.

  • Dedicated sewing space. I know that this is simply not possible for everyone, but you are much more likely to sew more often if you have a permanent set up for your machine. Carving out a small space in a living room or bedroom is all that you need.
  • Paper only needle. Like scissors, paper will dull a needle much more quickly than fabric will. If you will be switching back and forth from paper and fabric frequently, you may want to have dedicated paper needle. Brenda at recommends using a size 16 denim-grade needle. If you will be sewing lots of heavier paper layers (i.e. several layers of cardstock), you may want to opt for a more heavy duty needle.
  • Setting the tension. Many people find that the auto tension setting is just fine for paper projects. If this doesn't work for you or your machine doesn't have an auto setting, you'll have to experiment a little bit. I usually set it at 1 or 2. Some projects may require different settings than others.
  • Practice. Experiment on spare scraps of card stock with straight, zig zag, and decorative stitch settings. Get a feel for sewing with paper before you start a project.
  • Prepare your page. You don't want to have any adhesives close to your sewing or they may gum up the needle. If you want to adher components before sewing, use a minimal amount of adhesive away from the sewing area.
  • Lightly draw designs first. If you will be stitching any type of more intricate design, you may want to sketch it first with a light pencil.
  • Go slow. One of the biggest issues that many people have with sewing is that they simply work too quickly. Take your time and work carefully.
  • Don't watch the needle. It can be easy to get caught up watching the needle instead of the paper.
  • Don't guide the paper too much. Your machine will do most of the work guiding your paper.
  • Keep your projects to three card stock layers or less. Most sewing machines cannot handle more than three layers of card stock at a time.
  • Turning corners. If you are using a technique that requires corners, check out Lisa's tips at the Fiskars Craft blog. Consider printing out directions or pulling them up on your phone or tablet device so you can have them right in front of you at the machine.
  • Finish your stitching properly. Michelle at gives a great explanation for finishing your sewing work. Please note that this is a different technique than the one used for finishing fabric sewing. Make sure that you don't have any loose threads on the front of your work. Some people choose to glue or tape their loose threads while others choose to cut the threads long enough that they can tie knots.

Practice Sewing on Paper: Straight and Curvy Lines—Learn to Sew Series

Project Ideas and Tutorials

Now that you've reviewed the basics of sewing with paper and have practiced a little, jump right into a project. Don't get discouraged by the mistakes that you will inevitably make with some of your first projects. Small inconsistencies often add character to your homemade work. There is no limit to the possibilities for sewing with paper. Here are just a few of the ideas out there. Click on the photo source links below to check out the tutorials.

 Sewing With Paper Projects 

Greeting Cards

Invitations/Save the Dates

Scrapbook Pages


Gift Tags





Business Cards

Treat/Favor Boxes


There are numerous design elements that you can add to many different types of paper projects. They include the following:

  • Borders/outlines
  • Stitching on embellishments (i.e. felt or paper flowers)
  • Stitching words
  • Adding ribbons, trims, and ruffles
  • Creating pockets
  • Purely decorative details
  • Create journaling lines
  • Adding fabric elements
  • Creating 3D
  • Use stitching in place of adhesive
  • Freestyle/free motion stitching
  • Attaching transparencies and vellum
  • Using multiple thread colors for a single project

Additionally, consider using your sewing machine without the needle threaded to punch decorative holes or perforations.

Freestyle Sewing for Paper Crafters

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Feltmagnet

Use your sewing machine to punch holes that you fill in with hand sewing.


Additional Sewing With Paper Resources:

Questions & Answers

Question: What brand do you recommend for a sewing machine to sew paper?

Answer: The brand shouldn't matter. Thanks!

© 2012 Rose Clearfield


RTalloni on February 22, 2018:

Love the projects you've posted and so appreciate the tips as I definitely want to create some of these cards, and maybe the mobiles and wrappings.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 22, 2018:

No, if you use designated paper needles, it should be fine. Make sure to adjust the tension properly and avoid sewing through multiple layers of thick cardstock.

Rebecca Merz on February 22, 2018:

I use my sewing machine for quilting and craft projects with fabric. If I use a designated paper needles, will sewing on paper cause harm to my sewing machine??

scanflaxmi on March 17, 2016:

Unique idea with creative art. I really like this type of art. Well done! I am waiting for your next post.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 09, 2012:

That's great, truthfornow! Best of luck with it. This is a great project to get your feet wet with machine sewing.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on August 08, 2012:

I have never seen these kinds of cards before, but I love them. I have always wanted to learn to sew. This is just some more inspiration for me to get started. Thanks.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 08, 2012:

That's awesome, That Grrl! I love hand sewing, too, but I've trying to start slowly learning a few machine skills. Good luck with yours!

Laura Brown from Barrie, Ontario, Canada on August 08, 2012:

I've been hand sewing for years. I have a sewing machine but most of the stuff I do is a small seam, for something like a patch or mending. Buttons too. So getting the machine out and set up would take too long to be worthwhile. But, this winter I want to set it up and start machine sewing to make dolls and maybe even start crazy quilting again. I'm so far out of practice using the machine I will be very slow. I hope I kept the instructions cause I don't even remember the process to thread it right now. :)

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 08, 2012:

Thanks, Natasha! If you switch back and forth between paper and fabric on a regular basis, it will definitely help.

Natasha from Hawaii on August 08, 2012:

I like your suggestion to have a paper only needle. As soon as I saw the title, I immediately thought "but that will dull the needle!" You've thought of everything!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on August 08, 2012:

Thanks, Cyndi! That's neat about the machine. I hope that it still works.

Cynthia Calhoun from Western NC on August 08, 2012:

Sooo pretty! I love all these pictures. I once found a Morse sewing machine for $5 at an auction. I still don't know if it works, but one of these days I'll take it out and try my hand at sewing - these paper projects look fun!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 24, 2012:

Thanks Kathy! You should give it a try sometime.

Kathy on May 24, 2012:

Very fun! I have done lots of machine embroidery, but never sewing on paper. Thanks for the information =)

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 23, 2012:

Thanks! It definitely is.

photosbecomearts from Tampa, Florida, USA on May 23, 2012:

These are creative stuff! It looks like it's really fun doing it!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 21, 2012:

Thanks Jacquie! I agree. :) I really appreciate that.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on May 21, 2012:

I always loved crafts like this, I wish there were more hours in a day!

This is great, very attractive and well done, voted up.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 21, 2012:

Thanks Suzie! Have fun with it.

Suzie ONeill from Lost in La La Land on May 21, 2012:

What a fun idea! I'm going to have to try this. Thanks for sharing!

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 21, 2012:

A lot of people choose to use sewing techniques for crafting instead of adhesives simply for the aesthetic. Usually it's not an attempt to duplicate an excellent adhesive.

nounjb from Minnesota, USA on May 21, 2012:

This is very clever and can only be trumped by some kind of device that will be able to lay a very narrow and uniform coating of adhesive exactly where needed to duplicate the concentrated stitching capability of the machine. But, not even then, if cloth is added to cloth in the execution of the artistry.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 21, 2012:

Thanks Shampa! That's awesome. You're right that this technique can be very colorful and attractive.

Sherry, that sounds neat! I'll check it out.

Sherry Duffy from Here. There. Everywhere. Currently: Portland, OR on May 21, 2012:

My friend Paul Nosa actually started a little business where he travels around with a solar powered sewing machine and makes little stitch pieces of artwork on the fly.

Shampa Sadhya from NEW DELHI, INDIA on May 20, 2012:

Voted up and useful!

It is a very creative idea. Though I am a novice in sewing but various craft ideas interest me a lot. I will share this idea with my dear ones who love to sew. It looks very colourful and attractive.

Rose Clearfield (author) from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 20, 2012:

Thanks Kelley! I'm definitely getting faster with the process. Sewing is really not my forte either, but with some practice, I've made some simple paper sewing techniques come together nicely. Thanks for sharing this!

kelleyward on May 20, 2012:

Wow Randomcreative you amaze me with the amount of material you can put out so quickly! I am horrible at sewing but I could potentially create some of these greeting cards. Thanks for sharing. I'll share this with my mom and others! Take care, Kelley