Machine Sewing or Stitching with Paper: Tips, Ideas, and Projects
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 blog.authentiquepaper.com 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 debbiehodge.com 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
Invitations/Save the Dates
There are numerous design elements that you can add to many different types of paper projects. They include the following:
- 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
Use your sewing machine to punch holes that you fill in with hand sewing.
Additional Sewing With Paper Resources:
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Rose Clearfield