A history of paper embroidery
We see paper embroidery as quite a new craft. Although embroidery itself is very old using a more ridged material like card was perhaps not done until around d the 1700s. Pin pricking was popular, and this is perhaps what morphed over time into paper embroidery.
It has some similarities to string art, where you wrap string around nails to create shapes with straight lines. You can put evenly spaces nails in a right angle and loop string around to create a curve.
Paper embroidery is a great example of mixing together crafts to create something new.
In many ways the holes punched in the card are reminiscent of the dots printed by a computer. The artistry comes with the design and the execution of the handicraft.
Tools of the paper embroidery trade
You will need cutting tools for both thread and paper, scissors and knifes. You could use ordinary scissors, but it is preferable to purchase specialist thread scissors and a craft knife and paper scissors.
You will need a pencil (2b) and eraser, to mark out the pattern on the paper from the template. If you have a printer that will accept card, you can find templates online.
You will need a cutting mat. This stop you damaging your work surface when punching holes and cutting paper with your craft knife.
Embroidery needles are a must have and a pin cushion to keep them in, is a great idea.
It is a good idea to use masking tape to hold your template in place whilst punching the holes. If you need to connect multiple pieces of paper together you can use double and single sided tape.
Materials used in paper embroidery
The two main materials you will use are your choice of paper and embroidery threads. You can use all sorts of papers and cards, experiment to find your own style. Embroidery thread comes in every colour you could imagine. It is usually made up of six twisted fibres.
When you first start out you could test the water with a postcard. These are great because they are both compact and of a good weight, ideal for practise.
You may choose to add additional materials to your work to add a little additional interest. For example, you could add ribbons, buttons, wools, felt, beads and more to make your design pop.
Techniques of paper embroidery
Unlike with embroidery on fabrics and textiles, you make the holes in the card before you start stitching.
The stitch you choose will have a major impact on the look of the finished piece. Just some of the stitches to learn are:
- Backstitch, close together stitches that create a line
- Buttonhole stitch, is good for creating an edge
- Chain stitch, as the name suggests this will look like a chain
- Cross stitch creates xs
- Fly stitch,
- French knot stitch, this creates a dot by tying a knot in the thread
- Leather daisy stitch
- Outline stitch, once complete this will look like a bold line
- Running stitch, which creates a line of dashes
- Spider web stitch
- Straight stitch, looks like a row of parallel lines
Embroidery on paper is different to for example cross stitch where the material has a matrix of holes and from embroidery on textiles where you are pushing the needle between threads in the cloth. As long as the card in thick enough, it will not be pulled together when stitched meaning that you do not need to stretch the material over a hoop or frame.
Tips and tricks of paper embroidery
Embroidery is time consuming, so to try and speed up the crafting process it is a good idea to use templates.
One of the steps needed to create for example the letter A, is to prepunch the required holes in the paper or card in advance. To achieve this, you could create a block of pins in the right place to effectively, print the holes in one step. If you produced templates for the whole alphabet you could then punch words ready for stitching.
Numbers are great for adding to birthday cards for milestone dates like 18, 21, 30, 40 ,50 etc.
Because this is a hand sewn piece it can be made more personal be choosing a colour scheme to match the project.
Ideas and inspiration for paper embroidery
You can combine paper embroidery with other arts and crafts associated with paper, illustration, origami, decoupage, etc.
Although, the paper embroidery is more of a decorative element you can use the stitching to combine pieces or work. It is a great way to add uniqueness to scrapbooking and stationery.
If you are selling paper or cards you could add a small amount of embroidery to add that little extra individual touch, hand finishing your work. Equally you can add embroidery to book covers, envelopes, luggage or packaging labels, invitations, business cards etc. Anything where you either want to create a good or unique impression or to add value.