by Mary Corbet
Howdy, folks! It’s Mary Corbet here, popping over from Needle ’n Thread and teaming up with Commonthread to share some embroidery tips that will help you personalize your own holiday greeting cards in a fun and unique way.
If you love to stitch, one of the best ways to personalize your Christmas cards and make each card a gift in itself is to embroider it.
Sure, it takes a little more time - it’s not quite as quick as cracking open a box of store bought cards and signing your name to them - but it’s a great way to show that you care to send the very best in holiday greetings to those you love!
The fun thing about embroidered cards is that it doesn’t take a huge investment to create a little masterpiece.
There are lots of approaches to embroidering on paper, and today, I’m going to show you a few different ways you can go about stitching up some cards.
First, though, let’s talk supplies.
Supplies for Embroidery on Paper
I have a few favorite supplies I like to use for these types of craft projects, but you can always make substitutes from your stitching stash. I’ll include ideas for substitutes as we chat our way through how to embroider on paper.
The supplies for paper embroidery are fairly simple. You’ll need embroidery floss or thread, something to pierce card stock with, a piercing mat of some sort, scissors, needles, card stock cut to the size you want to stitch on, decorative paper to back your embroidery or blank cards to mount your embroidered on, a glue stick or strip glue, and tape.
When it comes to embroidery floss, I like to use DMC Satin floss for card making, because it has a very high sheen that adds to that festive Christmas look.
For a bit of bling, I like DMC Light Effects (jewel and metallic). These are great threads for adding sparkly accents to cards. DMC Diamant, which we discussed in an earlier tutorial also works well for the sparkly bits.
You can also use DMC embroidery floss, which is great for a more subdued look for more muted or natural designs. I like to use DMC embroidery floss for cross-stitched cards.
Paper Piercing Tools
To embroider on cards, you’ll need to prick tiny holes in your card stock, and this is done with a paper-piercing tool. These tools can be purchased specifically for paper piercing, but you don’t need to make the investment if you have a few household items on hand.
You can use an embroidery (or crewel) needle to pierce the holes in your card stock. If you insert the needle eye-first into a cork or something similar, you’ll have an easy-to-hold paper piercing tool.
Another option is to cut a needle in half using wire cutters, dab the cut end with some super glue, and insert the cut end carefully into the eraser on a new pencil, until it meets the wood of the pencil. Let the pencil sit a while to allow the glue to set. This makes an inexpensive paper piercing tool that works even better than a cork and a needle and is as easy to hold as a pencil!
Paper Piercing Mats
You can buy a special mat just for paper piercing. These mats are made from a dense craft foam that’s about 1/4” thick.
But if you don’t want to make the investment in a more expensive paper piercing mat, you can make your own. Just purchase an inexpensive sheet of craft foam at JoAnn’s, Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, cut it in half, and stack the two halves on top of each other. This makes a perfect mat for paper piercing, and it only costs about 25 cents.
Some folks will even use sheets of styrofoam, like the kind used inside packages for shipping. I don’t like the squeak of styrofoam, but it does work!
You can purchase books full of patterns and ideas for paper embroidery, you can look online for patterns, or you can make your own patterns.
There are some websites that offer free patterns for paper embroidery, and there are some designers who sell patterns on Etsy, for immediate download. In this article, I’ve used several patterns purchased from Darse on Etsy.
Sometimes, I like to use card stock that has a printed design on it. I pick out part of the design that I want to highlight and prick around it, as shown in the photo above. Then it’s just a matter of stitching the outlines!
Simple cross stitch patterns, reduced in size, can also make good paper embroidery patterns for cross-stitched cards.
Piercing the Paper
To pierce the paper that you’re going to stitch on, place the card stock that you want to stitch onto your piercing mat (or craft foam or styrofoam).
Align the pattern on top of your card stock, so that the design is situated where you want it on your card.
Using your piercing tool, prick a hole on every dot on your pattern. Go slowly, to make sure you pierce the paper right on the dot, so that your finished card doesn’t have wobbly lines.
The paper piercing tool should be held perpendicular to your surface, so that it enters the paper straight.
If you’re pricking a cross stitch pattern to embroider, you’ll need to pierce holes on the corners of each cross stitch. Pierce the paper where the grid lines intersect, wherever there is a stitch indicated on the chart.
Before you remove your pattern from the card stock, hold your pattern and card stock (without separating them) up to a light, to make sure you haven’t missed pricking any dots on the pattern.
Once your pattern is completely pierced, you’re ready to stitch!
Stitching on Paper
There are different approaches to stitching on paper, and how you approach your stitching depends on the look you want on your card.
Some folks like to use very fine thread (like sewing thread) and to space their stitches far apart, so that their designs looks like string art.
Some prefer using heaver threads for bolder lines that cover the holes pierced in the paper.
Some crafters prefer keeping their stitches tight and close together, to create finer lines.
Any approach works. Just experiment for the look you want!
Thread one strand of floss into the eye of a needle. Do not knot the thread.
The threaded needle should fit in the pierced hole, without being too tight. If the needle is too tight, it won’t pass through the hole without tearing the paper. You might need to adjust the size of the needle you use to pierce your paper or the size of the needle you are stitching with, if the holes are too small.
Insert the needle from the back of the card to the front, and pull the thread through, but stop before pulling all the way through.
Use a small piece of tape to secure the end of the thread. You can tape the ends outside the stitching area, but by the time you finish the whole design, you’ll probably have tape everywhere inside and outside the stitching area.
Don’t stress over the mess on the back! Just try to tape away from unstitched dots in the pattern, so that you don’t have to pass your needle and thread through the tape while you stitch.
The stitch used in most paper embroidery is just a simple straight stitch.
On lines that end in a tight swirl, I like to begin on the swirl. If there are no swirls, just begin where the design line begins, or, in cases of stitching circles, begin anywhere.
When stitching lines and swirls, how many dots you skip on your pattern will determine the thickness of the line and how much the line fans out on any curves.
For finer lines, skip two dots and go down in the third dot.
For heavier lines that fan out even more on curves, skip three or four dots on your pattern.
I like skipping three dots and going down into the fourth dot for most curves and swirls. It works out well, especially with the satin floss.
When possible, begin your next stitch right next to where you ended the previous stitch.
This isn’t always possible, because once you start to fill the line, the other stitches will be in the way. If you always look for the shortest route to begin your next stitch, you’ll conserve thread and won’t have as much thread covering the back of the work.
Make sure as you progress around the design lines that you’re always skipping the same number of holes and always taking the thread down into the paper on the same side of the line.
If you don’t want your curves to fan out as much, though, you can always reduce the number of dots you skip around the curves, making the line thinner.
Continue stitching all the line in this manner, until it is finished. To end the thread, tape it out of the way on the back and snip it.
When stitching with DMC satin floss, the resulting lines will be somewhat thick and nice and shiny.
If your thread begins to fray or look dull at any point when stitching with it, end the thread and start a new one.
Cross Stitch on Paper
Cross stitch, especially when worked in white on colored card stock, can be used effectively to create lace-like patterns on paper
It’s very easy to cross stitch on paper since it’s no different from cross stitching on fabric, except that you use tape to begin and end your threads.
You can use two strands of DMC embroidery floss to cross stitch on paper, on a grid that’s anywhere from 10 to 14 stitches per inch. For a smaller grid, use one strand of floss.
Finishing the Card
If you’ve stitched on a separate piece of cut card stock, you’ll finish the card by gluing the embroidered paper piece to the front of a folded card.
If you’ve stitched directly on the surface of a folded card, though, you’ll need a different approach to finishing.
In the sample above, I’ve embroidered the front of a folded piece of card stock to use as the card.
Inside the card, the back of the embroidery is a jolly mess!
But no worries!
Cut out a piece of decorative paper to fit that area, and glue it in place, like this:
This covers the messy back of the embroidery and gives a nice finish to the inside of your card.
You can use any printed scrapbooking paper to cover the back of the embroidery inside a card, or you can even use scraps of Christmas wrapping paper.
And that, my friends, is how to embroider your own holiday cards! It’s fun, it’s creative, it’s relaxing, and it’s a great way to send warm greetings to the folks you love during the holiday season!
Mary Corbet and the Commonthread Team