Many of you who know my designs, know how much I love sewing on paper. At least 50% of my designs have some stitching on them…it is something I love to do and seems to go well with my style of creations. When I was asked to do a little sewing machine stitching on cards tutorial, I must admit it that it had never occurred to me before. It is just something I do and don’t think about. For some of you, this may be pretty basic, for some of you…a new technique to try. I do hope it will inspire you to add a little more machine stitching to your papercrafting!
I’ve included cards throughout this tutorial from past uploads to my blog. If you would like more info on any of these designs, simply click on the design title and it will take you to the original entry on my blog. To see any of the designs close-up, just click on the picture. If you’d like to comment on this tutorial…I’d LOVE to hear from you. The comment button is WAY down at the bottom of this tutorial!:)
Your Sewing Machine
The first thing to address is your sewing machine. I own an electronic Brother sewing machine with lots of fun goodies and stitches on it but don’t worry…a regular sewing machine will work just as well! I have mine from days when I was obsessed with sewing and smocking. I’ve always had to be making something and once I discovered papercrafting…well….. Also my daughter sadly outgrew home-made smocked dresses. I’ll have to share a photo of her sometime…she looked adorable! I digress…. I hope this intro doesn’t discourage you! Sewing on paper is something anyone can do…you just need a little practice and patience and soon you’ll be stitching everything! Any regular sewing machine should work…nothing fancy is needed. With the price of sewing machines having dropped so much in the past few years, a sewing machine is a great investment for your papercrafting projects, as well as any fabric alterations and repairs you may need to make. I will caution you… a few craft companies have in recent years come out with small inexpensive “craft” sewing machines. While I have never tried one…I have never heard anything good from anyone who owns one. If you are reading this and HAVE had great success….please comment on this tutorial…I’d be most interested to hear about it and also which company produces it. That way I can pass the information along!
Sewing Quick Tip: Make sure you keep your sewing machine clean, lint free and oiled to get many years from it. Read your machine directions and make sure you thread the machine correctly and with the presser foot in the raised position. If you are having trouble with your machine, it may be time for a tune-up. Your sewing machine distributor will be able to help you with that.
I believe on of the biggest problems people have with their sewing on paper is machine tension. If you have an electronic machine, usually this is not an issue, the machine senses the correct tension making your life so much easier…just stitch and go. No matter what kind of sewing machine you have, make sure you test your tension on some scrap cardstock. It is a good idea to use the same weight and layers of cardstock as you will be using on your project. My advice is to NOT try to stitch more than three layers of cardstock at once…it will more than likely bog down your machine and break your needle.
If you are using a regular sewing machine, you will need to adjust the tension before sewing. First sew a sample line on your scrap cardstock.
If your tension is too tight, you will see loops of the bobbin thread coming up through the holes. You do not want this as it looks bad, may cause your thread to break and may also pucker the paper. Turn your tension dial to a lower number and try again.
If your thread tension is too loose, you will see loose threads on the reverse side of your cardstock. This will cause problems of loose thread on surface, bunched up and snarled threads on the bottom and can even seize up your machine with a huge snarl. To correct this problem, increase the tension on your dial.
Perfect stitching will have both the top and bottom threads evenly distributed and no loose or tight threads.
Sewing quick tip: Make sure you use the same weight thread in both your bobbin and your spool.
Adhesive and stitching
One of the things I really like about sewing on paper is the great “hold it all together” properties it has. LOL Very technical term, I know! The great thing about stitching is it does not come undone if you do not get enough adhesive on. Let’s face it…we’ve all had cards fall apart and it is NOT fun! Actually with machine stitching, less is more when it comes to adhesive. You do want to add a little to prevent your layers from slipping or buckling, but too much adhesive can gum up the needle and make your life difficult. I just add a few tiny spots of Mono adhesive to the back of your paper and that works great for me. One time I actually ran out of adhesive and finished putting the project together with the sewing machine!
Sewing Quick Tip: For thread colors, there are so many out there I’m sure you could match up any ink color there is. I mainly just bother with two colors for all my designs…white and a dark brown…they seem to go with everything! I buy Gutterman’s thread. This is a high quality thread that will resist breaking. I seem to have sewn forever on one large spool of the white, even the higher quality thread is so economical when you consider the amount of projects you will be able to make with it!
Freestyle Stitching if the easiest way to go if you are a beginner. I noticed free-style stitching first just over a year ago in some scrapbooking magazines and it is becoming seen more & more often lately. Free-style stitching is purposely wavy and adds a fun, carefree or shabby look to your design. Because you are purposely stitching in a non-linear way, anything goes! How easy and cool is that? Try it out! It’s super fun! Just stitch in slightly wavy lines around your design. Make two or three passes to highlight the look so it looks like it was on purpose.
Sewing Quick Tip: Start stitching in a spot that may be less noticeable or covered with ribbon once your project is completed. This helps hide the start and finish point that may be less than perfect.
From Start to Finish
Simply start sewing by lowering your presser foot and start sewing. If your start point is in an inconspicuous area, you may want to reverse a couple stitches to lock the stitch…if not don’t worry about it. Stitching will rarely pull out of cardstock unless it is in a detail that gets a lot of movement or pulling. When you are finished stitching…use a needle or pin or other small tool to pull the loose surface threads to the reverse of the design. If you wish, knot the threads on the back and then trim closely.
Sewing Quick Tip: Make sure you always check to see how much thread you have in the bobbin before starting. I know from experience how frustrating it can be to run out. You don’t notice for quite a few stitches and by then you have a lot of holes in the paper but no thread. It can be quite difficult to try and sew the second time into those already created holes the second time to fix it!
Zig Zag corners
I love using a zig zag stitch for extra interest. Some people find the corners a little difficult but once you know what to do, it is easy to keep them looking nice. Start by zig zagging along the edge you want to sew. I find if you keep the edge right in the center of the presser foot it makes it nice and even. When you get to the end of the layer and need to turn it, make sure that you go a stitch or two over the corner and stop with the needle on the outside edge of the corner. Leave needle down in the paper, life presser foot and pivot 90°, lower presser foot and continue along the next edge. This should give you a nice, neat, square corner.
I’ll be adding in some pics here later…as soon as I can!
Sewing Quick Tip: For straight stitching, use the side of the presser foot lined up with the edge of the paper layer to keep your stitching straight. Many machines also have increments marked on the base of the machine that you can use as guides as well. Some machines also have a needle adjustment so that you can adjust the alignment (left or right) of where the needle stitches helping with this.
Mix it Up!
I love the look you get when you use different kinds of stitching on the same design. Dont’t be afraid to experiment! Straight stitch and zig-zag are the most commonly used stitches when sewing. These two stitches can look great together in different areas of your card for interest. Try out other unique stitches on your sewing machine on some scrap cardstock as well. There are some really exciting stitches on some machines. Just remember, some of the most detailed ones may not be the best for papercrafting as they are designed for use on fabric. I’ve found that the really close together or intricate stitches may put too many holes in the paper and cause it to break off. Be safe and try it out first! Above all…have fun!
Stitching on paper for 3D objects…
If you want to add stitching to 3D objects such as a journal, frame, etc. you must plan ahead and stitch (obviously :)) before you adhere the paper to the object. This takes a little extra planning ahead of time. When you get everything laid out and stitched together, then adhere it to your project. One thing to be careful of is too much glue. If you use too much, it will ooze up through the tiny stitching holes in the paper.
Sewing Quick Tip: Make sure that you change your needle regularly. Sewing on paper will dull your needle more quickly than sewing on fabric. Never sew on fabric with a needle that has been used for papercrafts.
A Fabulous Finish
One of the questions I’ve been asked is do you sew right through your card or sew on it first and then adhere your layers. I like to add the stitching last for a few reasons….one – I rarely plan my cards before I start, I just go with the flow. That means I usually add my stitching as one of the last element to be added to the design. I just add it where is feels right. The second reason is that it really helps hold the card together so nicely. You can stitch your layers and then adhere them to the card front and you would want to do that in the above mentioned scenarios….too many layers to stitch or if you have a 3D object. If you do this, you will need a stronger adhesive as it is harder to adhere layers with the bulk and texture of machine stitching. I would recommend a LOT of mono adhesive or even Sticky strip for this.
Because I usually just stitch through all layers…this leaves a lot of stitching on the inside of your card. Some people don’t care as they feel this adds to the home-made look of your card. For others, this is quite a problem and one your run into when using brads as well. If you are one of these crafters the best idea I have it to line the inside of your card for a more professional look. Just trim a piece of cardstock about 1/4 or 1/2 smaller than the card size and adhere to the inside of your card.
Sewing Quick Tip: Sew slowly and you will get better results. Many sewing machines now have a function or dial that you can turn down the speed of your stitching and this is especially great for beginners.
Final Thoughts – If You Liked this Tutorial…
Whew! I guess there was a lot more to say about machine stitching on paper than I thought! Either that or I am just supremely long-winded!;) It may not look like it, but this tutorial took 4 hours to put together so I really hope you enjoy it. If you did enjoy it, show me a little love and let me know by commenting or by linking this article in your blog! I’d love to hear from you! This tutorial is for personal use only. Thanks!
Great ideas to use your stitching for..
- adhering ribbon
- visual interest
- attaching transparencies or vellum
- making pockets