There are two main ways of sewing on paper, either by hand or on a sewing machine. I love to do both and will discuss the best tips for sewing on paper both ways that I have discovered over years of practice.
It is a fun way for holding two pieces of paper together, for example when making treat bags. Stitching paper can be a fun alternative to using glue.
Stitching on paper by hand can be purely decorative especially when using hand sewing. A bit of embroidery can really add texture, colour, and interest to book pages or even old photographs.
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Top Tips For Sewing On Paper With A Sewing Machine
You do not need a special sewing machine to stitch on paper, all sewing machines will work with paper. Follow the tips below and you will soon love sewing on paper.
Stitching on paper with a machine is so easy, I actually recommend it as a good way for children to practice using a sewing machine.
Another fun thing to do is to sew on your paper with your machine but no thread. You can create some lovely dotted patterns in the paper this way.
1 Practice and Plan Your Project First
Sewing on paper with a sewing machine is totally different from sewing on fabric. The holes made on paper with a sewing machine are permanent, whereas with fabric the holes are more forgiving and less visible.
Therefore before you stitch on the paper you need to plan carefully first. You can’t really unpick stitched paper and start again like you can with fabric.
I recommend practicing with a scrap piece of paper first, trying out different stitches, and getting a feel for your paper.
2. Use The Right Needle
Choose a good sharp heavy-duty needle. I use denim-grade needles for my paper stitching. Paper will dull your needle very quickly, so I recommend using different needles for paper and fabric sewing projects.
3. Choose Your Paper
Thicker paper or cardstock works well when sewing on a machine. I have successfully stitched printer paper, wallpaper, and old maps on my sewing machine many times.
Thin flimsy paper such as book pages can tear easily. If you still want to use this kind of paper, consider using fusible stiffening paper. If you can, try out a sample of your paper first, to see if it is suitable.
4 Use the Right Stitch Length
A long stitch length of 3-4mm works best. If the stitches are too close together the paper will tear easily.
5 Go Slow
Take your time, no need to rush. Remember you can’t unpick those stitches and the holes are permanent. Don’t try and force the paper through, the machine will do most of the work for you. All you will need to do is guide it with the lightest of touches and the slower you go the easier this is.
6. Sew On The Right Side
Unlike with fabric, you will not be able to turn the paper right sides out afterwards. So always sew on the right side so that the wrong side of the stitches are under your paper. You can always hide the underside stitches by glueing on a backing if needed.
7. Don’t Use Pins
If using glue, use it sparingly, as it can clog up your needle.
8. Curves and Corners
When changing direction by sewing around curves and corners, first stop, then lift the presser foot and turn the paper, before replacing the presser foot.
9. Watch The Paper
Don’t get fixated on watching the needle, but concentrate on the paper you are stitching. If embroidering a design, it can help to lightly draw that out in pencil first and then follow those lines.
10. Finishing Off
To finish off, cut the thread at the back. This can be secured with either a knot or a tiny dab of glue.
Top Tips For Hand Sewing Paper
There are two main ways to hand sew paper one, is to pre-punch the holes and embroidery or cross stitch the paper. The other is to add strength and flexibility to the paper, so it behaves more like fabric. It can then can easily be embroidered without tearing.
Many of the tips for machine embroidery also apply to hand embroidery.
1 Choose Your Needle
Use a needle with the smallest eye possible. Remember the size of the needle will determine the size of the hole.
This can be difficult when using embroidery cotton as the eye has to be large enough to thread. You can reduce the size of the eye of the needle by using one with a more elongated eye than a round one. Using a needle threader will help you pass the cotton through smaller eyes.
If you are not using the pre-punched hole method then make sure you use a sharp needle as it will need to pierce the paper.
2 Large Stitches
Again as with sewing paper on a machine, a larger stitch length works best. If the gap between your stitch holes is too small then the paper will easily tear.
3 Choosing Your Paper
All kinds of paper can be hand-stitched but if it is too flimsy it will need to be re-enforced (see below). Hand-stitched paper is handled a lot more than machined stitched paper and will need to be stronger and stiffer as it will crease more. Cardstock and heavy paper are best for cross-stitched embroidery.
4 Pre-Punching Your Holes
Draw out your embroidery/ cross stitch design onto the paper or cardstock. Then using an awl or a brad setter piercing tool and rubber mat (a mouse mat will do), under the paper pre-punch your sewing holes.
Or if you have a sewing machine you can use that to pre-punch the holes by following the pattern with the needle but no thread.
5. Or Strengthen Your Paper
To hand embroider thin paper-like book pages you can stick it muslin cloth the make it like linen paper. This can then be easily embroidered by hand without the paper tearing. I used this method to make some fun dictionary art.
6. Simple Stitches
Basic embroidery stitches such as running stitch, backstitches, satin, and blanket stitches work best on paper. Cross stitch patterns are also great to use on pre-punched holes.
7. Don’t Pull Your Thread Too Hard
If you pull your thread too hard the paper will tear. Remember it is not as flexible as fabric.
8. Finishing Off
Finish off by cutting the thread at the back and then either tie a knot or use a dab of glue to secure the loose thread.
The Best Paper Sewing Craft Ideas
Now you know how to sew on paper, here is a round-up on some of the best paper sewing crafts and DIYs. I’m sure you will find something here you’ll want to try.
If you enjoyed these tips on sewing on paper then you might want to check out some of my other craft technique posts, such as paper napkin decoupage, upcycling with wallpaper, paper mache crafts, and all you need to know about upcycling.