By: Lisa Truesdell
I rarely consider a paper crafting project done until I’ve added some machine stitching. I love the texture it adds, and I love how many different ways I can use my sewing machine to add the perfect something special to a page or card. When I bought my first machine 4 years ago, I hadn’t touched a sewing machine since my 7th grade home ec class. I’ve learned some tricks and tips along the way and can’t wait to share them with you.
You don’t need a fancy machine to sew on paper. Many retailers offer low end machines with just enough options to be perfect for scrapbooking. I started on a $60 machine and only outgrew it when I started doing more sewing on fabric. While the extra bells and whistles are nice to have, they certainly aren’t necessary.
No matter what machine you use, if you’re switching between paper and fabric, you’ll want to keep a needle just to use on your paper projects. Paper will dull your needle, and it won’t work as well for fabric. A dull needle doesn’t seem to be a problem for paper projects – I can’t count how many pages I’ve finished without changing a needle! You will, however, want to clean out your machine from time to time – sewing paper can cause lint to accumulate.
The best way to learn to sew on your projects is to practice. Break out your scraps, use that funky colored cardstock or that patterned paper you’re no longer in love with, and just play. Start with a straight stitch across your paper just to get a feel for your machine. You’ll want to check your tension – too loose and the back of your paper will be a loopy mess, too tight and you’ll tear your paper. I keep my machine set between 2 and 3, but the best way to find the right setting for yours is trial and error.
You’ll quickly realize that you’re going to have to come up with a way to deal with loose ends. If your start and stop points are at the edge of the paper, you can just wrap them around to the back and tape them in place. If they’re in the middle, you have a few options.
I like to grab a small needle and thread the top thread through it, and then slid the needle through one of the holes already in the page to get the thread to the back. I tape my loose ends, but you can tie them together and cut the excess if you wish.
Another way to deal with the extra thread is to flip your project over and gently tug on your bobbin thread (green in the photo). As you pull, you’ll see a loop of top thread come through the last hole that you stitched (brown in the photo). You can grab that loop and just pull it through to the back. If you don’t mind loose ends, you can just cut them short on the front and back.
When you’re sewing on a paper project, you’ll want to be mindful of where you’ve applied adhesive. When you’re sewing two pieces of paper together, try to apply the adhesive in an area where you won’t be sewing. Use a tape runner or adhesive roller – that sort of adhesive is a lot more forgiving if you sew through it. If you do get your needle or foot sticking with adhesive, you can clean them with an adhesive remover.
Now that you’ve mastered sewing in a line, it’s time to turn a corner. When you get to a corner, stop your machine with the needle in the down position.
Lift your foot and pivot the paper 90 degrees, and then lower the foot and being sewing again. Once you go around all 4 sides, you’ve got a perfect border for any project.
Once you’re comfortable with straight lines and corners, it’s time to try shapes. I recommend drawing out your shape first. USX templates and punches make great patterns to follow!
When you’re stitching a shape (especially one with curves), you’ll want to go slow. The smaller the shape, the slower you should go. I’ve resorted to hand turning the wheel that makes the needle move when I was stitching a small circle or heart. And if you end up a little off course, just make one or two more passes around your shape and it will look deliberate instead of crooked.
Using more than one sort of stitch on a page is a fun way to add detail, but you’ll want to pay close attention to your needle position when switching stitches. In the first example, I’ve gone from a straight stitch to a zigzag without moving my paper at all. In the second, I’ve positioned my paper so that the center line of my zigzag follows the same line as the straight stitch that I started and stopped with.
Switch stitches with your needle up so you can see how it moves back and forth and you’ll learn how much you need to accommodate for each stitch. If you look closely at the photos above, you should be able to see how much the needle on my machine moves when I switch from a straight stitch to a zigzag.
Decorative stitches are also a fun addition to a page, if you have a machine that has more options than just straight and zigzag. You’ll want to experiment with different stitches on scratch paper. As you can see in the example above, stitches that have details that are too close together with end up tearing your paper.
This next one struck terror into me for a LONG time – sewing through things that aren’t paper. I’ll admit it – it took me a loooooooooooooooooong time to work up the nerve to stitch through chipboard. And when I finally did it, it was no big deal. I took it slow, held my breath – and my machine had no trouble going through it. And then I got even more adventurous – and found that I could stitch through just about anything. Chipboard, ghost shapes, sheers, transparencies and overlays, epoxy stickers – all no problem. Just go slow and it should be no problem!
Once you’re comfortable with your machine, you’ll find that there are so many ways to use stitching on your pages. You can add borders, create journaling lines, and stitch through your title. You can add stitched details to punched shapes or premade embellishments. You can stitch along the border between two different patterned papers. I have to warn you though – it’s addicting. Soon you’ll be stitching on every project you make.
Cards are a perfect starter project once you’ve worked with scrap paper enough to feel confident to try a project. They’re a great no commitment way to try out your skills. On this card, I’ve added a stitched border, a zigzag stitch and a couple of rows of straight stitching to accent a strip of patterned paper that I punched with my Apron Lace border punch. I also stitched through the chipboard sentiment around my USX circle and squeeze punch heart. That’s a lot of sewing on a 4.25x5.5in canvas!
Sewing can be so much more than a finishing touch on a page. For this layout, I only used a bit of patterned paper, a vintage book page sprayed with a bit of yellow Maya Mist, and a few buttons – but the stitching takes it to the next level. I started by using my USX heart template to draw scattered hearts on the page, and then I stitched over the lines. I used the same USX template to cut slightly smaller hearts from my vintage paper, and then I slightly distressed the edges of each heart before adding them to the page.
I created the title by writing the word kisses on a piece of patterned paper that measured 4x12in, and then using my Fingertip Craft knife to cut around the letters. I followed my original handwriting using my sewing machine. To “write” with your machine like this, you’ll want to go S-L-O-W, make liberal use of your reverse button to get around some of the tight corners, and stop and reposition your paper when it looks like you might be heading off track. I stacked 3 2x3 photos on the right side of my page over my title, and added strips of patterned paper for journaling and a date. Brightly striped patterned paper ties all of my colors together, and a small strip of border punched paper and buttons are a nice accent next to the photos.
For a final embellishment, I punched circles from green paper using my Round N Round circle punches and stitched lines across them before adding buttons. A stitched border finishes the page.
For even more inspiration, here are two additional projects from fellow Fiskars design team members-
Designer: Becky Novacek
My faithful sewing machine of 20 some years, that i bought used at that time, quit working this past weekend. It was a sad day. I adore using my machine for craft projects, and to be honest, i feel like a scrapbook layout isn't complete until I've done some stitching on it. Sometimes it's a little stitch to hold trim down or emphasize a word or phrase, but it always seems to be the finishing touch.
On this layout, I used 3 different colors of thread for even more emphasis on the stitching. Hopefully, the photos are the main focus with the bits of pattern paper and stitching more embellishment, than the focus. I stitched through the titlework, which I've done for quite a few years now as a way of making the title more textured and interesting. Staight stitching is not necessary in my opinion! I also stitched under the handwritten journaling. As a really quirky experiment, I machine stitched really randomly around the Fiskars Seal of Approval Squeeze Punch with Round n' Round Squeeze Punch center. Finally, i machine stitched the black ribbon down, gathering it as I stitched.
I used the Fiskars Pinking Scissors on the bottom strip of pattern paper, extending it over the actual background. I did the same thing at the top of the page with the Fiskars Scallop Sentiment Border Punch. So that the page doesn't stick out over the top of my albums, i trim my background cardstock size down a bit to accommodate the extra at the top and bottom. Sometimes I do that with the width too, if I have used anything bulky on my page.
Designer: Katrina Simeck
My great-grandmother was a quilter. I remember sitting & digging through her basket of fabric scraps as a child. I’d ask why she held on to bits & pieces of fabrics…she’d reply “because they’re going to make a mighty fine quilt one day!” These days, I hang on to bits & pieces of patterned paper in the same fashion. I always think that they’ll be perfect for a card one day!
This simple card combines my grandmother’s love of quilting and my love of patterned paper. The machine stitch in between the squares reinforces the quilted look, and adds a handmade touch.
To make a quilted card of your own, trim a piece of cardstock into a rectangle using your Fiskars 12in Portable Trimmer. Use the Fiskars XL Block Party squeeze punch to punch scraps of patterned paper into squares. Arrange in a grid pattern on your cardstock. It’s helpful to adhere with a bit of adhesive before stitching. Machine stitch, using a zig zag setting, along all the lines of patterned paper. After stitching, adhere this quilted piece to another piece of cardstock. I added a bit of extra detail with my Fiskars Pinking Shears. Attach both pieces to a card base, and stamp a simple sentiment. Whether it’s fabric scraps or paper scraps, you can combine machine stitching & paper to create a “mighty fine” card!
By Lisa Truesdell