How to Sew and Embroider on Your Scrapbook Pages

I love the look of sewing on all my papercrafts, from scrapbooking layouts to greeting cards. Sewing and embroidery adds dimension without a lot of bulk and has the added benefit of attaching elements to the page in the process.

You can sew by hand or with your machine. Both techniques are easier than you might think. Here's a simple how-to.

Hand-Stitching & Embroidery

Get Ready...
Use a pencil to lightly draw the design on cardstock (regular paper generally isn't strong enough to withstand all the extra handling that sewing requires.) Another option is to draw or trace a simple design onto lightweight paper (such as tracing paper) and temporarily adhere it to your page so it doesn't wiggle around during the next step.

What to stitch? It's generally best to keep your design simple and stick to just the outline of the image. You can embellish later when you fill in your design with chalks or colored pencils. Popular choices for scrapbooking embroidery include snowflakes, fish, hearts, and flowers, but you can use absolutely any simple design you can find.

Where can I find simple designs? Make a freehand drawing or trace your favorite designs from diecuts, stickers, stamps or templates. Here are two ideas I loved from Creating Keepsakes magazine: Trace a design from your kids' favorite coloring books - or trace around your child's hand or foot and embroider the outline.

Get Set
Place your page on a surface that is firm, yet allows a little "give." I like to use a mouse pad or my Coluzzle mat. You can also use a pillow, cushion, or a piece of Styrofoam. Now pierce holes in the cardstock about every 1/8" - depending on the effect you want to achieve - while following the lines of your design.

Choose a piercing tool most appropriate for the thickness of your thread. If you will be using thread or floss, use a straightpin, a needle, or a safety pin. For larger holes, use a pushtack or a paper piercing tool. Again, you'll want to consider the look you're trying to achieve before choosing a tool. (If you marked your page with pencil, this is the time to erase.)

Stitch the design. The backstitch is the simplest, but you can experiment with different stitches as you practice the technique. 

Now you can fill in the design with chalk, if you wish. You can also apply chalk directly to the floss to create just the right color.

Machine Sewing on Paper
Machine-sewing on paper is much the same as sewing on fabric. It takes a little practice, but don't let the idea intimidate you.
A couple of tips:

- Before you start to stitch, make sure your bobbin has enough thread to finish the job. If your bobbin runs out of thread midway, you'll be left with holes in the paper that you'll have to work to conceal.

- Don't try to machine stitch more than 3 layers at a time.

- Don't "knot" the thread as you would when sewing on fabric by going over the same spot repeatedly. Secure the thread underneath by adhering it to piece of paper, and it won't unravel.

The Possibilities
You can stitch with thread, ribbon, yarn, raffia, jute, fibers, and embroidery floss, such as DMC. Floss is inexpensive, widely available, and comes in every shade imaginable. Plus you control the thickness because each floss is made up of 6 strands. Use them all, or just one or two. Or use one or two strands of more than one color.
Once you've had a little practice, you'll start sewing on everything.

A few ideas:

- Create your own backgrounds and borders by piecing together cardstock blocks or strips.

- Embellish and attach diecuts for a custom, dimensional look.

- Create paper or fabric pockets to hold journaling blocks, extra photos, or simple memorabilia.

- Stitch around lettering and titles.

- Embellish journaling blocks.

- Draw attention to a photo by stitching on the mat

- Adhere vellum to your background. (Vellum is translucent, so it will often show the glue that lies beneath it. Try stitching it on instead.)

- Create decorative handmade accents that you attach to a page. One popular technique combines sewing with tearing. Sew along an edge first, then tear just on the other side of your stitches. Push the torn edge up.