Embroidery on paper may sound somewhat complicated, but it’s surprisingly easy to do! Whether you’re looking to make an embroidered greeting card or you’re just wanting to explore a different material, this tutorial will show you the best methods for how to embroider on paper.
How To Embroider On Paper
You only need a few simple supplies to get started.
- medium or heavy weight card stock
- embroidery needle
- embroidery floss
Make sure you choose a paper that is a medium or heavy weight. Anything lighter than that, such as printer or notebook paper, won’t work because it tears too easily. You won’t be using an embroidery hoop while you’re stitching, so you’ll want a paper that is relatively sturdy under the tension of the stitches.
If you’re feeling really crafty, you could make some handmade paper to stitch on!
Preparing the paper
I like to lightly mark the design I want to stitch with a pencil. Once I’ve marked out the design, I go back and pierce holes with my needle into the paper. It will be hard to feel where you are on the paper which is why it’s easiest to make the holes before you get started. Place these holes evenly spaced out along the lines of the design. Try not to make them too close together as that can cause a larger hole to form.
Working embroidery stitches on paper isn’t too much different from doing it on fabric, but you do have to be careful and plan out the holes you are going to make in the paper beforehand.
I recommend that you first practice a few basic stitches on a scrap piece of paper before jumping into a project. It’s worth the extra time: you’ll quickly get the hang of how to plan out and stitch something once you’ve practiced!
Starting And Ending Stitches
You can tie a knot in the end of the thread or leave a tail when you start a stitch.
When you’re ready to end a stitch, tuck the tail underneath the existing stitches on the back of the paper.
The back stitch is great for lettering and lines in a design.
- Come up with needle and thread at 2. Then place your needle back down at 1.
- Come back up at 3.
- Go back down at 2.
- Repeat these steps the desired length.
The stem stitch is another great one for borders, letters, and stems of flowers.
- Come up at 1 and make a stitch down through hole 3 but don’t pull the thread tight just yet.
- Pull the thread to one side and place your needle up through hole 2.
- Pull the thread through. Then place the needle back down at 4, again leaving the thread slack.
- Pull the thread to the same side and come up at 3.
- Pull the thread through and repeat desired length.
If you want a thicker border or line, the chain stitch is perfect for that.
- Draw a line and evenly pierce holes along the line.
- Come up at 1 and then back down through one with your needle and thread.
- Pull the thread until a small loop forms. Come up at 2 and catch the loop.
- Then go back down 2 and repeat the steps the desired length.
The lazy daisy stitch is similar to the chain stitch, excepts its a single or detached chain stitch. They are great to use for small flowers. This stitch is worked across 2 holes.
- Come up at 1 with your needle and thread and then go back down the same hole.
- Begin pulling the thread until a small loop forms. Come up at 2 with your needle and catch the loop.
- Gently pull the thread until the stitch is tight.
- Go back down with your needle slightly above hole number 2. (You will need to pierce through the paper to do this. If you go back through hole number 2 it pulls the stitch through to the back, which is not what you want!)
The basket weave stitch is a great option for filling in an area. Because you can’t make the stitches too close together on paper, it’s a great alternative to the satin stitch.
- Make evenly spaced out holes along the edge of a square. Make sure there are the same amount of holes on each side.
- Make straight stitches across 1 and 2.
- Once you’ve made the horizontal stitches, come up at 3.
- Weave under, over, under, over with your needle.
- Come back down at 4 with your needle and thread.
- Come up at the next hole, number 5 and weave under and over the opposite way from the last stitch you made. (If the thread is over the horizontal stitch, you’ll go under this time.)
- Continue alternating these stitches, weaving under and over until you’ve filled the shape in.
- Pierce one hole in the paper.
- Come up through the hole with your needle and thread.
- Twist the working thread around the needle 2-3 times.
- Keeping the thread secure and tight, pierce the paper directly beside the hole you came up through. Pull the thread until a small knot forms.
French knots can be tricky, so check out this post that goes over some additional tips for making them if you’ve never done them before.
How To Embroider A Leaf
Make holes in the paper similar to the diagram. They should go around the edge of the leaf and down the middle. The middle holes should be slightly staggered to the holes that are along the outline.
- Make a stitch at the top of the leaf from 1 to 2.
- Come up at 3 and then back down at 4.
- Repeat on the other side of the leaf at 5 and 6.
- Repeat these steps all the way down the leaf.
- Back stitch along the outline of the leaf to finish it.
How To Embroider Curved Lines
Make evenly spaced out holes along the curved line or circle. Make sure the holes are relatively close together. The closer together you make the holes, the smoother the stitches will be along the curve. For even more pointers, here is another post that goes over tips for embroidering curved lines.
Transferring A Design
Now that you’ve practiced some embroidery stitches, you’re probably ready to start stitching a design. The easiest way to transfer it to the paper is by tracing the design on a sunny window or lightbox. Make sure to mark lightly using a pencil.
Then you can plan out what stitches you want to use and pierce the paper along the shapes and lines accordingly!
Paper Embroidery Tips
- Choose a needle that’s the right size for the amount of strands of thread you are using. Using a needle that is too large will create more visible holes in the paper.
- Evenly space out the holes in the paper along the lines of your design.
- Make sure the holes are not too close together to one another or you may create a larger hole in the paper.
- It’s easiest to flip the paper over to the back so you can properly place the needle in a particular hole to start a stitch.
- When you’re done stitching, erase any pencil marks that are showing through.
Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.