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Paper Embroidery 101.

Embroidery isn't just for fabric. Add polish to paper projects using your embroidery machine. Discover tips and techniques for successful paper embroidery.


Paper presents a few unique challenges as an embroidery surface, as it's more fragile than fabric and can't be hooped. Not all paper is suitable for embroidery and not all designs are suitable for paper.

* Short stitch lengths and dense satin stitches often rip the paper and keep it from holding the design.

* The more the paper feels like fabric, the easier it is to embroider. Luckily, many types of paper are available that work well for stitching designs. Shop for embroideryready paper at craft, stationary or art-supply shops. Some sewing machine dealers may carry paper as well. Always feel the paper prior to purchasing. Soft and brittle papers won't hold a design. Dense papers work best because they're able to support the stitches.

* Mulberry paper is handmade from mulberry tree pulp and comes in a variety of weights. When torn it has a soft feathered edge. Most mulberry paper is textured as it's handmade and each piece is unique. The long fibers of mulberry paper support embroidery designs well.

* Handmade papers besides mulberry are another good choice for embroidery projects. Look for papers that aren't uniformly cut, as this suggests a handmade paper. The ideal handmade paper has long fibers and feels soft to the touch. Avoid thin papers, as they're too fragile for machine embroidery.

* Card stock is sturdy enough to hold a design and comes in a wide variety of colors. One drawback is that card stock feels stiff. Textured card stock is stronger and often doesn't feel as stiff as standard card stock.

* Specialty embroidery papers are available at select dealers and online. These papers are created specifically for machine embroidery and are the easiest to embroider.


* Use a fine needle with a sharp point to avoid creating large holes. A 70/10 or 65/9 universal or microfiber needle is ideally suited for paper embroidery.

* Select a fine thread to match the needle. 60wt thread is ideal and should be matched with fine bobbin thread. Experiment with various thread types and weights to discover a variety of results.


* The lower the stitch count, the easier the design is to stitch onto paper. Satin stitches often perforate and cause the paper to rip. Look for designs with no or few satin stitches for best results.

* Designs with loose fill areas stitch successfully. Employ embroidery editing software to reduce the design density, if working with a densely filled design.

* Redwork and outline quilting designs often work well as they're entirely composed of outline stitches. The ideal paper embroidery design is open and airy.

* Digitizers are creating more and more designs specifically for paper projects. These designs stitch guidelines onto the stabilizer to ease paper placement. Some digitizers even offer applique designs that combine fabric and paper in delightful ways. Applique paper embroidery designs offer guidelines for paper placement as well as fabric placement.


* Slow the machine speed. Paper is more fragile than fabric so a slower stitching speed keeps the paper from ripping.

* Don't walk away from a paper embroidery project. Watch as the machine stitches to quickly stop the machine should a problem arise.

* Reduce the upper thread tension to prevent paper tearing due to tight stitches.

* Delete the registration stitch, if applicable, to avoid an unnecessary needle perforation.


Paper cannot be hooped. Hoop a stabilizer first, and then position the paper over it. Use one of the following methods to achieve successful paper embroidery results.

The first method requires tear-away stabilizer. The stabilizer remains partially intact on the design wrong side. If using a thinner paper, all of the stabilizer remains after stitching.

* Hoop a lightweight tear-away stabilizer. If using thin paper, consider using a mediumweight tear-away stabilizer.

* If using a design with guidelines for paper placement, stitch the guidelines onto the stabilizer.

* Spray the stabilizer with temporary spray adhesive.

* Position the paper over the stabilizer and smooth in place. Place the hoop onto the machine; embroider the design.

* Remove the hoop from the machine. Gently tear away the excess stabilizer from the paper wrong side. Don't attempt to remove the paper beneath the stitches. If using thin paper, trim the stabilizer just inside the paper perimeter.

* If tearing the stabilizer causes the paper to rip, trim away as much stabilizer as possible using scissors. When leaving stabilizer intact, consider adhering the stitched paper onto a separate piece of paper or vellum to hide the stabilizer on the final project.

The second method uses paper release adhesive stabilizer and all of the stabilizer remains on the paper.

* Hoop a paper-release adhesive stabilizer with the paper side up. If using a design with placement guidelines, stitch the guidelines onto the stabilizer.

* Score and remove the paper from inside the hoop to reveal the adhesive. Position the paper over the stabilizer, and then smooth into place. Place the hoop onto the machine; embroider the design.

* Remove the hoop from the machine and the stabilizer from the hoop with the paper attached. Trim . the stabilizer to match the paper perimeter.

* If preferred, adhere the embroidered paper to a separate piece of paper or vellum to conceal the stabilizer.


Antique Roses & Rose Bouquet: Design Studio Collection, Victorian Valentine Redwork (#12045);

Be Mine & Happy Birthday designs: Design Studio Collection, Essential Sentiments (#12282);

Thanks design: Smith Street Designs, Greetings!;

Love Blooms and Valentine Love: Love Is in the Air Embroidery Collection, Creative Machine Embroidery exclusive;


Isacord Thread provided the Isacord Embroidery Thread:

OESD provided the Stabil-Stick Cut-Away Stabilizer and Ultra Clean & Tear Stabilizer:

Caption: Add ribbon, paper cutting and cardmaking embellishments to redwork designs for an upscale, custom look
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Author:Hickman, Kay
Publication:Creative Machine Embroidery
Date:Jan 1, 2018
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