A Machine-Stitching Tutorial

Hello all! Brenda Smith here with you today. I've had a lot of people asking me lately for pointers on machine-stitching on paper. I remember myself being very intimidated to try it because it must be difficult, right? Well actually, no. It's very simple! I am NOT a sewer, but with a few handy tips from my mom (who is a sewer) and with a little trial and error, I feel confident in saying I've got the machine-stitching down now. In today's tutorial, I will go through some basic tips to help you get started and then will give you some ideas of how to use this tool on your paper-crafting projects. In order to avoid bombarding you with more information than you may want to know, I'm going to include even more project ideas and uses on my blog, so hop on over if you are wanting to learn more.

First, get to know the controls on your machine. Read your manual or google your specific model to learn more about it. You will want to know how to adjust the space between the stitches (on my Singer, I have a knob that adjusts from 1-4), how to change the type of stitch, and of course how to thread your machine and fill up the bobbin.

When first choosing what type of needle you'll use on your machine, you'll want a bigger size because paper (especially several layers) can be difficult to stitch through. The sizes range from 8 (the finest) to 19 (the most heavy duty). After having many needles break off while stitching, I have finally settled upon a denim-grade needle which is a size 16. I haven't had one of these break on me yet.

As far as the foot goes, I use a standard presser foot. It works perfectly for straight stitching and zig zags which are the stitches I primarily use.

The tension of my sewing machine always sits at auto, although you could stand to go just a little bit up if you were having troubles with the auto setting.

Once your machine is threaded and ready to go, get yourself a scrap piece of paper and test out your first stitches. Adjust the space between stitches so they aren't too close together. I usually use a 3 on my machine, but can get away with a 2. The reason you don't want them too close together is because the paper will tear if you don't give each hole ample space.

Some people have asked me the key to sewing straight lines. First, go slow. I am generally in a hurry in all things in my life, so I naturally wanted to push down full throttle on the pedal. But when I slowed down and took things at a steady pace, I was much more pleased with the results. Second, don't become caught up with watching the needle. The needle moves so much that it isn't a good indicator of where the stitches are going on your paper. Third, resist the urge to guide the paper too much. The machine does a good job of pulling the paper through on its own that there is no need to push the paper in the direction you want to go. Keep a light hold on it to make sure it doesn't go wild, but generally just let it guide itself.

When needing to stitch around a corner, stitch until you reach the point where you would like to turn the corner. In the last hole of the first line, leave the needle down in the paper and flip the foot up.

Manually turn your paper so the needle turns the corner and is facing in the direction you want it to go. Then flip the foot back down and continue sewing. This should allow you to stitch around corners seamlessly.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make while sewing on your paper-crafting projects is to use too much adhesive where you'll be stitching. The adhesive will gummy up the needle and cause the thread to pull out from the needle or become tangled. I try to plan ahead where I will be stitching and then avoid putting any adhesive in that area at all. If adhesive is necessary to hold the paper on before stitching, then I use the smallest amount possible.

Some people, when ending their stitching on their projects, will do a backstitch (which on my machine is done by flipping up a lever) to keep the thread from unraveling. I, personally, do not do this but it might be something you want to try if you are having problems with your thread coming undone.

I practiced on scrap paper a lot before I got up the courage to try on an actual project. And when I did move on to my projects, I made mistakes of course. But I try to remember that these flaws are what indicate that it is handmade. I try to view them as part of the design.

Now that we've covered some of the basics, let's move on to how you can incorporate sewing into your paper-crafting.

I often use machine-stitching in place of adhesive. I've been hard-pressed to find refills locally of the adhesive I've been using, so my sewing machine has really come in handy. I line up the papers how I want them to be and place them into the sewing machine, adjusting for straightness up until the point that I am ready to start stitching. Again, if it ends up being a little imperfect, I simply embrace it, but for the most part I am able to stitch things as straight as I desire them to be. You can see on this layout how I used stitching to adhere the yellow Blissful Foundations paper to the kraft cardstock.

You can using stitching to create fun, subtle designs on your projects like I did on this project I made for CHA. I did an argyle-like pattern when sewing through these circles on this fun paper from Celebrate.

I simply sewed on a diagonal line through the circles.

Stitching is also a great way to outline a design, like I did with the sun on this project.

I didn't worry too much about keeping the thread evenly spaced from the outer edge of the paper, but if you wanted, you could trace the lines you wish to stitch with a pencil in an effort to make them more even.

To keep you from being overwhelmed and this post from being too long, that's all I will share with you here. If you are still wanting to know more project ideas (including stitching through chipboard alphas and binding a mini album), please head on over to my blog. You might also find an awesome giveaway over there. Just sayin'.

Supplies Used:
Paper: Authentique Delightful, Gathering, Celebrate, and Blissful 
Machine: Singer


  1. What a great pictorial! Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Amazing tutorial!! Love the sewing tips... Now to find myself a sewing machine!!

  3. Thank you for the amazing tutorial, Brenda! I have that same machine and struggle with it when using it on layouts, but now that I know better what settings to use, I am inspired to pull it out again! Thanks again!

  4. Great tips! I think I will get a bigger needle just for paper. I love to sew paper, too!

  5. This is exactly what I needed to know! Thank you Brenda!

  6. I sew on layouts a lot and found your recommendations true to form. A couple of other things I have found ...
    - Paper dulls needles very quickly! I haven't found the need to use a needle quite that big, usually a 14 generic for me.
    - Instead of backstitching, I pull the threads through to the back and tack them down with an extra sticker letter or piece of tape. It leaves me clean stitches on top and everything is secure underneath.
    - Sometimes I'll use painter's tape to hold everything in place. Particularly with the bigger stitches for paper, I can peel away the tape when I'm done without damaging the paper or leaving tape behind.

    1. Thank you for the extra pointers! I'm still relatively new at this so I am by no means an expert. I agree that paper dulls needles quickly. You surely want to have a separate needle for paper and fabric. I started off with the 14 needles but they broke off on me far too often (even if they were brand new). I don't know if that was just how I was using them or what I was stitching through (chipboard, heavy cardstock, several layers, etc.), but I had so many issues that I was encouraged to try a bigger needle size.

      I agree with the backstitching. I don't normally do it, but I have heard of some people preferring to do it so I thought I would share. I think the method you shared to tape the threads on the back is perfect.

      Painter's tape is a great idea! I had never thought of that before.

  7. You have no idea how helpful you have been. I bought a sewing machine with Christmas money and it's still sitting in the box unopened! I am so intimidated even though I want to sew on my cards. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this tutorial.I'm going to tag your blog as a favorite. Thanks again.

  8. Awesome tut. I have been wanting to try this for so long and didn't know where to start. Thank you thank you thank you so much for the info and the confidence!

  9. love your stitching! it always makes me want to dust off my machine and sew instead of glue!

  10. Brenda, this is so great...wtg!

  11. Fantastic tutorial! Love all the helpful pointers.

  12. Love all your tips Brenda. Now to talk Brian into letting me get a sewing machine. Can't wait to try them out.

  13. Thanks everyone! Glad I could be helpful!

  14. Thanks for the great tutorial Brenda! This may be just the push I needed to dig my sewing machine out from storage!

  15. Brenda, I was just wondering if my local scrap store would consider having a Paper Sewing for Dummies class when I came upon your posting here! I think I might still ask because of all the comments from people that needed the info, but I was thinking that maybe I was the only one intimidated and clueless as to how to get started! Thanks so much for enlightening me and giving me a nudge to maybe go ahead and give it a try!!!

  16. I love machine sewing and could have used a tutorial like this when I started out. Thanks for putting into 'print' such a great set of ideas and instructions.

  17. Thank you for posting. Your layouts are awesome, and your sewing details are beautiful! Thank you so much for the inspiration. :)

  18. The stitching tips are so useful. Thank You for sharing
    Cheers from Bangalore, India

  19. I've been quilting for years but sometimes I find it difficult to apply the same techniques to scrapbooking and card making. Thanks for this! Sure did clear a lot of this up and now I'm off to sew paper.....

  20. STC technologies has started to take in students grounded on the demand of its clients.

  21. Great tutorial. I have tried stitching on paper but so far have not been thrilled with my results. I do have one question and that is the type of thread you use. I have used just all purpose thread like you would use on fabric but it is not distinct enough, so thin. Do you have a suggestion on the type of thread to use?

  22. Beautiful Layout!

    Team Craftwell


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  24. Amazing tutorial! Our scrapbooking challenge blog has a theme of stitching this week so I shared this link on our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Scrap-Your-Story/356319004480767) for inspiration. It certainly wowed me!!!!

  25. Thanks for sharing your expertise. Good information even 3 years later.


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