How to Embroider a Greeting Card

comments (17) February 4th, 2016     

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Sister_Diane Diane Gilleland, contributor
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With a little pre-planning, you can embroider a design on a piece of sturdy cardstock.
Metallic threads are fun to stitch onto paper.
The secret to greeting card embroidery is pre-punching the holes for your needle to pass through.
With a little pre-planning, you can embroider a design on a piece of sturdy cardstock.

With a little pre-planning, you can embroider a design on a piece of sturdy cardstock.

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What you'll need:
Blank greeting card
Painter's tape
Straight pin
Embroidery floss
Embroidery needle
Masking Tape
Glue stick
Decorative paper

I love embroidering on greeting cards, because the texture of the stitches has such impact. And it's not too hard to do! Here are some basic instructions.

Be sure to use a blank greeting card made of heavy, sturdy cardstock. You'll be handling this card a great deal as you stitch, so you need something that will withstand it without bending or tearing.

Next, you'll need a design to embroider. For stitching on paper, it's a good idea to stick with simpler designs that involve mostly outlines. Most Sublime Stitching embroidery templates are excellent for stitching on paper. Or, you can begin with a complex design and modify it. Here, I'm working with a vintage transfer design I picked up at a thrift store. It's a little too ornate for a greeting card, but we'll simplify it.

Tape the design to the front of the card using painter's tape, which won't mar the surface of the paper.

Reduce or enlarge your design on a photocopier, and then tape it to the front of the card with some blue painter's tape. (Notice that the card is opened out flat at this point.)

Place the card on a padded surface. Folded fabric, a cork trivet, or a sock all work well.

Next, put your card onto some kind of padded surface. You can use a cork trivet, or a folded towel, or even a sock. I'm using a piece of folded felt.

In order to embroider a design onto a greeting card, you need to pre-punch all the holes where your needle will go in and out of the paper. This takes a little thought and pre-planning, because you'll also need to know in advance what embroidery stitches you'll use. So let's take this design one part at a time:

To prepare for the backstitch, punch holes about 1/8" apart along the lines.

The backstitch is a great stitch for outlines on your design - it's easy and takes curves well. I'm using it to outline this bird, so I've punched holes about 1/8" apart, following the lines of the drawing.

To prepare for the Lazy Daisy sitch, punch two holes: one at the base of the petal and one at the top.

I'll be stitching all the flowers with Lazy Daisy stitch. For that, I just need to punch two holes: one at the bottom of each petal, and one at the top of each petal.

If an area of your design is too complex for embroidery on paper, you an re-design it as you punch.

Straight stitch works well for small details of a design. I'm using it for the fountain in this design. However, I decided that the lines were a bit too close together for embroidery on paper, so as you can see, I re-designed the fountain a bit as I punched.

If you compare the design with the finished card, you'll see that I also simplified the image by leaving out a number of flowers and small leaf details. When you embroider on a greeting card, keep in mind that each time you poke a needle and floss through the paper, you are in effect perforating it. So the more complex your design is, the greater the risk of perforating the paper so much, it tears. Simplicity is always a good idea.

Once you've punched all the holes you'll need for stitchery, remove the photocopied template from your card. Keep it handy in case you need to refer back to it while you stitch.

Different kinds of embroidery floss have different effects on paper.

Now, what kind of floss to use? Here, you can see several options: from left to right, they are pearl cotton, crewel wool, and six-strand embroidery floss (six strands, three strands, and two strands). As you can see, the thinner the floss you use, the more those holes in the paper show. So I like to stick to thicker flosses when I stitch on paper.

Don't knot your floss when embroidering on paper. Instead, use masking tape to anchor the ends.

I never use knots when I stitch on paper, because they make it hard to cover up the back of your work later. Instead, cut yourself a lot of small pieces of masking tape, and have them handy while you work. Use them to stick down the ends of the floss when you begin and end a strand.

The back stitch is a great choice for paper - it takes curves well.

Let's learn some stitches, then! Here's the backstitch. You begin with a short stitch, following the holes you've punched. Then, you bring your needle up from the back of the card, using the hole for the next stitch, as shown.

On the front of the card, take your needle back down in the same hole where the previous stitch ended. See? you're stitching forward and backward at the same time.

Place your fingers close to where the needle passes through the paper, to help support the card and prevent it tearing.

Also, notice here how my thumb is placed. Try to keep your fingers as close to the point where your needle is passing through the paper as you can. Your fingers will help stabilize the card and keep it from warping or tearing.

If your hands tend to perspire, you can also fold up a paper towel and use it to hold the card while your work.

The fountain is embroidered in straight stitch. See how I simplified it from the original design?

The straight stitch couldn't be easier - just bring the needle up through the card at the start of the stitch, and back down through the card at the end of the stitch. See how much simpler my fountain turned out?

Begin the Lazy Daisy stitch by passing the needle up and down through the same hole, creating a loop.

For the Lazy Daisy stitch, you begin by passing your needle up and down through the same hole at the bottom of the petal, so that you create a loop of floss on the surface of the card.

Bring the needle up through this loop.

Bring the needle up through the hole at the top of the petal, and position that loop so your needle is sticking through it, as shown.

Finish the stitch by passing the needle back through the same hole. This creates a stitch that anchors the loop.

Pull the needle all the way through, gently pulling that loop so that it tightens lightly around the needle. Then, pass the needle back through the same hole again, as shown, to complete the stitch.

When you're done stitching, the back of your work will look like this. Cover it up by gluing on some decorative paper or another blank card.

Here's the back of the finished card. Wow, this needs covering up! You can glue a piece of scrapbook paper over it, or even take a second blank card and glue it to the inside of this one.

That's all there is to it! Happy Stitching!

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posted in: embroidery

Comments (17)

Ashtonjames writes: Beautiful work done
Posted: 9:51 am on October 1st
graceandrew987 writes: Very creative and unique idea of embroidering a card for the occasion. I hope our loved ones will be pleased with this idea.
Posted: 1:40 am on August 11th
Denverbookie writes: Hi, I tried a size 7 needle and it was too small for the cardstock I am using. What size needle do you recommend? Thanks
Posted: 1:48 pm on July 21st
AnnGGG writes: Not a project for the impatient, but I actually find embroidery therapeutic. It's so calming to play some slow piano music and focus on the craft. Thank you for sharing!
Posted: 7:31 am on September 15th
DaveHaynes writes: You really need solid nerves in order to complete a similar project. But the satisfaction afterwards, nothing can replace it.
Posted: 6:07 am on March 8th
roselynbette writes: You can get very creative if you have a nearby artist to draw fancier stuff. :)
Posted: 2:20 pm on April 14th
l00katme writes: beautiful job
Posted: 6:51 am on October 7th
Criativa writes: Olá.
Que belo trabalho.

Posted: 4:47 am on August 13th
littledeer302 writes: littledeer302. i love your creation i am going to try it thanks diana.
Posted: 12:22 pm on June 15th
CreativeG writes: This is simply beautiful and you've explained it very well. I know what I'll doing this weekend :).

Posted: 1:04 am on April 1st
honnet writes: The Content/ remarks were helpful. From hyderabadonnet dot com(send flowers and gifts to Andhra Pradesh).
Posted: 9:16 am on March 18th
paperrain writes: I'm working on the design for all my holiday cards as soon as I get home tonight. Fabulous. I'll post photos when I've finished one. Thanks for another cool tutorial. We need a book of your tutorials!
Posted: 11:12 am on September 10th
VSC writes: This is awesome, but I wish I would have known about it back before I did this:
Posted: 8:32 pm on June 24th
digibudi writes: I totally love this! I think I'm gonna use this idea for my yearly summertime indoor pick-nick at my apartment. Great stuff Diane! I registered for this cool site because of you :)
Posted: 10:55 am on June 20th
Average_Jane_Crafter writes: This is fantastic! I love that you've shown how to modify the design to work for what you are doing, and the card with samples of floss is genius. You ROCK! :)
Posted: 11:37 am on June 19th
crafty_gal writes: Diane, your directions are the bomb! I've really wanted to try this out and you've just given me the confidence to give it a go!
Posted: 10:09 pm on June 18th
JenniferStern writes: Diane, I love your embroidered note card, beautiful job!
Posted: 4:25 pm on June 18th
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