How to Embroider on Paper

Embroidered Paper Ornament

Cheryl C. Fall / The Spruce

Project Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Embroidering on paper is an easy-to-learn technique that can add accents to gift tags, cards, bookmarks, gift bags, and flair to the pages of scrapbooking projects. It is best to work with heavy paper or cardstock, but it is easy to adapt to other types of material.

Almost any hand embroidery pattern or design can be stitched on plain or colored paper using basic embroidery stitches. This tutorial uses a design from the Gingerbread Dreams Pattern Set, enlarged slightly to make a four-inch motif that would make an excellent ornament or gift tag. There are four different motifs in the pattern that are perfect as a first-time paper embroidery project.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Size 7 cotton darning needle, or embroidery needle
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Pencil
  • Self-healing cutting mat, scrap of cork or packing foam, or other material to protect your work surface


  • Heavy card stock, larger than size of finished piece
  • Six-strand embroidery floss
  • Design to be transferred for embroidering


  1. Transfer the Design to Card Stock

    Enlarge the embroidery design to the desired size.

    Some papers have a rough and a smooth side; decide which side of your card stock will be the "wrong side." With a pencil, trace the design on the wrong side of the paper. Not all papers are thin enough to trace through; you may have to use transfer paper or another method to get your design on the card stock.

    The design is traced onto the rough side of the paper in the example, using a light touch so the markings can easily be erased later, if needed.

    Supplies for Embroidering on Paper
    Cheryl C. Fall
  2. Prepare the Card Stock

    Cut the card stock into shape around the traced design. Hold the stock design-side up over the cutting mat, cork, or other protective surface.

    • Using the darning or embroidery needle, pierce stitching holes along all lines of the design, pressing the tip of the needle through the paper and into the cork below.

    Be sure to pierce the stock at all intersecting lines where the stitching will change direction, and at regular intervals to keep stitches consistent in size.

    Pre-piercing the stitching lines helps prevent any accidental creasing in the paper while embroidering the designs. Be careful not to make the holes too close together to avoid tearing through the paper as you stitch, distorting your design. 

    Piercing the Paper at Regular Intervals
    Cheryl C. Fall
  3. Embroider

    Turn the paper over and embroider the design. Do not use knots—start and end your thread using the knot-less method, weaving in the ends. Rather than using an away knot, you can temporarily hold the end in place with a small tab of removable tape.

    Basic stitches work best when embroidering on paper. The sample uses backstitchdetached chain stitch, and French knots.

    After working the embroidery, carefully erase the marked lines from the piece's wrong side if they show through to the front. Your embroidered paper motif is now ready to use.

    Stitching on Paper
    Cheryl C. Fall

More Ideas for Working on Paper

Working with a pattern is a great place to start, but once you've gotten comfortable with the process of stitching on paper, there is so much more you can do.Try embroidering a border of blanket stitches along the edge of a notecard, adding a bullion knot rose, or improvising some flowers. Experiment with embroidering other types of papers, or even add embroidery to a photograph for a sweet gift.