Zede and Mallory share some of the other things you can sew on besides fabric, which is what most of us traditionally sew on.
Mallory recently auditioned for a new show and her music sheets were printed double sided and she is not a fan of taping them together into a little booklet especially when she can sew them, which is what she did. Paper is fun to sew on – you can make booklets, greeting cards, little paper gift packages and so much more.
Sewing on Paper
Mallory and Zede suggest using a durable paper like card stock, something that will hold up to being sewn. Zede also suggests using a needle with a larger eye, she likes a size 90 needle because there will be drag on the needle and thread going through the paper. In practice she uses needles that she’s set off in a pincushion that may be slightly dull or used on a few projects – these are great for projects like sewing on paper. Test when picking a needle size because you don’t want to leave too big of a puncture in the paper, this could lead to the paper falling apart. A lot of times you will be using decorative threads like embroidery. Zede thinks decorative stitches on paper are really pretty.
While stitching on paper is a bit different than on fabric both require a little bit of test stitching to make sure you get what you want. You don’t want to over perforate the paper and have your project fall apart, so test, test, test. Another helpful tip when using decorative stitches is to choose one with a more open design as opposed to ones where the stitches are stacked closely together.
On the other hand you may want your paper to perforate. Zede has seen people make tickets or decorative edges like a scallop where the outer edge of the paper tears off leaving behind the scallop shapes. In this case you want to make your stitches very close together and you won’t even need to use thread. Mallory notes if you have an electronic machine you may have to turn the thread sensor off in order to sew without thread. A mechanical machine will sew just fine. Sewing without thread can leave an impression or imprint on the paper, the design possibilities are really endless.
Back when Zede ran the brick and mortar shop she had a class she taught dedicated to making sewn paper greeting cards. She would sew on ribbons, fabric, plastics, decorative stitches and other snazzy embellishments.
Sewing on Paper can be Intimidating
Mallory and Zede are aware that some people might be afraid or hesitant to sew on paper but the reality is paper is a fiber too and some fabrics are made very similarly to paper. Some non-woven interfacings and embroidery stabilizers are paper type products too. So chances are you already have sewn on some type of paper product.
Everything dulls your needle, just at different rates. A nice smooth cotton fabric will of course not dull your needle as fast as a fabric like dot sequin or one with metallic fibers woven in but eventually your needle will get dull and you’ll replace it. Zede suggests saving these to use on paper.
Sewing on paper is not bad for your machine. However sewing on tissue paper or other very loose fiberous papers may be. When tissue paper falls apart those fibers will end up in your bobbin mechanism and could cause problems. Zede recommends using printer paper or even notebook paper if you need more support under your fabric. There will be less chance of this type of paper breaking apart and causing problems. It’s a good idea to clean your machine after each project anyway, so this should clean up any tiny paper particles that get in your machine.
It’s also possible to embroider on paper and there are specific embroidery designs just for this purpose.
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What other substrates can you sew on besides paper?
There are thin sheets of metal and balsa wood as well as cork specifically designed to be sewn on. Products like Craft Tech, a material that’s a cross between fabric and paper are also available to sew on. You can sew or embroider on sheets of puffy foam. This is really popular to embroider letters on hats because it gives a nice raised look.
You can sew on plastic zipper baggies and plastic protector sleeves for binders. You can section them or cut them into different shapes and sizes. Again, you don’t want to perforate these so make sure to lengthen your stitch and not make too large of holes with your needle.
Vinyl is another plastic substrate. Zede says do not use a leather needle to sew vinyl or anything other than leather. A leather needle slices – it’s like a little knife on the needle tip and once you slice the vinyl the slice will spread. Zede prefers using a denim or microtex needle on vinyl.
A teflon foot is great to use on plastic type fabrics. It helps the machine foot glide over the fabric. Do not use powder on your machine to help your fabric move under the presser foot! Powder plus oil makes a paste or glue like material. Zede warns this is not a good idea and this warrants saying because she has seen this recommended on a sewing T.V. show once, so this terrible information is out there.
A teflon foot works well for other fabrics with texture or grip to them like leather. Zede uses the teflon foot when she sews pre-strung strands of sequins on garments.
How to join pieces of non-woven materials
Substrates not made of fabric – non woven items, don’t fray. On these types of materials you may not be able to open the seam up without it coming apart (paper) or it may be too bulky (thick foam). You can join pieces of these materials by overlapping them and stitching on top of the seam taking advantage of the fact the raw edges won’t unravel. You can also apply one piece to the other appliqué style by sewing just over the edge of one piece and catching the underneath piece. Depending on the material you may be able to butt the raw edges together and zigzag over the seam. An edge joining foot works well for this application. A blind hem foot may look similar but can not be used as an edge joining foot. The center blade on a blind hem foot extends into the needle area preventing the machine’s ability to zigzag. For more info in how these two feet compare listen here. This joining technique works especially well on By Annie’s Soft and Stable foam and is our favorite seaming method for this product.
Recent non fabric makes
Mallory made a Sweeney Todd themed journal for someone. She designed and printed a cover and pages which she placed into little groups. She used the zipper foot to help navigate the bulk when sewing between the groups of journal pages.
Zede has sewn dog food bags into reusable shopping totes. She notes the dog food bags have the openings sewn shut to begin with.
What bizarre things have you sewn on? Share in the comments.
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