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How to Sew Paper Tags and Cards to Use in Junk Journal

How to Sew Paper Tags and Cards to Use in Junk Journal main article image
Posted on February 22, 2021 by Julie Richards
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It is possible to sew paper tags and cards so you can use them in your junk journals and other paper crafts. The stitching adds another layer of texture and element of interest to the page in a junk journal. Sewing paper tags and cards also give them a more finished look. You also get to try out some of those cool stitches on your sewing machine.

Yes, you can sew paper tags and cards with many of the embroidery stitches that come on the newer model sewing machines. Any sewing machine works to sew paper tags and cards. It is the last thing I do when making paper tags and cards. Think of it as putting the hem on a skirt or blouse; it completes the project.

Stitches and length

A straight stitch on paper just perforates the paper fibers so you wind up with a section of paper that tears off. Since the needle pokes holes in the paper, it is important to space the stitches far enough apart that the thread shows the pattern but the needle doesn’t perforate the paper. The best way to avoid this problem is using the zig-zag stitch set at the longest stitch setting. I recommend the zig-zag stitch if you are just starting out sewing paper tags and cards.

Every sewing machine is different and some have more stitching styles than others. These other stitches need to be set on a longer stitch length as well because the result is a tiny bit of paper on the back of a group of pretty stitching that falls off your paper or card. The beautiful embroidery stitches do work as long as the stitch length is long enough. Keep in mind that using a longer stitch length may alter the way the embroidery stitch looks. It is best to practice on several types of paper and card stock before stitching on your paper craft project.

Alternating stitches

Once you master sewing paper tags and cards with one stitch, don’t be afraid to switch up the stitching pattern mid-stitch. Adding a different stitch in the middle of a zig-zag stitch and then going back to the zig-zag stitch looks very good on the side of a paper tag or card. It adds another texture and decorative element on the paper. It’s a bit like doodling with thread on your paper tag or card.

Change Stitches

Types of Thread and Needles

The size of thread and needles used when sewing paper tags and cards is extremely important. The best result when sewing a single piece of paper or card stock is with a fine needle and a thin thread. A needle and thread used for blue jean or other thick material will tear your paper apart. Not to mention the build-up of litter inside your bobbin casing that could damage your machine. I will discuss that a little later. Just remember that paper needs the smallest needle and the thinnest thread you can find.

Colors of Thread

I love using a spool of thread in one color and another thread color on the bobbin. The beauty of this is you wind up with two different colors on either side of your paper tag or card. This comes in handy if you do what I do and decorate both sides of the tag or card. I match my colors of thread according to the various designs and elements already on my card or paper tag. As an example, I may use two colors of the flag for a national holiday or red and green threads for Christmas cards or gift tags. If I am sewing paper tags or cards for Easter, I use two different pastel thread colors.

When you have the thread spool and the bobbin thread two separate colors, sometimes you may want the bobbin thread color on the front of your paper project. Simply flip your paper tag or card stock over and sew as usual. Your bobbin thread is now your main thread color on the front of your paper tags and cards.

Layering Papers

Sewing machines have their limits!! There are only so many layers of material the motor can push the needle through. This holds true with paper as well. I suggest testing your machine before stacking an entire group of papers only to find the needle bends or breaks and the sewing arm gets stuck. This can permanently damage your sewing machine.

Tell-tale signs your sewing machine is struggling when you are sewing paper tags and cards is breaking thread, the needle starts bending when going through the papers and/or the needle simply does not penetrate the stack of papers. My sewing machine is older and handles about 12 to 15 pages just fine. The needle breaks if I use more.

It is best to see how well your sewing machine does with three or four pieces of paper and slowly add another paper until you see the needle struggling to penetrate the paper. You then know the limits of your sewing machine.

Card stock is much thicker than paper and your sewing machine will not be able to sew through the same number of cards as it does paper. I only sew a layer of two cards because I do not want to damage my machine.

I cannot stress this enough. You must use common sense and not try to push the boundaries of your machine when sewing paper tags and cards. A sewing machine is expensive and so are the repairs.

Sewing Textiles on Paper Tags and Cards

I create my paper tags and greeting cards with different textures, ribbons and lace. I sew fabric or paper ruffles on the edges, sew lace at the top of pages, or keep it simple with a small group of colored fibers. I limit the layers of paper to two and use only one layer if it is card stock.

I use a zig-zag stitch set to the longest length when sewing these elements to my paper tags and cards. Even though there are fabrics and fibers, the needle still perforates the paper using a short straight stitch. With handling and use the stitching on the paper will eventually tear away from the rest of the piece. Err on the side of caution and use long stitches when sewing textiles on your paper tags and cards.

Avoid Glue Build-up

Paper crafts often involve glue. I use four different kinds of glue when I create my paper craft or junk journal projects. I use care when applying any of the glues to my papers or cards that I plan to sew. Since I mainly sew along the outer edges, I only apply glue to the middle so my sewing machine needle does not come in contact with any glue residue.

Glue residue can get on your machine’s needle and cause serious issues. The first is the glue can clog the eye of the needle. The glue may get onto the thread and cause it to break or even tear your paper tags and cards as it penetrates the surface. The bits of glue stuck on the needle can drop off in the bobbin casing and really gum up the entire system.

You may want to add certain things on the edges of your tags and cards that cannot be attached by sewing. I encounter this problem every day in my craft room. My solution is sewing the paper tags and cards first and then add the other elements on once I’m done stitching. This way I know there is no glue build-up on my needle or inside my machine.

Clean the Sewing Machine

The final tip I have for sewing paper tags and cards is to make sure you take care of your sewing machine. Many people do not realize that lint and dust builds up in the bobbin case. The debris can get into the machinery and cause problems with your sewing machine. When you sew paper not only do you get bits of fiber from the thread but you also get paper dust that builds up as well.

Clean this debris with a small paint brush that is clean and dry. Simply open the compartment that holds your bobbin and use the paint brush like a mini broom to sweep it out. The feed dog needs cleaned as well. This is the part directly under the needle point that feeds material through the machine.

When you clean your sewing machine, take the time to oil it. The dirt and debris you removed in the bobbin casing is like fine dust and floats to other parts of your sewing machine. Set up a schedule to clean and oil your sewing machine on a regular basis when you use it for sewing paper tags and cards. Your sewing machine will thank you for it!


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