sewing 101: paper-stitched place cards

Thanksgiving dinner may be just hours away, but there’s still time to add some last-minute DIY details to your table. If you find yourself with a few free moments tonight or tomorrow morning, that’s all the time you need to whip up these super-quick place cards. In this project, we’re sewing directly onto paper, which is fun and easy and can be done with a sewing machine or by hand. You can make each of these cards in mere seconds, so really, they’re about as easy as opening a can of cranberry sauce. Happy Thanksgiving! — Brett Bara

CLICK HERE for the full how-to after the jump!


  • card stock
  • a variety of patterned papers
  • a few different colors of coordinating thread
  • sharp scissors for cutting paper
  • double-sided tape or glue stick (optional)
  • sewing machine or sewing needle


About Sewing on Paper

Sewing on paper with a sewing machine is very easy and quite similar to sewing fabric. Just set your stitch length a bit longer than normal (something around 3.5 mm is good) and stitch away! Depending on the texture of the paper you’re sewing, the layers may tend to shift; in this case, use a tiny amount of adhesive (such as double-sided tape or glue stick) to hold the layers together before sewing. Keep in mind that sewing paper tends to dull your needle so after a paper project, you should put a new, sharp needle in your machine before your next fabric-sewing project.

If you don’t have a sewing machine, it’s easy to sew paper by hand. To do this, first adhere all your pieces with adhesive. Next, place the paper on a cushion or piece of foam and with a T-pin or a needle (use a thimble to save your fingers), pre-punch the holes along the path where you will place your seam through the paper. Then, thread your needle and simply weave in and out through the holes.

1. Cutting

To begin, cut your card stock into your desired shape and size. I made mine 3 1/2″ x 2 1/2″.

Then, cut out the embellishments. To make the pinwheel shapes, just cut a freehand circle and then snip notches all around the perimeter. To make the flags, simply cut small triangles.

2. Sewing

All that’s left is to sew the cut-out pieces to the place cards. If you’re sewing by machine, remember to load your bobbin with the same color thread you’re using in the needle (if you skip this step, the mismatched bobbin thread will show through on your stitches).

For the flags and pinwheels, just sew a single line of stitches across all the pieces.

To make the plaid or the stripes, simply sew straight lines — you can just eyeball the placement. Add each color one at a time; to avoid re-threading your machine a zillion times, work assembly-line style and sew all the cards using the first color, then switch to another color and sew all the elements using that color, etc.

To finish off each seam, carefully trim the ends of the thread. Note that the thread tends to unravel since its ends are unsecured; if you plan to use these cards for one event only, this shouldn’t be a problem. If you want to save the cards and use them again, you can make the ends more secure by pulling both threads through to the back side of the card and tying them in a small knot before trimming.

Tent Variation

To make tent-style cards, cut card stock pieces to 3 1/2″ x 5″. Using a straight edge and a scoring tool or the tip of a spoon or butter knife, score down the center of the card, dividing it into two 3 1/2″ by 2 1/2″ sections. Fold along the scored line to make the tent shape, then stitch on one side of the tent.

  1. Rose says:

    Very cool Brett! Simple, but has a big impact.

  2. Libby James says:

    I am SEW crazy about these! I am not having Thanksgiving at my house, but you better believe I will find the perfect occasion to make these. Thanks for the cute idea.

  3. Samhain Moon says:

    With mixing and matching, the possibilities are endless. You gave me a great idea for christmas!

  4. sparks says:

    Very cute. I might try this for Christmas.

  5. katie says:

    I love sewing on paper! And what a cute placecard idea! :)

  6. Love it! I’ve been on a big sewn paper kick lately. For all the cards and notebooks in my shop, I prefer hand-sewing because I think you can get a really nice texture from some of the hand embroidery stitches and it just feels cozier to me. But machine sewing is certainly quick, plus if your machine can do embroidery stitches that can be fun as well!

  7. Sewing into paper is a big part of my business, and I’ve found that a 70/10 needle works best for card stock. You have to test the tension a bit to get it into a sweet spot — it’s a bit different than fabric. I use white thread in the bobbin to match the paper and color for the top stitch, which works out nicely. I’m a big fan of pulling the top thread to the back and tying it before trimming — I just tug gently on the bottom thread in the back and then use a seam ripper to grab the little loop and pull it through. Happy sewing, everyone!

  8. Tamar says:

    these are really awesome! i’m not having thanksgiving dinner but maybe i’ll do something like this for our holiday cards. thanks for a great diy project!

  9. These are really beautiful and so doable. Love it.

  10. Karyn says:

    Beautiful and perfect. Thanks! and happy Thanksgiving to all.

  11. Mary-Grace says:

    Ok, these are adorable. Now I’m even more bummed that my sewing machine is broken! Dying to try these … maybe it will be fixed in time to make a Christmas version:)

  12. linda says:

    Great idea…I love how a little stitching makes everything better :)

  13. artsy ant says:

    Very nice! These are beautiful.
    I did something similar before for my sister’s baby shower. Love the fabrics you picked.

  14. Meredith says:

    I am in love. I’ve been asked by my college roommate to design her wedding invites and this is the perfect mix of being affordable and whimsical.

  15. Dreamalittle says:

    Love this idea, so simple but unusual!

  16. what a great idea, I loved the media mix and I will be using them for invitations to a Baby shower we’re hosting.
    Thanks for sharing!

  17. Lisa says:

    I’ve often made those little flag cards for baby showers or birthdays. Sometimes I stamp a word (but writing works too). They’re always a big hit.

  18. Kofoworola Lawson says:

    Hi, all have seen so far are all very lovely designs i wish i can make something like that

  19. Nancy says:

    Love these! Would love to make a series of notecards like

  20. Liz B. says:

    thank you for this post! i’ve been paper-stitching ever since and recently wrote a post with similar inspiration

    thank you for sharing your creative card making!

    liz b.


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