DIYdiy projects

diy project: hand-embroidered note cards

by Kate Pruitt

It’s a challenge for me to send out timely thank-you notes, or any kind of note for that matter — birthday cards, holiday greetings, you name it. I think if I had the notes all ready to go, pre-stamped and piled in the top drawer of my desk, then I might be able to master the art of proper correspondence. I’d love to send out these hand-embroidered thank-you notes* from Anne Weil of Flax & Twine; they have a great textural quality and would be very inexpensive to make. I imagine the recipient would love the note so much, he or she may not even notice how late it arrived :) Thanks for sharing your tutorial with us, Anne! — Kate

*If you love these notes but don’t feel like embroidering them for yourself, you’re in luck! Anne will be adding them to her Etsy shop soon.

Read the full how-to after the jump!


  • envelopes (leftovers from your stationery drawer)
  • paperboard (chipboard, cereal box, cracker box)
  • embroidery floss
  • embroidery needle
  • sewing machine
  • scissors and ruler or paper cutter


1. Cut a piece of recycled paperboard to fit the leftover envelopes at the bottom of your stationery drawer (4.25″ x 5.5″ is a common card size). The cards need to be cut smaller than the envelope size to fit easily.

2. With your sewing machine and NO thread, sew some lines at varying stitch lengths for running stitch, back stitch and chain stitch. Or try a large zigzag stitch with your machine. For a more advanced option, with two rows of parallel lines, you can create the blanket stitch, feather stitch or herringbone stitch (note that the spacing and relative positioning of the lines is critical for these stitches). If you aren’t familiar with the embroidery stitches mentioned or shown here, check out this resource for easy how-tos of the basic stitches.

3. Using either the hand crank or single-stitch function of your sewing machine, sew an area of concentrated holes for French knots. For daisy-stitched flowers, begin with a center hole. Then, using your sewing foot as a spacing guide, sew a pin-wheel orientation of holes around the center hole. An embroidery needle alone can go through paperboard, so you can free-hand a bit, but I find it helpful to have consistently stitched holes as a guide.
4. Your finished embroidery canvas should look something like this:
5. Using the holes you’ve stitched as a guide, embroider the card. Please note that you will need to work one stitch at a time — paperboard is not flexible enough to bring the needle back-to-front multiple times in one stitch.
6. Have fun playing with all sorts of stitches, patterns and colors.
7. Voila! Hand-embroidered thank-you notes.

Suggested For You


  • I love this idea, but if we don’t have a sewing machine, what do you suggest using to punch the holes for the stitches?

    • A sewing needle. First lightly draw a design in pencil on the card stock paper, then put dots fairly close together by using a sewing needle following along the design line that you just drew. With each dot, push through with a sewing needle from the front to the back, then turn it over and push through with the sewing needle from the back to the front. Do this with each dot.

  • I love making hand embroidered cards! This color combo is great.

    Lizabeth – I never use a machine, I either just use a needle and poke in the holes free hand, or I draw with a pencil first and then poke with a needle.

  • What a lovely idea! Definitely going to give this idea a go, I think I actually have all the necessary bits at home already…

  • You can buy a little paper punch tool from Michaels (or another art store (and just punch through the paper using a layer of thick, preferably, dense, foam behind your project. For designs, you can use anything – print outs off the web, stamps you already have, or your own designs. Just place it over top and punch out the pattern. Then sew. Its very easy :D

  • so if I used a cereal box, the back of the box would show the cereal box + all the knots? Anyone have good ideas for covering that up?

  • For those without a sewing machine, I think a pin would do well, and for those who find themselves stranded on a desert island but STILL want to attempt this, the tip of an unfolded paperclip for those who are extremely desperate. Just my 2 cents!

  • To cover the knots and “cereal” side, cut a piece of color construction paper to size and glue over after embroidery is done, you can also use scrap fabric. You can also print a design from online, lay it on top of your card and make the holes every 1/4 inch or so. You can really make ANYTHING.\

  • Thanks for the comments everyone! So excited that many of you like this. The paperboard is thin enough that you really can free-hand it, or draw on your design with a ruler and follow the lines. I like to machine sew another piece of paperboard on the back to hide the back of the card. Doing this also adds nice weight and substance to the card. But I love the fabric scrap idea from above too!

  • I would like this also as an addition to paint or collage on a card. I need to take your suggestion Kate of making a bunch of cards and having them ready, because I always intend to make a card and then wait too long!
    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • @ lizabeth – you can buy a quilting tool called an awl which is pointy at one end. the big advantage of this over a needle or pin is that the other end is a proper handle, which means you don’t hurt your hand :)

  • @ lizabeth (and anyone else without a sewing machine)

    When I make embroidered c ards, I use a pushpin to punch individual holes into a pattern. Place your card against some thick scrap cardboard, and either go freehand or put a template on top of the card.

  • Thanks so much for this great idea. I was just looking at all my embroidery books and threads yesterday, so this is a very serendipitous post!

    If I didn’t have a sewing machine, I would try using an ice pick or large opened safety pin. Mark lines and spacing with a ruler to get evenly spaced holes or overlay the cardboard with grid paper.

    I ‘m thinking I’ll try lining the back of the cards I make with a cotton lawn or calico fabric with a pinked edge or maybe a decorative paper with a scalloped cut edge to hide the knots.

  • Can’t count the number of hand-stitches I’ve used on cards over the years, but I would NEVER have dreamed of using the sewing machine to pierce. It’s GENIUS!!! I’m completely blown away! Gorgeous how you get a relaxed composition with it as well. I use a hand held paper piercing tool, but now I have to add the machine in. Thank You (a million times over).

  • My grandmother used to stitch little covers in my notebooks when I little, I hadn’t thought about it for years, but now I am definitely going to try it myself using your advice! Thank you!

  • If you would like to embroid thin paper, instead of recycled paperboard, how do you prevent the paper from ripping when you embroider through? Any suggestions?

  • If you don’t have a sewing machine and don’t trust your freehand, there is a scrapbooking tool you can buy; it’s a little wheel with spikes all around it. You run it along your paper and it makes the holes for you.

  • Beautifully done! I work at a sewing studio and am always on the lookout for interesting projects. My personal stationery stash could also use some new additions so I’m excited to try these. Thank you for the inspiration and instructions!

  • I do a lot of paper embroidery and ther is a special tool for punching the holes and it comes in different sizes also. For classes we use a pin with a large head to make it easier to hold. I always tape both ends of my tread with scotch tape so you don’t have knots showing on the front of the card. It is very relaxing to do this.

  • Thanx Nancy,would love if you could share the name of the special tool you use to punch the holes & if there is an online store i can buy it from. Also,do you or your classes have a website to look at to see your work? Would love to hear more of your tips,tricks&techniques…

  • Also, If you have any cool vintage pre-made cards that you’ve acquired. I got a bunch from great-grandma’s and such. They are great to embellish with your own stitches as well. Adds a ton of dimension and added coolness to those already awesome but super old cards to give them a brand new life.

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