Quick Project: Stitched Postcards

Studio Saturdays is taking a short break. Please enjoy this previously published blog post! ~ Jeannine

Adding stitching to your mixed-media art doesn’t require a sewing machine, a ton of supplies, or expert sewing skills. It doesn’t even require fabric. I used simple embroidery techniques to make stitched postcards, and I love the effect—every time I pick them up I run my hands over the stitches and am drawn into the photographs. I’m always amazed at how a simple row of running stitches on paper can have a huge impact on artwork, lending color, texture, and pattern.

The supplies for this project are minimal—4″x 6″ watercolor postcards, some vintage photos, acrylic paint, and embroidery thread and a needle. Not shown are rubber stamps, which were added to the painted layer. The watercolor postcards are so convenient—no cutting required, they’re ready to go.

Supplies to make stitched postcards
Just a few simple supplies are needed to make these stitched postcards, such as embroidery thread and acrylic paint.

To begin, I scraped paint over the postcard with an old credit card, layering analogous colors. I used three different palettes for the three cards, and it was easy to combine shades close on the color wheel. You can use a palette knife for this as well, and it’s a great technique for quickly covering the paper.

Adding acrylic paint with a palette knife
Applying acrylic paint with a palette knife or gift card is a great way to add swaths of color to a substrate.

When the paint was dry I added some stamped images with white paint. This allowed me to juxtapose the vintage photos with a modern, abstract background. The effect is subtle, and doesn’t distract from the photo.

Stamped and painted postcards
After painting, the cards were stamped with abstract designs.

After gluing the photos onto the cards I started stitching. I added simple, random straight stitches to one card, using embroidery thread in complementary colors that popped against the background.

Random stitches add texture and interest to a collage
Random straight stitches add texture and interest to this collage.

Quick tip: Unlike stitching on fabric, once you make a hole in paper with a needle, the hole is there permanently. To ensure correct stitch placement, when coming from the back, punch a hole in the front, then continue to sew.

For the next card, I added a circle filled with French knots in two colors of embroidery thread. French knots are easy, even for a first-timer, but you can also fill in the space with small straight stitches, or a satin stitch.

French knots on stitched postcards
Practically any stitch you can do on fabric, you can do on paper, like French knots.

I had penciled in three circles, but after creating the first one I liked the way it looked and erased the other two.

Stitched postcard with French knots
Creating stitching in complementary colors helps it pop even more.

For the third card, I made a funky flower with the lazy daisy stitch and two rows of running stitches. Don’t worry about making your stitches perfect—they’re supposed to look like they were done by hand.

Quick tip: Rubber needle pullers (also called needle grabbers) can help get a needle through thick papers. These small rubber discs are available in fabric stores and online.

You can use stitches to attach and combine papers and fabrics, of course, but stitching works great on its own as a decorative and textural element. Try it with collage and assemblage, too, and see how it can truly transform a piece.

Have fun making stitched postcards, and add some hand or machine stitches to your next collage, monoprint, textile piece, or art journal page. You can even stitch through a stretched canvas. The resources below offer fantastic techniques and ideas for your next project.

Learn how to stitch a tiny textured landscape in this article from Cloth Paper Scissors!

The Art of Whimsical Stitching by Joanne Sharpe
Learn great creative stitching techniques that combine with mixed media in The Art of Whimsical Stitching by Joanne Sharpe.
Art Lessons Vol. 11: Tiny Textured Treasures, by Deborah Boschert
See how stitching can add texture and dimension to fabric collages in Art Lessons Vol. 11: Tiny Textured Treasures, by Deborah Boschert.
Sewn Collage Classroom: 15 Techniques for Paper & Fabric with Kristen Robinson
Explore paper and fabric sewn collage techniques in the video Sewn Collage Classroom: 15 Techniques for Paper & Fabric with Kristen Robinson.




Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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