Stitch Up Some Versatile Mixed-Media Art Papers

I just learned a quick and easy mixed-media art technique to use in a variety of art projects, and I couldn't wait to share it with you.

detail of road trip mixed media collage by jenny cochran lee
Detail of a mixed-media collage
by Jenny Cochran Lee.

This technique, which I learned from mixed-media and collage artist Jenny Cochran Lee, involves paper crafts and stitching. The results make great textured backgrounds, can be used in collage and art journaling, and can also be combined with other mixed-media art techniques and projects.

What I like most is that this technique allows you to use a variety of papers from your stash: art papers, painted papers, printed papers, scrapbook and found paperseven scraps from other art projects.

To make these stitched papers you'll need:

  • Papers (see examples above)
  • Sewing machine and thread
  • Tissue papers and other lightweight papers
  • Matte medium and a brush for spreading
  • Scissors


stitch a grid on the collages papers
After stitching the papers together to form a
sheet, you stitch them again to form a grid.

1. Cut your papers into squares or rectangles approximately 3" – 4" wide by a similar length. The number of pieces you need depends on the size of the finished stitched paper, but try starting with enough pieces to create a finished pieces that's approximately 9" x 12".

2. Take your cut pieces of paper to the sewing machine and begin stitching one piece to another, both pieces face up, overlapping them slightly. Use a large needle (such as a jeans needle) and go fairly slowly. Keep adding pieces until you've stitched a patchwork of papers to create a sheet of your desired size.

3. Now, stitch over the paper to create a grid: Start at one end of the paper and stitch down the length of it. Turn the paper around 180 degrees and stitch the length again, approximately ½" – ¾" away from the first line of stitching. Continue until you come to the other edge of the paper. Then, start stitching the lines across the width of the paper (perpendicular to the first set of lines) until you have completed the grid.

applying tissue paper to the stitched paper
In a still from her WorkshopTM video, Jenny shows
how to add tissue paper shapes to your stitched paper.

Note: Thread color is up to you; choose black for a graphic quality or a matching color if you prefer. Also, don't worry if the lines of stitching aren't exactly evenly spaced.

4. Take your tissue papers and cut them into shapes, such as circles, thin rectangles, etc. Alternatively, you can tear the papers into small pieces. You might want to mimic some of the patterns in the papers you've stitched.

5. Spread matte medium on the tissue pieces and place them here and there on your stitched paper, whatever looks best to you. Let dry.

6. At this point, you can use the stitched paper as a background for collage, journaling, and mixed-media art-drawing and painting over the piece as you desire. Or, you can cut shapes out of the stitched paper to use as a focal point in other art projects. The grid stitching will hold the cut pieces together. You can leave the cut edge as is or stitch around the perimeter, just inside the edge, to create a more finished piece.

cut out shapes from stitched paper
You can cut shapes out of the stitched paper to
create embellishments for your mixed-media
collages and other art projects.

What a great way to get your paper stash out of the bin and into your art! I have plans to create a lot of these stitched papers with my gelatin prints and watercolor experiments. Making up a bunch of these stitched pages for future use is a great way to spend an hour or two in the studio when you just want to relax and play.

If this technique intrigues you, you will love Jenny's new Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video, Add to, Undo, & Redo: Stress-free Collage Techniques. In it she demonstrates fun, no-mistake collage and mixed-media art techniques with paint and stitch, layering and un-layering to create unusual mixed-media textures. You'll want to play all day!

P.S. How do you store your art papers? Bins, files, drawers? Piled up on your work surface? Do you separate them by category? Share your storage advice below.