Cross stitching on perforated paper
Updated: Aug 10, 2020
If you have seen perforated paper for cross stitch but have no idea what you would do with it or maybe have no idea what it even is, then read on to find out all you need to know...
**I also have a free love heart sweets pattern designed just for you to have a play with stitching on paper.**
Perforated paper is is an alternative to fabric that you can cross stitch on. It's called paper but I would say it is more of a very thin card and it has a regular grid of holes punched in it.
I have so far only found it available in 14 count, which is a shame as I would LOVE if there was a 16 count since that's my favourite to stitch on.
I have only used the Mill Hill perforated paper which comes in A4 sheets that can easily be cut to whatever size you need. Depending on where you live there may be other brands available.
It comes in it's natural colour as well as a huge variety of painted colours and even metallics. I have only tried the white so far but am thinking of trying metallic for Christmas projects some time.
In terms of cost, and based on my go to UK online shops, the white perforated paper is about the same price as 14 count white Aida, but the painted versions are a little more expensive.
So when would you use perforated paper for cross stitch?
I think this is a good point to mention that perforated paper is very much not a new thing; the Victorians were crazy for stitching on perforated paper and used it to make greeting cards, small tokens, and even trinket bowls.
I like to use it for layered designs because you can create a lovely 3D effect by putting several stitched layers on top of one another. It's also perfect for hanging decorations or ornaments, small keepsakes or fridge magnets. You can also use it just to give a bit more depth to to a design for a greeting card or gift tag.
If you want even more ideas for things to make with perforated paper then I have put together a list near the end of this article.
The bottom line is that you can stitch pretty much anything on perforated paper, even if the pattern wasn't designed for this!
An alternative to perforated paper is perforated plastic canvas but I personally find this quite irritating to stitch on. Paper has more flex in it and it's also lighter which can be handy if you want to put lots of layers together. Even if you are stitching just one layer as an ornament then I really don't find you get much extra sturdiness using plastic over paper, especially if you back it with card or felt.
How do you cross stitch on perforated paper?
Start by cutting a piece of perforated paper that is the size of your design plus a small border. You don't need much of a border as it will just get cut off at the end, but it can be useful to have about 3cm on each side to hold onto, and if this gets dirty it will be trimmed off. This is more important than you would think; don't forget...it's made of paper so you can't wash it at the end!
One great thing about perforated paper is that it doesn't fray BUT you might find that your threads catch on the edges as you stitch. If this happens a lot, you can trim the edge right up to a row of holes to leave a smooth edge.
You may read that there is a right side and a wrong side to perforated paper, and this is true but may not be super important. The right side may feel a bit smoother and you may be able to see and/or feel the edges of the holes on the wrong side. If your paper is painted then it's easier to tell as usually only the right side is painted. My final thought on this is that if you can't easily tell then it doesn't matter. Oh, and unless you are leaving any of the paper unstitched and on show then it really really doesn't matter!
As I've mentioned, perforated paper is fairly sturdy but it is still paper so it is possible to rip or crease it. Make sure not to pull your threads too tight as this can rip through the holes. You won't need to put it in a hoop or frame to stitch on so if this is what you usually do for stitching on fabric then have a little play to get the tension just right. I only ever stitch in hand so it felt 'normal' for me!
I recommend using a slightly bigger needle than you would for 14 count Aida so it doesn't drop through the holes. When you push the needle up from the back it can soooo easily just drop right back out again, and won't stay put like in fabric. This happened to me quite a bit when using my standard size 26 needle before I realised that switching to a size 24 needle might help...and it did! Now, you might think that another answer to this might be to use the sewing method of cross stitch but this is not ideal as to do this you have to bend the paper a bit and that might cause it to crease or split.
On the flip side, you don't want the needle to be too big as this might tear the holes especially accounting for the thickness of the thread too.
Which brings me to the number of threads to use...and this is really a matter of personal preference.
On 14 count Aida most people use 2 threads so that would be the same for 14 count perforated paper. However, some people like a little more coverage on 14 count and would use 3 or even 4 strands of thread. I love the density you get with more than 2 strands and used 4 strands for my stacked snowflakes, but it is a little harder to stitch with and uses a lot more thread, so for the love hearts sweets I just used 2 strands. On a practical note, you can only use the loop start method for 2 or 4 strands. I suggest you test it for yourself and see what you like, but I did stitch a sample to give you an idea of how it looks with different numbers of strands... from left to right is 2, 3 and 4 strands.
- don't run threads a long way across the back without catching them down through some stitches
- don't run threads across any gaps as these can be quite visible through any unstitched areas of paper
- keep the back as flat as possible
- if using 2 strands, you can ensure the best possible coverage by 'laying' your threads or railroading (if this means nothing to you go ahead and Google it as there are lots of tutorials out there and I don't have one...yet!)
This is worked exactly the same as on fabric but if you are using a design not intended for perforated paper then be aware that you won't be able to place backstitch half way between holes or in the middle of stitches.
I use the same size 26 blunt needle for both the cross stitch and backstitch, but you could switch to a sharp needle if you find that easier.
You can't stitch these on perforated paper...or can you? I came across a technique that allows you to do 3/4 stitches, but I think that is something for another time!
For cutting out round the design I use a pair of small sharp scissors (not my embroidery scissors, obviously!) but you could also use a craft knife.
Most often, you will cut around the design through the next row of holes away from the stitching, but depending on the pattern and the intended use you could leave more or cut a patterned border.
I usually cut through the centre of the holes which will leave very slightly serrated edges, and I like how this looks. If you prefer a smoother edge then cut slightly further towards the stitching, but I find this can run the risk of accidentally snipping your stitching so be very careful!
Things to make with perforated paper designs
Once you have cut out your design there are lots of ways to finish the project and here are just a few ideas;
Fridge magnets: back with felt and add a small square of magnet tape or a small round magnet
Hair clips: back with felt and attach to hair clips
Bookmarks: cut out a long thin design into a bookmark shape and back with felt or attach small motifs to a rectangle of card
Pin/brooch: back with felt and attach a pin to the back
Greeting cards or gift tags: glue motifs straight onto a folded greeting card or tag, or use sticky foam pads to attach for extra depth
Cake toppers: glue motifs onto circles of card and attach a kebab stick to the back then push into cakes to decorate
If you're feeling inspired to try cross stitching on perforated paper then go and check out my free love hearts sweets pattern and be sure to let me know how you get on; you can share your pictures on Instagram with the #catkinandlillie.
Until next time...happy stitching!