Sewing on Cards

by Lori Craig

Use your sewing machine to add interest to paper creations.


  • Sewing machine (Janome Sew Mini) used here

  • Thread Upholstery thread is a thicker thread that looks nice and holds tension well against cardstock and patterned paper.

  • Cardstock
  • Stamps, Embellishments, as desired


  1. Step 1

    Winding the bobbin: As you are facing the front of the machine, place spool of thread on the spool pin at the back right corner of the machine. Place so that thread is coming off of the spool from the right side and lays in front of the spool as you pull it toward the thread guide on the back left side of the machine.

    Here's a guide to help you identify the parts of the sewing machine referenced in this tutorial.

  2. Step 2

    Bring the thread into the upper thread guide and pull into the notch in the middle of the thread guide.

  3. Step 3

    Place empty bobbin onto bobbin winder spindle.

  4. Step 4

    Snap bobbin into place on bobbin winder spindle.

  5. Step 5

    Place thread under the bobbin winding tension disc and pull gently toward the bobbin on the bobbin winding spindle.

  6. Step 6

    Bring the loose end of the thread up thru the hole in the top center of the empty bobbin.

  7. Step 7

    Slide bobbin winder pin to the right to lock it into place. Notice slight difference in bobbin position in the Step 8 photo. This engages the bobbin winding mechanism.

  8. Step 8

    Hold thread directly above the empty bobbin as shown.

  9. Step 9

    Continue holding thread above the bobbin and gently press the pressure foot to start the winding process.

  10. Step 10

    Thread will fill the empty bobbin until you stop pressing the pressure foot or until it fills enough to hit the stop guide to the right of the bobbin winder pin. If you are filling the bobbin with a neutral color, you might as well fill it up. If it's a color you will only use a few times, a partial fill of bobbin thread is fine.

    When the bobbin is filled to desired amount of thread, snip the thread between larger spool and bobbin. The stopper wheel to the right of the bobbin winding spindle will stop the bobbin from over filling if you reach that point, so no need to worry about that. Remove the threaded bobbin from the bobbin winding spindle.

  11. Step 11

    Threading the needle: Bring thread from the back spool pin through the upper thread guide.

  12. Step 12

    Pull the thread gently forward to the right side of the red casing that holds the thread take up lever. Pull the thread all the way down, wrap to the left of the red casing and bring it back up to the silver thread take up lever.

  13. Step 13

    Push thread through the thread take up lever from right to left.

  14. Step 14

    Pull thread straight down towards the sewing needle mechanism.

  15. Step 15

    Gently push thread to the left back side of the needle bar thread guide and tuck it behind the black guide.

  16. Step 16

    Make sure that the presser foot and needle are raised using the toggle to the backside, right of the presser foot to raise and lower. Push thread through the eye of the needle from front to back.

  17. Step 17

    Loading the bobbin: Remove the clear hook cover plate and set the bobbin in front of opening with the thread coming off of the bobbin on the back left side.

  18. Step 18

    Holding the end of the bobbin thread in your left hand, slide bobbin into the machine.

  19. Step 19

    Gently guide the bobbin thread around the hook in the front of the bobbin holder casing and pull thread taut to the left.

  20. Step 20

    Still holding the thread taut with your left hand, replace the clear cover.

  21. Step 21

    Holding both the bobbin thread and the main spool thread in the left hand, gently turn the red handwheel on the far right side of the machine to lower the needle through the silver needle plate.

  22. Step 22

    The top thread will drop into the bobbin casing and 'catch' the bobbin thread. Keep light pressure on the bobbin thread in your left hand and continue turning the handwheel on the right side of the machine.

  23. Step 23

    When the bobbin thread loops up on top of the needle plate, use the nose end of a pair of scissor to catch the loop and pull the bobbin thread to the left of the machine.

  24. Step 24

    Hold both the top thread and the bobbin thread to the left.

  25. Step 25

    Stitching on cardstock: Insert your cardstock under the presser foot, align the needle and drop the presser foot.

    This is a piece of kraft cardstock being sewn to a slightly larger mat of white cardstock.

  26. Step 26

    Lower your needle through the cardstock using the handwheel, and you are ready to begin sewing by applying pressure to the presser foot. The Sew Mini only has one speed, so it's great for beginners and paper crafting.

    Tip for straight lines: Resist the urge to watch your needle as you stitch. Keep your attention to points A & B. "A" refers to where the edge of paper should always rest in comparison to a specified point on the sewing machine. You may use the edge of the presser foot or create a different stitch distance from the edge of the paper with a piece of tape or other point of reference. "B" is the space in front of the presser foot. It is helpful to watch where you will be sewing, opposed to where the needle is currently working.

  27. Step 27

    Steadily stitch your way to the corner of your cardstock. When you approach the corner, use the handwheel to stitch right up to the corner. With the needle in the up position, you can manipulate the paper just a bit either forward or back to make sure your 'corner' turn point is at the same margin you have already created with your straight line stitching.

  28. Step 28

    With your needle in the down position, through the layers of cardstock, raise the presser foot and rotate your cardstock 90 degrees (or as desired).

  29. Step 29

    Drop the presser foot and continue stitching around your project, as desired.

  30. Step 30

    When you have completed the desired stitching, raise the needle using the handwheel, raise the presser foot using the back lever and pull project gently from the stitching area. Snip the project from the machine, leaving 4-5" of thread tail on both the machine needle and the bobbin threads so that the machine is ready for your next use. Trim the threads on the project, close to the paper, leaving no tails.

  31. Step 31

    Finish card, as desired. Sunflower Bouquet from Taylored Expressions and Copic Marker used here.


Questions and Comments

We'd love to get your feedback or questions. Leave your comment below.

Excellent tutorial on a basic. Fabulous photos!! TFS
vicki  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 6:17 AM
What size needle are you using? Love all the rest of the info.
Nelda Lawrence  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 6:43 AM
Nelda, I am not sure what size the needle that I'm currently using. I have replaced the needle at some point, and used one from my other sewing machine. I've looked through my sewing box, and I can't find the package. It's not color coated, and I cannot read the micro-fine print. When it's time to replace the needle, I'll probably order the Janome Red - size 14. Sorry that's not more help.
lori  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 7:28 AM
what needle size are you using and what stitch length?
Mary Doerder  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 7:51 AM
Great tutorial. I really should get my sewing machine out of the box and give it a go!
One day maybe!
Kathleen Mc xx
Kathleen  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 7:59 AM
Mary - see comment above your for needle info. I prefer C for the straight stitch. smile
Lori  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 8:03 AM
May I recommend a cleaner finish to your sewing on paper? Instead of snipping on the front, leave longer left over top and bobbin threads. Remove paper and turn over to the back. Tug on the bobbin thread to bring the loop through to the back and draw the front end onto the back. A clean front is achieved and a little piece of tape secures the threads to the back paper.
Carol Ann Ater  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 9:18 AM
ah! great tip, Carol. thank you!
lori  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 9:20 AM
Lori, you make it look so easy--unlike me when I have attempted this craft (blurting out swear words!!!! ha-ha)...Great, smart, direct tutorial--I will give this another try--Thank you for sharing!
Susanne Gleason  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 9:21 AM
I have tried to sew on cardstock but the paper doesn't seem to feed through properly and the stitches aren't even. It ends up looking really messy. Any advise?
Nancy  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 10:31 AM
Wow, Lori, youi have created a fantastic, detailed tutorial here, especially for those who know little about sewing. I never knew to use the upholstery thread. My sewing machine is out of commission and I'm getting a new-used one next Monday - cannot wait, and will be keeping your tutorial on hand!
claudia zimmerman  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 10:47 AM
I absolutely love how detailed this tutorial is. Thank you so much for all the work and time you put into making this for us. You are so sweet.
Liz Lucero  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 1:34 PM
Nancy - You don't mention which machine you are using or if the machine feeds fabric appropriately, but I'm wondering if it's something to do with your tension settings? If my tension dial (the little dial next to the red plastic thread guide on the front of the machine) gets bumped, it can make a difference in my stitch length and in how smooth or finished my final stitches are. Playing with your tension dial would be my first recommendation. smile
lori  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 1:42 PM
What is the tension number that you are using for paper? I bought a Janome for paper stitching, and didn't like the way the stitches looked, so I switched to my Bernina. That worked fine, but I would like to use the Janome just for paper.
Pauline  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 4:47 PM
Pauline, my tension is set about 2/3 of the way between 1 and 2 - closer to 2. Hope that helps!
lori  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 4:52 PM
Thanks for the tutorial. Always wondered how to sew on cards and been a bit scared to do it as I just didn't know how to go about it. Now I feel more confident about trying it out grin
Jocelyn Knight  |  Wed Dec 11, 2013 at 6:35 PM
A great tutorial for sewing on cards, I am going o try your tip for keeping your eye on the presser foot to keep it straight. I think this tutorial is great for anyone that owns that machine, hasn't used it in a while and doesn't know how to make a bobbin and thread the machine!!! Great JOB!
Carol Valentine  |  Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 8:48 AM
I am curious about stitch length as well. I am not using a mini so I am not sure what a stitch length of C is.
Melinda Everitt  |  Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 9:01 AM
I'm not sure about stitch length. That's what I love about the Sew Mini, it's just too easy for me. It is the longest stitch option. I think longer stitches are better on paper because it reduces the number of holes you are poking, less chance of tearing fibers, in my opinion.
Lori  |  Thu Dec 12, 2013 at 9:08 AM
What a great tutorial, Lori!
Judy Rozema  |  Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 3:27 PM

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