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.

Hey Lori...great video and pic tutorial! I know this is a lot of work to put together...and it's sooooo appreciated by many! hug!
Lori Barnett  |  Fri Dec 13, 2013 at 7:01 PM
For anyone having trouble with tension, I suggest you try one colour for your top thread and one for your bobbin. Then you will see which one is not correct. If you have the bottom thread coming through to the top, tighten bobbin a bit and slightly loosen off the top tension. If the top thread can be seen on the underneath, tighten top a bit and slightly loosen bobbin tension. Both threads should meet in the middle and a slightly larger stitch length will make it easier to see as well. I'm a machinist and this is an easy way to fix tension problems. I'm going to give sewing on cards a go, looking forward to a different look.
Sylvia Smith  |  Sat Dec 14, 2013 at 6:30 PM
Thanks for the idea of using different colors
Liz Lucero  |  Sun Dec 15, 2013 at 2:40 AM
Very helpful!!!
Thank you
LaDonna Park  |  Sat Dec 21, 2013 at 6:58 PM
Hi Lori,

Could you tell me what upholstery thread is and where I can buy it ?
How does it differ from the usual threads that I use when sewing material ?
Many thanks for a great tutorial.
Val Sowerby  |  Sun Jan 5, 2014 at 5:42 AM

Everytime I've bought it, pholstery thread is with regular sewing thread, usually on one of the rows toward the bottom of the display unit. It's just a bit thicker than my other threads, and I think it looks nicer against the needle holes than thinner thread.
Lori  |  Sun Jan 5, 2014 at 8:01 AM
If you don't sew that is a great beginner's tur. on how to thread machine. but if you sew that was a ok tur. i thought maybe we were going to have a exotic, jazzy, sewing on card extravaganza.
Kat White  |  Mon Jan 13, 2014 at 12:14 PM
OMWord, Lori, can you just come to my house?! I bought a beautiful Janome while living in Arizona. I am big trouble when my spool of thread runs out! *laughing* I'm so intimidated and I don't know why. I have actually sewn on my cards but boy I have a death grip on the machine. My issue is stopping at the right time to make my turn and... keep the same margin on all sides. I was going to try the zig zag stitch for one of my DD cards but I had to do a straight stitch instead. For some reason the needle kept stitching in the hole of the foot. Lori, I need help! I'm a hot mess when it comes to using my sewing machine *laughing*

I'm going to study this video like nobody's business. I'm so glad you've done this tutorial - so glad. Maybe I'll learn how to thread my machine *hahahaha* Oh somebody help the girl!!

Susie Lessard ~
Susie Lessard  |  Fri Jan 17, 2014 at 9:45 PM
Susie! Thank you for the sweet note! When I am approaching corners or tackling circles or anything more than straight sewing, I use my hand wheel A LOT. I just have a lot more control that way. Try that on your corner turns. smile Hugs ~ Lori
Lori  |  Mon Jan 20, 2014 at 9:38 AM

I am very good friends with sewing atore owner/repair technician. I've also been sewing since I was a girl and I've sewn professionally. It is extremely difficult for the average person to adjust their bobbin tension. It really is something they shouldn't be touching. I don't even like to touch mine! Adjusting it can mean turning the tiny screw 1/64th of a turn and most people turn it way too much and cause more problems than they started with. If a machine is clean and well-serviced to start with (most are not) any tension problems should be solved by adjusting the top tension ONLY! Most people don't even know where the bottom tension screw is! I know you meant well but if someone needs advice on sewing on their cards they are new to sewing so be careful about what sort of advice you give and how much is too much for beginners. When serviced, the tech will set the bobbin perfectly.

Machines should be serviced at a minimum of once a year and since all of you live too far away to give business to my friend, this is genuine advice. Lint, dust and other crud build up inside and will gunk up the mechanisms. Even adhesive if you aren't careful to keep it away from the needle. Imagine what that does to the motor! $50 or so every year (or two if you stretch it) will keep your machine functioning. Like an oil change for your car! You can ask the tech to quickly show you how to clean your machine. The manual should also tell you how and most reputable stores you buy a machine from include a class with basic machine functions and maintenance included.

I know many of you have mini machines that didn't cost that much so I guess you can clean them yourself as much as possible then run them into the ground and buy a new one. But for the cost of a decent die cutter (or less used) you can buy a machine with much better stitches, far better resale value and that can be cleaned which I highly recommend. More environmentally responsible too.
Rebecca Ednie  |  Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 3:42 PM
If you have trouble making the turns at the corners, try this. Before starting to sew, place a tiny pencil dot at the corners. Measure to make sure that's where you want to turn. When sewing, aim for those dots.

If you aren't going to hit them perfectly, stop one stitch (or less) short of them, lift the foot while holding your card still and slowly lower the needle (always turn the wheel towards yourself) until it pierces the dot. You may have to move your card around a tiny bit until you get the right spot. Turn the card to the new direction in which you want to sew with the needle as a pivot point and put the foot down again. Continue sewing and repeat.
Rebecca Ednie  |  Wed Jan 22, 2014 at 3:51 PM
Another tip - use your oldest needles - the ones that have gotten dull or burr-tipped. They make larger holes in the paper - who cares if they are raggedy - you WANT to show the stitching, right?? And I use the largest tipped needles (usually about a #14, for denim) so there is little tension with the thread passing through the holes. I usually use stitch length #4, but my machine does not feed the paper well - very slippery, so I am prepared to guide the paper throught , GENTLY. I don't like to fight with my machine - I LOVE my machine - so I have to COAX it to sew on paper. Have YOU ever tried to poke a needle through cardstock or cardboard - that's why we use a paper piercer or awl - be sure to thank your machine after a tough workout!!
PS I keep my dull needles handy in an old clear salt shaker!!
kathy w  |  Thu Jan 23, 2014 at 7:24 AM
Impressive! I have tried this and wanted to throw my sewing machine at the wall!!!! hahahahahaha Maybe too much hope and caffeine? hahaha Great tutorial!
Susanne Gleason  |  Fri Feb 21, 2014 at 7:40 PM
I often use transparent thread for my bobber - that way I don't have to keep changing it.
Cindy Close  |  Fri Aug 11, 2017 at 10:31 AM

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