Embroidery on Paper: Holiday Gift Tags

Last week I was at Swedish Language Camp at Concordia Language Villages at Bemidji, MN. Part of the program is about culture and we did a couple of crafts with paper. One evening we recreated the heart and birch leaf iron works found in the cemeteries. Here is my interpretation.

During camp, we learned a lot of the Swedish proverbs and how they came about. So, one afternoon we put together handmade folded books to write our phrases in. Here is my proverbs book.

Working with the different forms of paper craft got me to thinking about today’s newsletter…

Embroidery on Paper

The history of embroidery on paper may be traced back to the late 1700’s when pin pricking was used to adorn cards and enhance painted pictures. However, in the 1980’s, people really returned to creating handmade cards and personalized scrapbook pages gained popularity. As the pages and cards for more elaborate, embroidery on paper became popular once again. A lot of the credit goes to Dutch designer Erica Fortgens. In the early 1990’s she began writing books with patterns and instructions. She branched out to include tools and templates. Today the sky is the limit to what you can do with embroidery on paper, so let’s get started!!


Embroidery on paper can be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make it! The nice thing is you only need a few tools to get started. A Piercing or Pricking tool is needed to make the holes in the paper. The tools come in grades (size of hole made): extra fine (348-271-0007), fine (348-271-0008), and coarse (348-271-0009). They also come in a set of 3 (348-271-0006). To cushion the paper when piercing, you need a good piercing pad (348-271-0010).

Tapestry needles are needed in several sizes. Match the tapestry needle to the size of your thread or fiber. You want the eye of the needle just a little larger than your doubled fiber so the fiber will go through the punched holes smoothly.

You can use your own designs or pre-punched templates. Templates are available for different uses and designs, such as Hardanger borders (348-271-0021), corners (348-271-0022), and stars (348-271-0024).

Please have a pair of scissors to use only to cut the paper. Don’t use your embroidery scissors!!

Start collecting a variety of embellishments including Mill Hill beads, glass and crystal treasures, buttons, charms and silk ribbons.

Gather up cardstock, scrapbook paper, laces, trims, ribbon, stickers and other embellishments.

The thinner Stitchery Tape (7410) works great for attaching your projects to cards or finishing the tags you can make later in this newsletter. You will also need a roll of regular tape to secure your stitching threads.


The best way to learn embroidery on paper is just to do it. So, here are some quick project ideas for…


Supplies needed:

  • Pricking tools
  • Floss & Fibers
  • Pricking mat
  • Scissors
  • Tapestry needles
  • Cardstock
  • Ruler
  • Buttons, beads, embellishments
  • Marking Pen or Pencil
  • Tape, regular and double-sided tape

Decide on your tag size. Here a couple of examples for a long tag, diamond or square. You will have a larger tag that you will write your "To & From" on. On the other side, you will tape your smaller embroidered paper piece. That piece will be slightly smaller as shown on these tags. Enlarge the designs to the size you desire.

Download the Templates

For two-color gift tags, choose the color you want for the top part of the tag, which is also the one you will be doing your embroidery on. Place your design on the front of the tag where you want the pattern to be. You can secure it lightly with a piece of tape or hold it firmly while you punch. Place the tag on the pricking mat. Punch out the design carefully following your design. The hole you punch should be about the size of your thread, except where you will have multiple threads going into the same hole, make that hole a little larger. When punching the holes, you want to keep the tool vertical. This will help keep the holes even. If you don’t like the ridges turn your card face down and gently rub over the holes with the back of a spoon to help flatten the ridges.

After you punch your holes and before you remove your template, hold the template and paper up to a light to be sure you have punched all the holes. If you make a mistake and punch a hole in the wrong place, you can place a bit of clear tape on the back of the paper, covering the wrongly punched hole. Once you have punched all the holes, you can carefully remove your pattern revealing the punched design.

Stitching the Design:

One nice thing about this technique is there are no KNOTS on the back of the piece! You will use a piece of tape to secure the beginning and end of each thread. Also, when you finish the tag, you will back it with something else, so no one will actually see the back of your piece.

Thread a needle with about 18" of thread. Start from the back of the tag, pulling your thread through until you have about a 1" tail. Tape that tail down out of the way of any punched holes. Begin stitching your design according to the directions. Do not pull your thread very tight or you will end up ripping the holes. When you are finished stitching, tape down the end of the thread on the back, then cut the thread.

When you have finished your design, make sure all the ends are secured and trimmed. You can cut out your tag with regular or scalloped-edged scissors. Put double-sided tape on the back of your stitched tag, as close to the edge as possible, going all the way around. Position it on the larger tag, and press firmly when it is in position. Punch a hole in the end for a tying ribbon. Get creative by adding buttons, beads, ribbon, or lace. The possibilities are endless!

Here are some designs you can use for your tags! Resize them to fit your tag or project.

Heart – The stitching sequence is very important for this design. Come up from the back at #1 lower left. Tape your thread end down on the back. Go to #2 in the upper right and stitch to the back. You can stitch like a regular Rhodes heart, #3 to #4, and all the way around. This will be bulky on the back so you can come up at #1 and down at #2 and then move over to come up at #4 and down at #3. However, be sure not to pull tight or you will rip your paper. Finish the design with the final stitch combination up at #21 and down at #22. Secure your thread on the back and trim. I used 3 ply of Weeks Dye Works #4153 – Berry Splash.

Download the Templates

Snowflake – When punching the holes, make the center hole a little bigger as eight threads will go into this hole. Stitch the snowflake according to the design. A suggestion is shown on the pattern. I used 1 strand of Rainbow Gallery Wisper-88 – White.

Download theTemplate

Star – When punching the holes, make the center hole a little bigger as ten threads will go into this hole. The stitching sequence is up to you. Just be sure to complete a stitch for every line on the pattern. I used 1 strand of Rainbow Gallery 8-strand Treasure Braid-TR83 – Gold.

Download the Templates

Ho Ho – You need two small buttons for the "O’s". Stitch the "H’s" first and then position the buttons. You can glue the buttons down and then stitch through them and "tie" the button on. I used 1 strand of Kreinik #8 Braid #332-Candy Cane.

Download the Templates

Angel -Punch the angel wing points and top of the body just a little larger because of the number of threads going through the hole. For the body, wings, and head I used Ribbon Floss #142-3 Gold and for the halo the 8-strand Treasure Braid.

Download the Templates

Want to learn more?? Stitching Cards has a butterfly pattern with instructions to show you how stitch the beautiful butterfly and how to put a card together. Nordic Needle has a fabulous selection of Embroidery on Paper books to choose from.

We hope this guide makes your stitching easier and more enjoyable!

For those interested in using this article or others published by Nordic Needle, Inc., please use this copy when referencing the information:

“The following article was written by Debi Feyh of Nordic Needle and published in their weekly e-mail newsletter. Permission was granted by Nordic Needle to share this article in (name of your publication). For information on subscribing to their weekly e-mail newsletter, visit www.nordicneedle.com. A free mail-order catalog is available to you upon request if you live in the USA or Canada.”

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