Though Marlene Debeljak usually works with fabric for the purses, bags, clothing, and accessories that she creates for her Cleveland, Ohio, area business, , for the last few years she's been experimenting with sewn-paper crafts—and the results are gorgeous. "It's something different and fun," says Marlene, who will be doing a demonstration on sewing with paper at the Ikaroo Fair in Atlanta on October 21.
Though a lot of people are afraid of sewing with paper because it's a different texture, it's pretty strong, Marlene says. "I've sewn letters on vintage book paper and it's surprisingly durable," she adds. "People ask how I keep it from ripping, but it doesn't if you're just sewing a straight seam or a little zigzag."
Holiday time is a good time to experiment with sewn-paper crafts, Marlene says. "Everybody has scraps of old wrapping paper that they're not sure what to do with," she says. "Some of them are so pretty that you don't want to throw them away, especially vintage paper. Make something with that!"
There are many options for holiday crafts made with sewn paper—Marlene has made gift bags, advent calendars, greeting cards, and more. "I did Ho-Ho-Ho bunting on vintage dictionary paper with red embossed paper that is really pretty," she adds. "It reminds me of old library wallpaper. Then I did a little Santa hat at each end of it and embellished that with crepe paper that I folded and sewed in rows."
Plus, there's always garland, she adds: "Everybody has probably some punches, or you could cut-out shapes, and then just start sewing a straight line through each shape, connecting them with the stitch."
Check out some of the gorgeous sewn-paper holiday crafts Marlene created and her instructions below, but first, a few of her pro tips to keep in mind:
- Use a regular needle and regular thread and just sew your usual straight line.
- Keep the bobbin area clean. Sometimes the paper leaves a little more dust or filaments than the fabric does.
- Tack pieces together with small rolls of washi tape instead of pins.
1. Sewn Greeting Cards
Supplies: Cardstock, old postcards, embellishments
- Cut cardstock to desired size for card and fold in half.
- Cut out interesting postcard and sew to cardstock.
- Embellish with rick rack, buttons
2. Handmade Gift Bags
Supplies: Paper, ribbon
- Cut 2 identical pieces of paper to desired size of bag.
- Machine stitch sides and bottom of bag.
- Insert gift and stitch top closed.
- Stitch ribbon at each side of bag for handle.
3. Advent Calendar Strips
Supplies: Wrapping paper, small treats or coins, vintage holiday stickers or number stickers
- Cut 2-4" strips of wrapping paper to desired length.
- Stitch lengthwise down side of strip.
- Stitch horizontal line about 3" from top.
- Stitch another line about ½" below that to allow space to cut off rectangle with treat.
- Fill each rectangle with small treats.
- Stitch lengthwise down other side of strip to seal.
- Decorate with stickers.
4. HO HO HO Bunting
Supplies: Vintage dictionary or hymnal pages, pretty red paper, white crepe paper, twine, clothespins
- From red paper, cut out 3 of each: letter H and letter O and 2 Santa hats.
- Center letters and hats on book pages and stitch letter/hat to book page.
- Machine gather or pleat crepe paper.
- Stitch crepe paper in 2 small rows to each Santa hat to form fur brim and add a small piece at tip of hat to form pompom.
- Cut twine long enough to fit letters/hats with extra at each end.
- Hang each letter/hat with closepins to twine.
5. Winter Sparkle Table Runner
Supplies: Assorted glittery craft paper squares (12" x 12"), paper doilies
- Center a doily on each paper square and stitch diagonally from corner to corner to hold doily
- Arrange squares diagonally in a row, overlapping corners and stitch straight across length of runner.
- Doilies can be decorated if desired.
See Marlene Debeljak's sewn-paper demonstration at the Ikaroo Fair in Atlanta, Georgia, at on October 21 at noon on the Kitchen Stage. The Fair will be open October 21 to 23 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily, offering great shopping from over 200 vendors; cooking, crafting and DIY demonstrations; locally sourced, artisanal food; and a chance to meet our editors and other special guests! You can purchase tickets in advance at .