Machine-Sewing on Scrapbook Pages: 5 Tips

by Lain Ehmann on August 1, 2011

I got a question on the ScrapHappy Q&A call the other night about sewing on scrapbook pages. I figured I’d create a little blog post to document my suggestions!

Tip #1: Invest in a solid sewing machine.

DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT buy the Sew Crafty Mini Sewing Machine. In a word, this thing sucks. It is downright awful. I bought one for 40% off the ticket price of $15-ish dollars, and THAT was too much to spend. Just don’t do it. I have taken a poll and NO ONE likes this thing. Don’t be fooled by the price. It’s a total waste if you can’t use it (and this thing is UNUSABLE, trust me. A cheap piece of junk).

Instead, get a hand-me-down GOOD sewing machine from a neighbor, a lady at church, or your mom. Or from a rummage sale or on (I wouldn’t buy from eBay just because you want to be able to test it before you plunk down your cash).

Kenmore and Singer are great names, and even a sewing machine from 1972 will work just right (as will a treadle sewing machine. Those things were built to last!). You should be able to pick up a working, used sewing machine somewhere in the neighborhood of $25-75. I just did a Craigslist search and came up with PAGES of results in the $50 range. You really only need something to do straight stitch and maybe a zig-zag, so don’t think you need tons of bells and whistles for your paper sewing; you don’t.

If you don’t want to spend even that much, I suggest finding a friend who has a machine you can borrow every once in a while and test out. You may fall in love with stitching and end up investing in your own!

My machine is a Baby Lock Natalie. I paid about $150 for it new on clearance (the shop was going out of business). I would normally not spend this much on a machine just for scrapbook pages, but I do some craft sewing and a bit of garment sewing, too (for the girls) so I knew it would get put to good use. I’ve been really happy with it.

Tip #2: Find a Mentor. I hate reading instruction manuals, so it was much more fun and enjoyable to call my sister and have her help me figure out my machine. Threading the darned thing is completely counter-intuitive! But if you can’t find someone local, watch videos online. They’re the next-best thing to having someone to call and say, “What the heck is a bobbin?”

Tip #3: Change Needles Often. The needle will get dull, particularly if you are sewing through several layers of paper and/or cardstock and/or chipboard. By changing the needle, you can ensure it will glide like buttah. :) Needles are relatively inexpensive. If your sewing machine is starting to rip your paper instead of sew it, you may be in need of a needle change. (Definitely change needles if you borrow someone else’s machine, or if you are sewing paper and fabric!)

Tip #4: Practice. Before you put needle to the card or layout you’ve just created, test out your skills on scrap paper. You want to know how to start and stop, turn corners (it’s easy to do if you stop with the needle in the down position, then lift the little latch-thing that raises the foot, and turn the paper, then put the latch-foot-thing back down), and create designs. You also want to test stitch length; what might look good for a pillowcase or skirt won’t look so hot in paper.

Tip #5: Keep It Simple. Don’t think you have to change the thread color for every page, or do fancy stitchwork. Keep it simple with red, black, or white, and you’ll find it matches most everything! It also keeps down on the number of bobbins you need to have on-hand, and on the number of times you need to thread and rethread your machine.

Tip #6: Have Fun! (Yes, this is a bonus tip, in case you were counting…!). Sewing on your scrapbook pages (and pretty much anything having to do with your scrapbooking) should be fun, not anxiety-producing. If you’re getting all stressed out, step away from the machine. Try hand-stitching, faux-stitching, or just plain lines drawn with a pen. No one will ever look at your pages and say, “Wow, you really should have stitched that.” If they do, send ‘em to me. ;)

P.S. Here are a couple of recent pages I created using my sewing machine:


  • Susan Lower

    I’ve always wondered about using my machine to sew paper. No more stitching pages by hand for me!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve heard other people like the Janome Mini (which is about $50), we can’t seem to get them in Canada, but I just ordered the Kenmore 1/2 machine, which is the same and even made by Janome. Not bad for people who only want to stitch on pages. I am super excited to try it, it comes on Friday :)

  • lsalthouse

    These are great tips and make machine sewing so much more accessible. I got a “D” in sewing in Home Ec!! – so I need all the help I can get.  :) 

    Also, I have a question: I signed up yesterday for your Define Your Style from A to Z class. I received the Day 1 email, but have not yet received today’s email for Day 2. Is there a certain time those are scheduled to go out each day? Just curious, and excited to get that next email!! Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    It’s addictive! :)

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t seen those but will keep an eye out! I’ll be interested to hear what people think. Let me know how you like your Kenmore!

  • Anonymous

    Heya!! We had home ec in school but the lady was mean and weighed everyone in front of the class and rang a cowbell if you were overweight… so i opted to take drafting instead. :)
    You should receive the daily email at the same time every day. If you didn’t receive today’s, check your spam/junk mail and then email me at We’ll figure it out for you!

  • lsalthouse

    That is terrible!! Can’t believe a teacher would get away with something like that.

    Just got the email, now I understand how it works. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Isn’t that horrid? Ms. Slick was her name. UGH. This was 1982… I guess things were different! But hey, I LOVED drafting. I was the only girl in the class for two years. ;)

  • Traci Tracy

    That was me!!!! I love that you really do read the questions and take the time to answer them. My brand spanking new Singer just arrived on my doorstep and I cannot wait to play with it and see what I can do.  The way you stitched the hearts on the first layout is totally awesome. I’d love to show you what I come up with (when I actually make something good enough to share). Should I upload it to Flickr or is there somewhere else on scraphappy I should post? Thanks again :) You made my day.

  • Cassie Beeze

    WoW!  Thank you so much!!  I am allergic to sewing machines!  Period!  I have seen Pages and projects where sewing was added to add that extra touch!  Would it possible to do designs too eg: scrolls and shapes. Have you used normal cotton? Are there different types??  Sorry to ask but my dear mother would faint at even the near mention of sewing paper with her precious machine…!  Thanks for the insight, I am inspired :)

  • Anonymous

    You know, if you change the needle and blow out the lint regularly, it won’t hurt your machine at all. After all, it can’t be worse to sew on paper than on, say, denim! (I broke so many needles trying to peg my Levis in high school!)

  • Anonymous

    Hey Chica!
    Definitely add to flickr – and then send me an email letting me know! I can’t wait to see!!!!! xxoxoox

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  • Kellye Kimmel-Fondren

     Wow, I didn’t even have to take PE after 9th grade in OK. I graduated in 1983 and they didn’t ring cow bells even at my Jr High School in TX where I went before I moved to OK. That is just downright HORRID! Can you imagine how many complexes that teacher gave to so many female students and the anorexia and bulimia she probably caused?

  • Alice Boll

    Great tips Lain! Love how you threw a bonus at us too. I featured this post as ‘Today’s Scrapbook Wonder’ on the Scrapbook Wonderland Facebook page today. You can see my ‘share’ here:

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    Great tips! So glad I didnt buy that sew crafty machine! I am a garage/yard “saler” for sure and I will definitly keep my eye out! Glad I found this page!!!

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