Adding Embroidery to Your Collages

Add an eye catching design to your collage projects with this embroidery technique from If You Can Cut, You Can Collage. It’s the perfect way to add fun details with and texture to your designs.


As much as paper on paper makes for infinite magical combinations, you can achieve fascinating textural interest by adding embroidered elements. You can also use embroidery to outline, add color, create a path that leads the eye through your work, or add a narrative element. If you haven’t experimented with embroidery before, warm up those nimble fingers by stitching on some scratch paper. If you go off the path or make some unwanted pin holes in your active collage, don’t worry—we have solutions for that. You can stick with thread and fill the area over the holes with the satin stitch or look back to the “Techniques” section for ideas and branch out. This is collage, after all! Glue a patch, find a sticker or tape, get a bigger needle, and make twenty more intentional holes for texture. Keep an open mind, don’t get frustrated, and remember that the options are endless.

• sturdy paper
• masking tape
• pencil
• needle
• embroidery floss or thread

This technique works best with thicker paper such as Bristol board, mixed-media paper, watercolor paper, or cardstock. You want it to be sturdier than copy paper, but thin enough to easily push a needle through. (If you are going to use thinner paper, make sure you don’t skip the second step!)


1 – On the paper, sketch out the path you want to follow with your thread. A light pencil is best for lighter surfaces, but if you’re sketching on a darker surface, a black pen or a white colored pencil will work perfectly. You will be covering the marks with thread, so don’t worry about making it visible enough to not lose your way.


2 – Once you plan the position and path of your embroidery elements, flip your paper over and add a strip of paper tape, such as masking tape or low-tack artist tape, to the back side of the planned area. This will add extra durability to the substrate and keep the paper from tearing through. Place your paper on a window or lightbox if you’re having trouble finding the path from the back of the paper.


3 – Pick a color, thread your needle, tie a knot at the end, and start stitching! Just like many things, experimentation is key to getting the look you want, but there are some tried and true stitches to get you started. My favorites are the satin stitch to fill larger areas with color, the back stitch or split stitch for lines, and French knots for perfect little dots of texture.


4 – When you have reached the end of your path or the end of your thread, whichever comes first, tie a knot on the back of your paper close to the surface. You want to pull it tight enough so that it doesn’t slacken but not so tight that it might rip through. If there is excess thread, trim it off so there is a tail of about 2 inches (5 cm).

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If You Can Cut, You Can CollageIf You Can Cut, You Can Collage is specially designed for people who feel like they can’t make art. Want to know a secret? You can! You just need a little inspiration, instruction, and confidence.

Collage is a wonderful creative outlet, particularly for people who want to make art, but don’t feel they have the skills or confidence for other endeavors. You can still explore and experiment with colorcomposition, and various themes and end up with exciting and often unexpected results.

If you Can Cut, You Can Collage takes some of the mystery out of collage through easy illustrated pages that show you the basic techniques of collecting and cutting imagery, composing and adhering compositions, and then provides a wealth of exercises that get readers going on their own creative projects.

We’ll get you started with simplefocusedprojects like making a collage with only circles, where you’ll learn important concepts like how to create a focal pointhow to use repetition successfully, how to achieve contrastbalancesymmetry, and more. You’ll be incorporating vintage ephemera, typography and lettering, and even urban and found materials in no time!