Perforated Paper Embroidery - Punched Paper – Leah Nikolaou

Perforated Paper Embroidery - Punched Paper

Embroidering into paper card can be traced back to pin pricking paper in the 1700s, but it wasn’t until the Victorians invented perforated technology that paper embroidery or 'punched paper' became a craze.  

Victorian embroidery designs

What is Perforated Paper Embroidery?

Perforated paper embroidery, most commonly referred to as punched paper or punched cardboard is a method of stitching into pre punched 'perforated' paper card, invented by the Victorians.  Just as traditional aida fabrics have ‘x’ number of holes per inch, the papers had evenly spaced holes worked to the inch.  The holes were made with specially cut dyes, some as fine as the example below.

Victorian cross stitch

Perforated Paper Cross Stitch Bookmark

This bookmark measures approximately 18.5cm (7.25 inches,) the paper part, 16cm (6.25 inches.)  The ribbon would then have been even longer, it's evident that this ribbon has been trimmed on one end. The ribbon would probably have been at least the  length of an average book spine.

Victorian embroidery patterns

This Victorian bookmark remnant is a perfect example of perforated paper cross stitch.  This one has somebody’s initials and a date, with the paper hand sewn onto a length of ribbon.  The holes are absolutely teeny, about 22 holes in an inch and the embroidered thread crosses really fine cross stitch-work.  

This was typical of a bookmark of this time which also commonly had stitched sayings taken from the bible.  I did a quick search on-line and found similar bookmarks that read, ‘Jesus Wept,’ ‘Pray For Me,’ ‘Feed Thy Lamb’ and ‘The Lord Is Thy Keeper.’  

Mottoes were used to encourage people to behave properly and were staple embroidery designs for not just book marks but greetings cards and larger pieces of wall art.  Paper was now affordable and making small sentiments and gifts reflected the high standards of proper etiquette the Victorians lived by. Stationary and paper goods played an important role in society as it’s popularity continued until 1910.  

Victorian embroidery in paper

This bookmark has a date, possibly a date of birth.  It could have been made by the embroiderer for herself or as a gift so would probably be late 18th century.  The embossing of the elaborate boarders also help date it as this was a technique not developed until about 1840 which again suggests that it's late 18th century.

Stitching Paper embroidery

How To Embroider Perforated Paper

It has been well documented that the Victorians worked cross stitch the Viictorian way. Victorian Cross is done one stitch at a time, moving behind the first stitch to do the cross over. Today we tend to work across a row with one half of a cross then back the other way, which saves thread. From the reverse of the bookmark you can tell that the embroidered crosses were done in lots of different ways.

Victorian embroidery on paper

The back of this piece isn't uniform and pretty messy in places.  It is likely that it would have been embroidered by a child or person with disability which was common with paper embroidery.  Paper embroidery even back then was recognised for its therapeutic benefits which I love.  

To learn more about punched paper, head over to Claudia Dutcher Kistler's website.  She is a collector of perforated paper with the most incredible collection of bookmarks, samplers, sewing/needle cases and artwork from this time.

Or discover how to create your own unique contemporary paper embroidery with Leah's paper embroidery designs.

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