Tutorial – Making Paper Cloth – Updated

Having just  shown some pictures on my blog of items I recently made with paper cloth, I thought perhaps I would do a tutorial the next time I made some.

You will need a large piece of freezer paper, plastic side up.  Your paper cloth will be assembled on this and left to dry overnight.  You can use a piece of muslin for the foundation of the cloth or I have used a product called do-sew, which is a woven product and used to make patterns.  I initially used this because I wanted something a little bit lighter than muslin, but without enough layers of paper on it, it could tear.  So my advice is to use muslin as a base or plenty of layered papers.

Lay your base cloth onto the plastic side of the freezer paper.  Mix a glue solution of half glue and half water.  I prefer to use an acid free glue because I may sell what I make with this paper.  If you do not intend to sell your product, a regular glue would be fine.  With a brush, cover your entire base with the glue solution.  Now the fun begins…

I happened to have some very interesting printed tissue papers that I worked with in this project.

If you have an interesting piece of craft paper or a heavier paper with words or pictures printed on it, you will want to use it in your first layers. The beauty of making paper cloth is the transparency of the tissue paper layers.  If you use a heavy paper on top of the tissue paper, you will lose transparency.

Begin to tear random strips and lay down into the glue solution in various places.

Brush more glue solution over the strips so that they are coated.  Choose another paper and tear and lay strips randomly.

Continue to brush the glue solution over the papers  each time you add new paper.

Keep adding papers to your liking.  After all the papers are down and saturated with the glue solution, let it dry overnight.  This is what it looks like the next day.

Now for more fun…I like the idea of all the colors and layers being transparent so you can see whiffs of them here and there, so I  use paints that are transparent to paint on this surface.  Inks would also be good.  I have recently taken a liking  to Lumiere metallic paints which  is what I used here.  Mixed with some water, they will still be plenty transparent.  I don’t want to completely cover the designs on my patterned papers. I stamped words and lettering on this in two ways…before the paint and after the paint.  I like the words better under the paint.

Experiment with all sorts of ways  of creating paper cloth.  The first time I made it, I painted it and wasn’t happy with the color, so  I gessoed it and tinted it with some more paint afterwards. This is a completely different look than painting it with metallics.

For this paper cloth, I printed out big words in big fonts on regular copy paper and cut them out to add to the collage. This is the piece I gessoed, which gives a whitewashed look.  This turned out very heavy and durable, and after layering it with batting and another piece of cloth, I stitched  a design on it, used Fabrico fabric markers to color it a bit and then made a needle case out of it. Marker colors used are Pine and Brick.

This next picture is the same paper cloth, but it has been painted over  with Lumiere paints…(I love how the metallic paints go down into and emphasize the crackly texture of the tissue papers)…

…then I layered and stitched it, colored it with fabric markers, and added antique buttons. Later I couldn’t stand it and had to stamp it with some handwriting.  No pic of that yet.

I hope this tutorial has sparked your creative juices and given you some awesome ideas for making paper cloth.  Now get going and make some!

Update: Ok, now I have some pics of it with the stamped writing on it.

Here’s the markers I used on these and the next one I made. They are Fabrico markers and are made by Tsukineko.  I sell them but don’t have them listed on my website yet. See this post from February to see how I discovered how to get this softer look on paper cloth. I used colors garnet, pine, and autumn leaf to achieve the look below.  These inks have very rich colors with lots of pigment. I stitched hearts and leaves in the paper below, then colored the leaves and hearts with the markers.

Update: Below is a finished needle case with a “bead” made from Angelina film.  I wrapped the bead with wire and small glass beads.  A stretchy rubber strap makes the perfect closure with the bead.  This piece of paper cloth has metallic paint on it which makes it difficult to photograph…all that shine!

Update: I made some smaller cases for friends…and used a different method to decorate and close them with.  The buttons look good on the ties. This particular sheet of paper cloth used tissue paper with dots on it.  I really love using patterned tissue paper to make the paper cloth with.

Update added on October 17, 2011

Recently I tried another approach to making paper cloth.  This time I decided to leave off the painting and let the papers I chose do the work.  I chose some black and white designs on copy paper and some toile in this one. There is also a black and white image of a tree in there too.

The next one consisted of old sheets of music, stained coffee filters and copper tissue paper.

After these were dry, I dry brushed some gold metallic paint ever so lightly to catch the wrinkly spots.  I really love these two pieces.

And don’t forget…scan them into your computer and you have a never ending ability to use these forever….like making journal covers.

The extra image in the lower right corner is a copyright-free image transfer using TAP transfer paper (which I LOVE, BTW!) because the cover just needed something a little more to add to the nostalgic look.

So to recap the ways I have done this so far:  one way is to look for textures and patterns as your base and plan on painting over them OR let the papers do the work and plan accordingly!  Do a color scheme or a theme.  With these two samples here, I was going for a nostalgic, Victorian theme and I think I accomplished that!

39 responses

29 01 2010
Robin Koehler

Thank you for such a detailed set of instructions. I had printed out a different tutorial in hopes of playing with this in Feb. I can’t wait to get started….I have a show coming up in May.

29 01 2010

You are most welcome, Robin. I am thinking of making more using tisse paper that I put my own designs on and did big handwriting on to see how that turns out. I think the possibilities are endless with this.

29 01 2010
Laura Krasinski

Kathy… I love that you use muslin for the base.. I usually use scrim and it is very thin and hard to work with… I think the muslin would give it a bit of a heavier hand.. I will have to try this next time I make fabric paper.. thanks for sharing your technique.

29 01 2010

You are welcome Laura, and thanks for dropping by!

29 01 2010
Verna Banks

oh thank you so much. I have the book Stitch Alchemy and have been
working my way through it and you have helped me a lot with your
pictures and explanations. I like doing it but it sure is messy. now I will
do some more after reading this.
Verna love your blog.

29 01 2010
Patty VanHuis-Cox

Outstanding entry once again Katherine! I love how you explained the process so thoroughly! Thanks for sharing your time and talents!

29 01 2010

You are so very welcome, Patty, my friend.

29 01 2010
Tawney Mazek

ooooooooooow, I’ve done some ‘textures’ in Photoshop that could be printed and used in the bottom layers — thanks, not only for the how-to, but also the possibilities.

29 01 2010

When you get some made, please share the results on FB! Thanks for stopping by, Tawney!

30 01 2010
Jaime Haney

Wow Kathy! that was a great tutorial! I can see why you made the money comment to me the other day, this is extremely time consuming, but well worth it. ~Jaime

30 01 2010

Thanks, Jaime!

31 01 2010
Ros Dyson

Thanks for being so generous with your ideas – your instructions are really clear, and I am inspired to have a go at this papermaing. Just one query… I am interested to know exactly how do you ‘stamp on the handwriting?


31 01 2010

Hi Ros, It is a commercial stamp that has cursive writing on it. I did write some of my own on the paper too, but the commercial stamp has really small writing on it. Sorry if I wasn’t clear about that. Thanks for reading and commenting.

8 04 2010
Wen Redmond

Love this technique- I’ve done a variation using diluted medium. I like it because it’s a great way to recycle thermal fax inkjet prints. Thanks for your through post!

9 04 2010
Bethany Garner

Hi Kathy – this is such fun. I have wanted to add paper cloth to my collection of techniques and you have made it look so easy! I belong to several art quilt groups here in Kingston, ON Canada and we love to PLAY with your techniques -we all use Stitch Alchemy as a guide often!


9 04 2010

Hi Wen and Bethany, Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I have been thinking of making more paper/cloth and plan on doing it today…I have some cool paper with black drawings and words on it that I think will make a cool base. Will post when it is ready. I’m also giving thought to using it to make journal covers….just need more time…!

9 04 2010

Bethany, It is so good to hear from neighbors to the north. Wow, several art quilt groups…? That’s amazing. Wish we had some in the area I live. It is good to hear you are enjoying stuff from my blog…thanks!

17 05 2010
Marilyn Kilmartin

Hi Kathy,

I absolutely love your work. It looks etheral. I have read Stich Alchemy and it says to use muslin or cotton cloth. I have soooo many cotton pillowcases which are taking up space in my linen cupboard, and thought they would be the ideal material and size for this medium. I look forward to seeing more of your art.

Kindest Regards

3 07 2010

Hi Kathy,
Thank you for a really clear tutorial – really easy to follow with all the pictures. Do you think this would work if you scrunched up the tissue paper to give texture, or would that make the top layer too fragile? Am just off to try.

4 07 2010

Hi Tina, Yes, you could scrunch the tissue paper and see what happens. If you’ll notice in the pics above, the paper does tend to scrunch and make crackly lines as you add the glue/water mix. Please let us know how scrunching the paper before collaging works for you. I’m interested in how that works out.


12 12 2010

OMG! What a great tutorial! I didn’t realize you had tutorials since I’ve never scrolled all the way down the page and really wasn’t looking for them. This is wonderful. Way better than mine! And such beautiful paper! Wow!

23 01 2011

Thanks, Lynda, but I thought your paper was great too! Everyone’s turns out different.

30 01 2011

I have tried doing this a few times in the past. Is it your experience that it turns out super stiff and curled? Any way to make it more relaxed and flexible?

31 01 2011

Terri, That is part of the reason I used do-sew, which is a thinner web like product used to create dress patterns. The other thing you might investigate is your mix of water and glue. I use about a 50/50 mix. Anything more than that would probably make it much stiffer. Also I notice that using regular copy papers makes it stiffer too. If you use only tissue papers it would be softer, but then you want to have enough substance that it won’t tear in the future with use. And yes, it always curls a bit when you take it off the freezer paper.
To sum up: heavier paper will make it stiffer and more glue than water in the solution will make it heavier. I don’t necessarily find this a bad thing if you want durability. My first experiment with this used a lot of copy paper. After painting and using gesso and stitching, it felt a bit like leather!
If you are wanting something more relaxed and not stiff, definitely use only tissue paper. I think that will do the trick.

31 01 2011

Thank you for responding…. I will try it again bearing in mind your tips!

1 02 2011

wow- beautiful inspiration- I have made a few sheets of papercloth, and have been hesitant to do anything with it. I’ve been afraid of sewing it and breaking my needle. I guess I just have to dive in and do it. I can always put in another needle.

1 02 2011

Those needles just sew right through it Susan…give it a try!

23 06 2011

I was thinking about making table cloths out of newspaper for my wedding, do you think I could do that with this technique??

23 06 2011

Hi Veronica, thanks for coming by and reading my blog. Bear in mind that the finished product from this technique is rather stiff. I could see table toppers or centerpieces being made with this technique but not sure I see something that needs to drape being made with it. Paper cloth has no drape because of the glue.

17 10 2011

GREAT tute, Kathy!!

18 10 2011

Great updates! That lettering you added really changed the look of that piece. I really liked it before but now the before looks too plain:)

22 01 2012

I am definitely trying this. They are beautiful. Thanks for the tutorial.

22 01 2012

Thanks, everyone, for reading!

5 03 2013
Faye Day

Kathy –
This is the best tutorial I’ve found on creating paper cloth. I love the process and appreciate all the detail you’ve provided. Thank you.
Faye (in snowy MN)

5 03 2013

Thanks for visiting and commenting Faye! I keep adding to it as I discover more. Since you are probably snowed in right now…are you making paper cloth?!

Katherine Sands creator of wild hand dyed fabrics kathy@katherinesands.com http://www.katherinesands.com blog at http://www.katherinesands.wordpress.com Author of “A Tale of Two Lambs” coming out 2013 In God I Trust

31 10 2013
Update For Today

[…] is an update on Making Paper Cloth with a new photo of a finished needle case made with the paper […]

24 01 2014
Caroni Lombard

I’ve been making paper cloth since I found Stitch Alchemy in the library in November, It’s perfect for me because I love fabric, paper, sewing, painting, quilting, and so on, and also hate the idea of throwing pretty bits and pieces of things away. You can keep it fairly inexpensive, as hobbies go, if you don’t feel you need all the fancy materials.

The first project I did was to make “Good Fortune Birds,” following instructions in the book. I sent them to my 96-year-old mother for Christmas. She has dementia and they are a great reminder to her of me as they hang on her wall. She was very happy to hear I made them, as she does remember my liking to do things with my hands.

Since then I have made crazy quilt pieces from which I have made several bookmarks. The bookmarks are really nice because they are over-sized and have a felt backing so they don’t slip out of your book. Besides, they are so pretty! I have personalized them for the people I have given them to by sewing on hand cut letters.

Your tutorial is more attractive than other ones I have seen so far. I like the colors you use. Thanks!

24 01 2014

Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment Caroni! Note that I am now blogging at a new location: http://katherinesands.com/blog
Everything here is over there though. I love this process too for all the reasons you mentioned above. Thanks for reading.

24 09 2016

Love the colors, and the end products! Thanks for sharing your art!

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