It’s Easy to Make Unique Fabrics with Paper

It's almost inevitable: anyone who loves the pattern and colors of fabric has to be drawn to the vast variety of papers available, both commercial and found. Of course, like the children's story about giving a mouse a cookie, once you have an assortment of beautiful papers, you're going to want to stitch them. 

And once you start to stitch paper, you're going to want to combine it with fabric. We first saw Beryl Taylor do this, and the recipe for fabric-paper is one of our most requested how-tos.

Here is the basic technique.


  • Unbleached muslin
  • Papers (tissue, wrapping paper)
  • Diluted white glue (1 part glue to 2 parts water)
  • Brushes
  • Freezer paper (to protect your work surface)

Optional: Inks, fluid acrylics, dyes


1. Cut a piece of muslin to the size you want to work with. About 18" long is a good starting size. Cut a piece of freezer paper slightly larger than the muslin and place the fabric on top of it.

2. Cut or rip your papers into strips or pieces.

3. Use your brush to saturate the muslin with glue, working from the center toward the edges.

4. Start layering strips or pieces of tissue and paper over the cloth, overlapping and leaving spaces as you go. Saturate each piece of paper with glue and tamp it down so it becomes imbedded in the fabric/glue.

5. If you like, add color during the gluing stage, apply fluid acrylics, inks, or dyes all over or in select areas as you glue. You can also add color later.

6. Allow the sheet to dry thoroughly and then peel it off the freezer paper.

Kelli Perkins was inspired by fabric-paper to create paper quilts, featured in the May/June issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, which led to one of our most exiting reader challenges, True Colors Paper Quilts. In fact, Kelli was so inspired by the idea of combining fabric and paper, she wrote a whole book about it, Stitch Alchemy, Combining Paper and Fabric for Mixed Media Art. 

Kelli is also inspired by el Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead celebration. So much so, she and her husband were married on Halloween and with Day of the Dead decorations! With the Mexican festival approaching, Kelli agreed to share her directions for making fabric-paper Dia de los Muertos ornaments with you.

Festive Dia de los Muertos Holiday Ornaments

By Kelli Nina Perkins

These festive skulls adorned our holiday tree and served as my swap ornaments last year. They're an excellent way to use up leftover scraps of paper-cloth and you can even incorporate plain fabric and bits of decorative paper. Their cheerful grins and colorful faces never fail to cheer me up. Attach one as a present tag and make any gift special. They are open to many interpretations, so make yours unique!


  • Scraps of paper-cloth
  • Black felt
  • Glue stick
  • Black ribbon
  • Black thread

Optional: glitter, embossing powder, embroidery floss

1. Cut a piece of paper cloth into a basic skull shape. Think of a fat figure eight that's a little top-heavy. Make it large enough that you can add cutout features but no so large that it's not an appropriate tree ornament.

2. Cut a piece of black felt slightly larger than the paper-cloth skull.

3. Cut eyes, noses, mouths and decorative motifs out of paper-cloth and tack them down to the skull with glue stick. Hearts, flowers, stars and swirls are common themes.

4. Place your skull on top of the felt and free motion stitch around the outside of the paper-cloth skull base, then around each of the face elements, using black thread in the top and bottom bobbin of your machine.

5. Add embellishments like embossed teeth or glitter around the eyes to make your skull festive.

6. Cut a piece of ribbon for the hanger, loop it in half and sew or staple it to the top of your ornament.

7. If you'd like, add a blanket stitch by hand around the felt edges of your ornament.

Kelli shows more than 80 ideas for creating your own paper-cloth in Stitch Alchemy, so be sure to check it out.

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3 thoughts on “It’s Easy to Make Unique Fabrics with Paper

  1. I’m a long-time crafter and quilter and the idea of creating my own fabric with these paper collages sounds real interesting. My quilt guild asks for small quilt donations for its quilt auction at our annual quilt show. This may just be something different to try for that next year. Thanks for the idea.

  2. As the days grow shorter here in New England, we're drawn to the warmth of firelight: from candles flickering inside grinning jack-o-lanterns to cozy nights by hearth.