Monday, November 15, 2021

Stenciling and Stitching on Cabinet Cards

Stenciling and Stitching on Cabinet Cards

As the name of my business implies, I am wildly attracted to Ephemera. 


/əˈfem(ə)rə/ noun - things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time."There were papers, letters, old boxes—all sorts of ephemera"

I chose it as the name of my shop/studio as almost every supply list for art workshops in mixed media I attended had it listed. When visitors come in the shop and ask what it is, I tell them it is items of memorabilia, typically written or printed, originally expected to have a short life, but salvaged and savored by artists in collage. 

When I see stacks of cabinet cards or other old photos in flea markets or garage sales, I feel compelled to rescue them. Although their highest and best use is to be with their family, I rationalize that, when separated from their loved ones or relatives, being in art is better than being in a landfill. I hope they feel the same way. 

We have been stitching quite a bit in the studio lately and someone sent a remarkable “Pin” related to stitching on Cabinet Cards. I dove down that rabbit hole and quickly made a Pinterest Board of my favorites before giving it a spin, myself. And, I added the twist of using stencils with my beloved Daniel Smith Gold Gesso to add a pattern to stitch upon. When stitching through something painted, I always go for non-sticky paint or gesso. 

Here are some things I learned:

  1. I used painters/light masking tape to try and mask the faces on one card. Unfortunately, when I removed it, it took up the delicate photo. After that, I relied upon visuals to avoid stenciling where I wanted no paint and just tacked the top of the stencil to the top of the card. I could have also carefully placed a piece of paper atop parts to keep paint free, sandwiched between the stencil and surface.
  2. Not having the flexibility of the fabric to stitch on, straight up/down stitches worked the best like Running Stitch, Backstitch, and Straight Stitch. Also, stitches that sit on top of the card like French knots and Lazy Daisys worked well.,
  3. I used an awl and metal ruler to mark my stitch holes on straight lines so that my stitch lengths were consistent. I was extremely careful near the edges of the cards so as not to create a hole on the side. 
  4. The stencils proved to be a great guide as you will see. Although I stayed to more geometric shapes, to begin with, I can now imagine using all kinds of shapes and adapting my stitching to them. 
  5. I used a variety of threads to stitch with including 6-strand embroidery floss and Perle cotton. As the hole you create with the awl is larger than one would usually make in fabric with a needle, use a thick enough thread so your knot won't slip back through it. 

My first go was with this pretty lady where I experimented with a flower in her hair and gussied up her necklace with French Knots. 

Then, I got more adventurous. Out came the Gesso and Stencils. 

I didn't realize it until I started writing and looked up the stencils I used, but both came from StencilClub of which I've been a member for years. The circles on the left were designed by June Pfaff Daley for the June 2021 StencilClub, and the one on the right was in the March 2021 Mary Nasser & Mary Beth Shaw Mash-up - Love those two!

Using an awl and cutting mat I punched through the card where I wanted to place a stitch. 

Mr. Moustachio was begging for tons of French Knots and a dapper flower on his lapel.

This sweet young woman looked a little lost so I gave her a map with lines in Backstitch and long straight stitches 

This project brought back warm memories of the Stitching Cards my mom got for me at Woolworths. Have a great time and if you try it, let me know. I think I am going to get even more adventurous in my next rounds!

Happy Stitching!



  1. Delightful idea - thanks, Kristin!

  2. These are fab! Just moved, but saved a bag of embroidery floss thinking I might need it for "something", lol. So glad I kept it!


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