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What Is Card Embroidery?

By Cindy Quarters
Updated May 17, 2024
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Embroidery is a type of craft where the user creates pictures by outlining and filling them with different types of thread. The thread is applied by stitching it in place with an embroidery needle, a kind of sewing needle that has a large eye to accommodate the embroidery thread. Although this is most commonly performed on fabric and is often used to create wall hangings, decorative pillow covers and other such items, other materials may also be used as the foundation for the embroidered picture. Card embroidery is a variation of embroidery where the thread is stitched onto a stiff card instead of a piece of fabric.

While it is not certain how far back the practice of card embroidery goes, the technique appears to have been used as early as the late 1800s. There is a reference by Laura Ingalls Wilder in one of her books, “The Long Winter,” to making Christmas gifts for family members using foil-covered cards and embroidery thread. Materials may have changed somewhat since that time, but the general technique has remained the same.

There are two main steps to follow when creating card embroidery projects. The design is usually pre-printed on the card before embroidery begins. While there may be a few people who create card embroidery designs without using such a design, in most cases having a pattern is vital to the success of the project. Holes are then punched into the card for the thread to slide through. This makes it easier to create the stitches and pull the thread through the card without snagging.

Many times card embroidery is used as an enhancement to a photo or design printed on the face of the card. In this case, the card embroidery becomes and accent rather than the whole picture. Various stitches can be used around the edges or at different spots in the picture to frame it or to give it highlights. Beads are sometimes added to create additional texture and interest to the picture.

Projects created with card embroidery can have many different uses. Framed and hung on the wall, they can add interest and a personal touch to a baby or child’s room as well as any other room in the house. Embroidered cards also may add a personal touch to birthdays, holidays and other festive occasions. Such cards can be used to create memorable invitations to special events as well.

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Discussion Comments

By Ivan83 — On Aug 24, 2011

My grandmother was a gifted embroidered and she tried and mastered just about every method under the sun. I remember that for a while she was very into card embroidery. She had embroidered objects all over her house but there was one mantle piece that was covered with cards she had stitched words, pictures and designs onto.

I don't think this was her favorite kind of embroidery but she did so much of it that she was always looking for variety. Being able to use a material other than fabric probably really appealed to her. Some of the deigns were really incredible and from a distance you could have easily thought that they were done with pen and ink. Unfortunately most of her work has been lost but I still have one of the cards that she embroidered.

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