Perforated Paper

Perforated paper is exactly that, paper (pliable paper stock) in which holes have been punched to a specific size. Most of what is sold today is 14 count per inch, but perforated paper, invented around the 1820s could be bought up to 28 count per inch. Perforated card-board or card work, as it was called then, was embroidered to create bookmarks, boxes, calendars, and many other items. Patterns could be found in women’s magazines, such as Godey’s Lady’s Book and Peterson’s Magazine. Embroidered perforated paper designs were often stored in bibles and had religious symbols or words such as “Remember Me” or “Love”. By the 1870s, phrases such as “Welcome” or “Home Sweet Home” became very popular and could be found hanging in almost every household.  Different color paper was available (see below), such as silver, or even tinfoil, which was placed behind the perforated paper design to create a sparkle when it hit the light.

Remember me, Locust Lawn Collection

One of the advantages of creating designs on perforated paper is that the background doesn’t have to be filled in and blocking or stretching is not necessary to finish the design. The use of paper allows the flexibility to create projects in different sizes and it is relatively easy to do! Most designs are created using simple cross-stitching techniques and use only a few supplies.

Cross design by Louisa Hasbrouck, Locust Lawn Collection

My first introduction to perforated paper was several years ago when I was working at an extraordinary historic house called Locust Lawn. It is hard for me to express my feels for this house, because it is so inspiring!

Locust Lawn is a Federal style house, built in 1814 by Colonel Josiah Hasbrouck. After Josiah’s death in 1821 it was lived in by his son Levi, his wife Hylah Bevier, their four daughters Sarah Maria, Ann Bevier, Laura Tallmadge, Louisa and one son Josiah.

From the letters and objects that were left behind by these sisters it allow you to step back in time to connect with these artistic creative women. You not only can feel the loving bond between the sister, but also the typical sisterly frustrations. Many of the items in the household were marked with their names, which reminds me of my own childhood of growing up with four sisters.

Laura T. Hasbrouck 1866, Petticoat, Locust Lawn Collection

Similar to my sisters, the Hasbrouck girls were very creative they knit, drew, painted, embroidered, sewed, and wrote poems. Many of the things my sisters and I are interested in! After seeing the perforated paper designs at Locust Lawn I began a journal of objects from museums (huswifs, Spencer jackets, bandboxes, etc.) that I want to make some day.

Love, Locust Lawn Collection

My version of the Love perforated paper design from the Locust Lawn Collection

To create your very own perforated paper design you will need the following supplies:


  • Perforated paper
  • Tapestry needle usually size 24 or 26
  • Embroidery floss, cotton, 2 strands
  • Scissors
  • Silk ribbon (optional)
  • No Hoop Necessary!

Many of the designs created by the Hasbrouck sisters were on 26 to 28 count per inch perforated paper, therefore when you create your design it will be somewhat larger. Hopefully someone will start making different size perforated paper!

First determine the correct size of your perforated paper by counting the amount of holes along the height and width. Cut the paper to that specific size. I copy and enlarge the pattern so I can write on it, which is useful while you make your design. Keep in mind if you want a smaller or wider border around your design be sure to figure that out before you cut. If you have the same size perforated paper per inch as the design you can just measure.

Next decide where you would like to begin your design. Most cross-stitch patterns tell you to begin in the center of the design, but that is not necessary here. I usually start with the color that will be used the most and try to begin on an edge.

After you have determined where you will begin, thread your needle. *Note most embroidery thread comes in 6 strands, therefore you will have to seperate out 2 strands. Pull the needle through the hole leaving a 1 inch tail and stitch the next 5 to 6 stitches over the tail to secure. Clip off the excess. Follow these steps to end off as well. Do not use knots they will show through the back.

Most of the designs only use / or \, (line of thread from one hole to the next) but if you are using X’s there are two ways they can be created. The first is to go in one direction and then go back in the other direction to finish the X’s. The other is to complete the X as you go, be sure to cross the / and \ in the same direction to give the X a polished look.

Many of the designs will require you to either carry the thread or end off and start again. For areas that will be covered it is okay to carry or “jump” from one area to another by weaving through the back. **After creating the “Love” design I learned a hard lesson. I jumped from one area to another, and unfortunately the thread was visible requiring me to go back and fix several areas.

For finishing touches you can sew ribbon to the back of the perforated paper (see photographs), which makes beautiful bookmarks.

Cross design, Locust Lawn Collection. Ribbon has been attached to both ends to create a bookmark.

Wreath design, Back, Locust Lawn Collection. Covered with silk ribbon to give it more of a finished look.

Other design options.

Perforated paper box dated "Dec. 31, 1846", Locust Lawn Collection

Flower design, Locust Lawn Collection

Perpetual Calendar, "H. Hasbrouck from M. Demarest - October 10th. 1851.", Locust Lawn Collection

My version of the Perpetual Calendar. This is a great example of how much larger the design is. If anyone knows of a place where I can buy different size perforated paper I would love to know!

Perpetual calendars are so neat, but that is for another post!

The Holidays are right around the corner and perforated paper designs make great bookmarks and ornaments. See the links section for ideas and supplies!

Special thank you to Locust Grove Estate,


Perforated paper available through

If I can figure out how to create a pattern through a word document or another program I will post it. If anyone has any suggestions on how I can do so or easier steps than I have provided feel free to write in to farmhousemag(at)gmail(dot)com or comment below!

4 Responses to “Perforated Paper”
  1. vintagejenta says:

    Neat! This would be a really cool way for me to get back into embroidering. Y’know, in my spare time. Lol.

  2. This is a completely new concept to me. How cool!

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  1. […] are endless! Check out some of these options and ideas from FarmHouse: Vintage T-Shirts into Bags, Perforated paper, Creative […]

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