By Christina VanGinkel
When I think I could not ever find another hobby that I would enjoy as much as I do those I already participate in, along will come something like paper piercing. Paper piercing is actually an ancient craft, dating back many centuries, but the most compelling fact of it is, is that I have many papers and vellums suitable for piercing that I already possess for my scrapbooking and card making hobbies. All I needed to acquire when I first saw a framed piece of paper piercing, and decided I would love to try to make my own piece, were the tools that make the holes themselves. You can also buy templates (I have seen some gorgeous brass ones) that you can use repeatedly, but they are by no means required.
I was drawn to this craft because it opened up new dimensions when working with my scrapbook pages and cards. I was also interested in creating a couple of framed pieces of cutwork for my entryway, but when I saw how lovely the paper piercing was, I realized that it would be much more interesting to make an assortment of framed pieces, covering several different paper working techniques. So far, I have decided to do a paper piercing of the word Welcome, with a floral border, and another one depicting the word Welcome in intricate Scherenschnitte.
Paper piercing is what it sounds like. Designs are created by piercing the paper. Depending on the tools used, and the thickness of the paper, the designs created will vary in intricacy. Vellum that has been pierced will actually take on the look of old-fashioned lace if done correctly. Part of the illusion is created when the vellum turns darker around the holes from the pressure of the piercing, with larger holes obviously causing a darker surrounding area, and with finer holes not causing such a prominent white area, but still enough to lend to the look of thread and needle.
Giving computer-produced items a look of handcrafting is another great way to use the paper piercing techniques. If you have a nice picture or piece of clipart that would great on a note card for example, yet be a bit on the plain side by itself, creating a bit of paper piercing in alternating corners would be a great way to provide somewhat of a frame for the item, without adding more color which can sometimes be just to overbearing. Paper piercing the corners or even a border will add just enough of another element to make the finished piece stand out, but not so much that it is overkill.
I have seen some good results of paper piercing made with handcrafted piercers, nothing more than an eraser or piece of cork, with needles of various thicknesses inserted snugly into them, but to get the best results with the least bother, I would recommend investing in a few piercing tools created just for the hobby of paper piercing itself. I found my first piercing tool at Joann's online and two other sizes at Nordic Needle online. I also made my first piece with my paper laid over a mouse pad, but the mouse pad was smaller than the piece of paper I was working on and it left creases along the one side of the paper. I was working with vellum though, and I doubt this would have happened with a heavier paper. For future projects though, I invested in a self-healing quilter's mat. This gives me something to lay the piece I am working on flat, and provides a simple way for me to pierce the paper without having to worry about poking through into a table surface or something that will not give enough for the design to look its very best. If you are just starting out though, and do not want to invest any more than you have to, a mouse pad will work fine. Once you progress to larger pieces, you can then decide if buying something larger, such as a quilting mat is worth it or not. Also, look around your craft room or tote of supplies to see if you have something similar that might also work for this. Many scrap bookers might already own a cutting mat of some sort that might suffice.