What is Parchment Craft?

Sheri Cyprus

Parchment craft refers to lace-like paper crafts made with different tools. Parchment crafting is thought to date back to at least the 16th century in Europe and is mostly associated with Catholic monks and nuns who would use the lacy paper technique to create communion cards and borders for religious pictures. After the 16th century, parchment craft became popular in South America as European missionaries arrived there. By the 19th century, French inspired flowers were added to the lacy patterns giving the craft an appealing romantic look. Today, all types of parchment craft patterns are available from children's themes to holiday decorations to the traditional lace and floral designs.

Ancient vellum was made from calves or goats.
Ancient vellum was made from calves or goats.

The supplies used for parchment craft, such as the paper and tools that create different effects, are sold separately as well as in kits. Parchment paper craft techniques can be used to create greeting cards, bookmarks, invitations, wall hangings, decorative boxes, lamp shades and gift tags. Parchment craft supplies are also used to make decorations for pages that display photographs in the popular craft called scrapbooking. One popular type of parchment crafting tool is an embossing stylus and it creates attractive raised sections in parchment paper.

Catholic monks and nuns used to practice parchment craft.
Catholic monks and nuns used to practice parchment craft.

Parchment craft patterns look like drawings such as those in a coloring book, although some advanced ones are very intricate and detailed. Each parchment crafter uses a pattern differently depending on which techniques and tools are used. For example, for a parchment crafting pattern of a bundle of balloons tied with a ribbon bow, most crafters would use an embossing stylus to create a rounded look to each balloon. Yet different crafters are likely to use different techniques for the ribbon bow. For instance, one person may color it with blue crayon while another may not only use a different color, but decide to use a perforating tool to create a pattern of tiny holes in the bow.

Besides parchment paper, patterns, different types of tools and crayons, tracing paper and scissors are used in parchment craft. Some pre-printed parchment paper craft patterns already have techniques such as perforating, while others are plain. Parchment paper is available in gray and white as well as different colors. Vellum is a fine type of parchment often used for special looks such as for fancy invitations.

Traditionally, parchment paper was made from stretched animal skins such as those from goats, calves and sheep. Vellum was made mainly from calves’ skin. Today, most of the parchment paper and vellum produced is made from vegetable matter rather than animal skin.

A utility knife may sometimes be used for making the precise cuts necessary in parchment crafts.
A utility knife may sometimes be used for making the precise cuts necessary in parchment crafts.

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Discussion Comments


There are some lovely examples of parchment craft online if you want to see what it looks like. If it's done well, the end result can be really stunning.

The thing about the different techniques of parchment craft though is that they can be applied even in small amounts. You don't have to emboss the entire card, you can just do a little symbol in the corner of a store card to make it your own.

Sometimes a simple image is best and it gives a homemade touch to a gift that would otherwise be rather impersonal.


@KoiwiGal - I think most crafters use and prefer the vegetable version of parchment these days. To be honest, I didn't realize that parchment was originally made out of skin, I thought it was just a particularly fine kind of heavy paper, with a certain texture.

I can certainly see the appeal of using the material that people were using back in the day and I think it also makes a really nice medium for painters, but it would be something I'd reserve for really special pieces, rather than everyday work.

Parchment craft is a good set of skills for anybody who enjoys paper crafts in general. Even though we've got millions of mass produced options more and more people are beginning to appreciate things that have been made by hand, or one of a kind items.


Real parchment can still be used for somethings and I know there are a few universities that give out parchment diplomas like they used to do.

Ironically, even though real parchment is expensive and highly prized because it is a traditional material and has a lovely look to it, it doesn't really last all that long. It's not waterproof and it will quickly react to different kinds of humidity, so you need to really protect it, while vegetable parchment is a much better material from that point of view.

I'm not sure if it is easier to use for parchment craft though. I imagine the material would be more flexible than paper, but sometimes you'd want the paper to be stiff rather than flexible.

I do know that it's extremely expensive because it's so difficult and time consuming to make. Real parchment craft paper can go for 10-20 dollars per sheet. Not something to practice on, that's for sure.

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