Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Paper Cutting (Scherenschnitte)

To be honest, I can't remember how I was introduced to the art of paper cutting. But when I stumbled across it, I recognized it as a great fit for me. It is something that doesn't require a huge amount of skill, and with a few basic tools--paper, a pair of scissors, and a bit of patience--it allows you to create something unique and beautiful. And it is so versatile--you can find patterns for every holiday, for different tastes and styles, and for a wide variety of skill levels.

Wikipedia defines scherenschnitte (which means "scissor cuts" in German) as "the art of paper cutting design. The art work often has symmetry within the design, and common forms include silhouettes, valentines, and love letters. The art tradition was founded in Switzerland and Germany in the 16th century and was brought to Colonial America in the 18th century by immigrants who settled primarily in Pennsylvania."  

Other sources claim that paper cutting dates back much earlier, as early as the 6th century B.C. in China  and to the 13th century A.D. in the Middle East.

My goal is not to teach you how to paper cut; it is to pique your interest and encourage you to give it a try. (I will include links at the end of the post to take you to instructions and free patterns if you decide to go for it.) Here are a few samples to give you a just a glimpse. . . .

The family below was fairly easy and only took a few hours to complete. It is a traditional, Pennsylvania Dutch design:

This Noah's ark pattern was a baby gift for a dear nephew and is a little more complicated. (I apologize for the fuzzy photo, but it is the only one I have.)

You are probably familiar with silhouettes or shadow portraits as they are sometimes called. This three piece set combines silhouettes, a filigree/heart design, and counted cross stitch done on perforated paper:

And, finally, one more of my favorites;

So find a pattern that appeals to you, grab a pair of scissors, and create something beautiful!

Here are a few links to get you started:



  1. I can actually remember the place and more or less the time when I first encountered scherenschnitte--10th ward branch, Rochester public library, just before kid # 3. You have done beautiful work. My problem is that I am constantly looking at designs like this thinking, "Could I do that on a scroll saw?" "Could I etch that on glass?" "Could I use that idea on a quilt?" There more fascinating things out there than I can do--but that means I will never run out of fun things to try.

  2. Adorable patterns! Such patience you have!