Parchment and Vellum Techniques  by Freyja

Vellum Card Vellum Card

With so much beautiful parchment and vellum on offer it can be a problem deciding how to use these lovely products to enhance and compliment stamping crafts. Having learnt the techniques for cards you will soon adapt these for making ornaments, party favours, lampshades and luminaries for the home.

Firstly a Short History:
Parchment and vellum were originally made from animal hide: parchment from goat and sheepskin and vellum, the finest, from calfskin. It was a costly material used for documents, important manuscripts and fine art work. Paper, from vegetable sources eventually superseded. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written on parchment. 'Vellum' was reserved for the finest parchment made from calfskin. The first known plant fibre papers were made in China in 105 A.D. These new products soon replaced papyrus, parchment and silk which were too costly and rare for popular use. One woman, Martha Ospina is largely responsible for bringing the craft to Europe when she moved from Columbia to the Netherlands in 1987 when she enlarged her social circle by teaching "Pergamano" the now trade name of the parchment lace craft.

Modern Parchments.
The products that we buy for crafting today are imitations of the original made from wood pulp. The fibres are beaten for a long time until transparent. No sizing is added to make a pH balanced paper suitable for crafting and with a long archival life. Look for "acid free" paper with a neutral pH of 7 if you want your work to last without degrading. Papers are made in a confusing variety of weights, thickness and textures. 'Pergamano' uses a heavyweight 140/160g (weight in grams per square meter) European made paper of archival quality that is strong enough to withstand fine perforating and pressure embossing without tearing, 90g weight and below is usually called vellum. There is a vast range of textures, colours and opacity available including an ever-increasing range of printed vellum.
NOTE: Parchment lace making is an intricate and skilled craft. To learn it is better to invest in a book on the subject.

Things to Do With Parchment

Pressure or dry embossing.
Raising the surface by stretching with pressure tools until the fibres turn white. If you do not have embossing tools, use a spent ball-point pen or a fine crochet hook, and a mouse mat will do as a pad. No light box is needed, as the paper is translucent. Pricking and piercing. Piercing is done on the right side of the work with very fine needles and pricking on the back making raised, light catching designs. A needle in a cork is suitable to try this technique.

Both paper and designs with paints, inks, gel pens, crayons, etc. Note: Vellum will swell when wet and will not shrink back when dry. 140g will swell less than 90g when coloured. This will be explained further later.

Stamping and embossing: Experiment with different inkpads. Some will bleed, this can be an advantage with lovely soft effects, and some will not dry on the surface. Try different embossing powders. Gilded gold is very effective over dark colours e.g. black. Use lightly stamped overlays on top of brightly coloured/stamped or purchased background paper. Decorating with pressed flowers. Laminating is fun to do, a chance to show off your dried garden flowers! Thermal laminating film is the best and easy to use. Use two folded table napkins as a pad to iron over.

Aperture Cards.
Vellum panels are very attractive in two fold aperture cards as the light filters through. Double stamp the vellum- a white ink stamped image on the back and a coloured/embossed one on the front for a lovely effect.

Punched Embellishments.
Use paper punches to punch flowers from self coloured or purchased coloured vellum. Very effective when used to embellish a dry embossed or brightly stamped card. Use two together for a 3d effect.

Special Techniques for Parchment
Attaching to card. As the material is semi-transparent it is more difficult to attach than paper/card. There are several suitable ways to do this.

  • Double sided tape: Try various tapes, many are quite good and will not show too much. For a design with stamping/colouring find a parts of the paper that are covered and attach at these points.
  • Double - sided photo mount or film cut into strips if excellent and there is a special tape now made for vellum � but it still shows on darker colours.
  • Double sided sticky film for overall attachment.
  • Silicone glue. Sticky dots
  • Hot glue with glue gun; Use clear glue sticks and remember that there is no leeway for repositioning. A 'low temperature' gun is best.
  • Spray adhesive, difficult and messy to use.
  • When edges look untidy edge with peel-offs for an instant professional look, or run a line of Appli-glue dots around the edge.
  • Paper fasteners (brads) and eyelets: office paper fasteners can be purchased in a smaller size that is suitable for cards and very inexpensive. Very small fasteners are available from craft suppliers.
  • Threads, cords and ribbon threaded through punched holes. Use a hole- punch or even a small heart punch or traditional hole-puncher. Try the edge 'film strip' punch for a change threaded with ribbon.
  • Sew threads, string etc using a large eyed needle; a quick, clean and very efficient method.
  • Attach with a few staples and cover staples with peel-offs, ribbon or other embellishment.

Remembering that parchment is porous and will swell when wet most colouring methods are possible if done with care. Thin vellum will swell, wrinkle and buckle alarmingly when wet so colour carefully. Use the swelling property to advantage by lightly dry embossing the back of vellum and parchment after colouring to give a raised effect. Practise this by lightly rubbing from the back when wet as you paint, easier than expected. Suitable colouring methods

  • Pearls paint or acrylic Pearlescent medium plus Posh Impression inks, drawing ink, re-inkers, other inks, food colouring, colour from inkpads or markers. All will successfully tint white medium. Effects pots. Lumiere and Stewart Gill fabric paints work well on parchment.
  • PearlEx can be very successfully dry rubbed onto parchment using a 'Fantastix' applicator. No wrinkling, just spray lightly with fixative. Be careful of mixing with Gum Arabic, which will cockle the paper.
  • Markers work very well but can give a flat effect on large areas. Gloss varnish, or diluted Diamond Glaze looks good as a top-coat. Use markers on the back for a softer effect.
  • Ink from stamp pads can be stippled for a mottled effect. Use a waterproof dye pad and soft brush.
  • Drawing Inks can be used as paint, pearlized inks are the easiest to use. Also useful for outlining when tracing designs.
  • Watercolour pencils can be used dry or wet.
  • Oil Pastels: It is possible to colour parchment using oil pastel sticks which are very inexpensive, can be bought individually and come in a wide range of colours. For a rainbow effect scribble different colours in broad bands across the sheet and spread and merge the colours with a little solvent on a tissue, white spirit, barbeque lighting fuel (my favourite), lighter fuel, and turpentine are all suitable. The smell soon disappears. Some people swear by fragrance oil but this easily marks other supplies nearby. Stamp on the reverse side.
  • Ink Pads: Rub ink from pads over the back of the vellum.
  • Cutting: Most of the cutting techniques already used for paper and card are applicable to parchment. Edging scissors and punches work well. If the blades catch, punch with thin paper over the vellum

No information is definitive and using the above as a guide you will find lots of new interesting and attractive ways to enhance your stamping.

Have fun and experiment.

©Freyja Lee for Blade Rubber Stamps 2009