Thursday, February 14, 2019

Getting Started with Handicrafts :: Scherenschnitte

I almost called this series "Handicrafts for the Non-Crafty," but I decided that it's important that we as mothers redefine ourselves and be open to changing self-perception and self-description. I am not a particularly crafty person by nature, but that doesn't mean I can't become one by habit! Skills are learned, and it turns out that I like crafting much more now than I ever thought I would. So let's say "Getting Started with Handicrafts" with the idea that we are starting with few skills and little knowledge in the area but that we will learn and grow alongside our children.

You can read a bit about my personal handicrafting story here: Meet the Maker.

These posts are NOT written from the perspective of an expert -- neither in Mason's approach to the craft nor in the craft itself. They are written mom-to-mom, answering frequently asked questions I get about our personal experience with these activities, all of which our family has picked over the past few years and now practices regularly and joyfully.

For many years, handicrafts was my nemesis on the Mason timetable. I didn't feel like I could give it dedicated time with all the littles underfoot. I got creative and made it a priority and I'm so glad I did.

Here's my plan for the series so far:
Scherenschnitte << we're here!
Knot Tying
Sewing with Felt
Needle Felting

Thanks for reading along!


So -- second craft in the series, another foreign name! :) For the sake of not sounding more intimidating than we ought, let's just call it paper-cutting.

I was introduced to this craft on Instagram by Vanessa, who shared some pictures of her lovely work a couple years back. That led to my buying Paper Cutting Old and New and offering a session of paper cutting at CM West last year. I also crafted a bunch of Christmas ornaments that year out of watercolor paper using the patterns in that book.

My kids got bit by the bug and haven't stopped since! Vincent and Xavier in particular still do paper-cutting at least weekly during their free time. It is such a flexible and simple medium, great for both genders, open to lots of creativity, and focused on accuracy and attention.

What you need:

Perhaps the best thing about paper-cutting is how few supplies it requires!

Scissors and paper are the two necessities, of course. We have a bunch of different kinds of small scissors and everyone here has his or her preference.

As for paper: regular white copy paper is best. You can progress to using toned paper, textured paper, watercolor paper, and such, but it's much harder on the hands. For for beginners and young people, printer paper is the way to go and the results are equally lovely.

You also want a collection of colored or construction papers for mounting, as well as a glue stick. Cardstock works well for folding into cards. My favorite construction paper is here: it isn't light fast, but the surface is smooth, unlike regular construction paper, and the color options are vibrant.

my kids often like to decorate their cuttings afterward

I have started collecting books that I think have good pattern for children. These are all winners!

Grandma's Magic Scissors - Papercutting Pattern Book
Magic Scissors Goes Heraldic - Paper Cutting Old and New

The Magic Scissors books offer a great variety of kid-friendly designs. My littles always begin with the original A-Z book, and the boys have taken up the heraldic book with zest. These are the ones they pull out most often. The Papercutting Pattern Book has a good selection of no-fold designs that are great for beginners, and then also a bunch of more challenging patterns. Paper Cutting Old and New has really lovely patterns but is slightly more difficult -- though the single-fold heart and circular patterns have been hits with my kids.

A totally optional but useful accessory is a light box; we have this one. These used to be fairly clunky, but now they basically look like an oversized iPad. Thin, easy to use, easy to store. We appreciate having these for tracing. I'll share some alternate ideas for transferring patterns below.

How it works:

First, you need to get your pattern onto your paper. There are a few ways of doing this:

:: Photocopy from the pattern book and cut right out. This is the easiest option and quickest to implement. It results in a cutting that it toned gray on one side (or black, if you are using a sillhouette book like the ones by Day). If this doesn't bother you, this saves a step. I would start here!

:: Another option: for the CM West activity, I traced around the pattern outline onto white paper with a marker, then photocopied to make more copies. We cut those out directly. This is the next simplest option since you are only tracing once and can make a bunch.  You can use a light table for this, or you can photocopy dark to see more clearly in natural light, or you can hold up to a window (a little awkward).

:: The last option is to just trace individually onto the paper you will cut right into. This is what my kids do most since it doesn't require pre-planning.

Other Tips:

Occasionally you need to make a small hole. I keep a safety pin attached to my scissors for just that purpose (you can see it in the scissors photo above!).

The nice thing about this craft is that the difficulty can increase quite easily: more intricate patterns, more delicate scissor work OR use of a craft knife, different papers or applications.

We turn the finished pieces into greeting cards (Valentines!), framed prints, ornaments... Lots of possibilities, and the results are really lovely.

Have you tried scherenschnitte / paper-cutting? What are your favorite resources? Let me know below!

(Amazon links above are affiliate links.)


  1. These are amazing, and really effective! I'd love to try it with the kids but I think maybe I'd need more delicate and fine scissors than the regular "school scissors" we use. I notice the ones in your photo all have quite a sharp point which I guess is essential for such a craft.

    Again, thank you ever so much for taking the time to share!


    1. Yes, the small sharp point helps get into all the nooks and crannies. :)

  2. This looks pretty awesome, and affordable too. Thank you for the idea!

  3. Wow! This is so wonderful! I have been doing this by myself and my children have watched me, but I am so inspired to include them. I also admire you-I have six kiddos and feel challenged to be creative. You are doing it with 12 an I think that is so wonderful. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! Yes, this ia a great craft for youngers to work alongside you with little extra effort required. :)