The Art of Paper cutting

By Joan Amundsen

Webster’s dictionary defines Scherenschnitte as the art of cutting paper into decorative designs with scissors.

Paper cutting began hundreds of years ago in China, but really came into prominence in the 1800s with the German immigrants who came to this country and settled in Pennsylvania. They did all sorts of paper cutting that, for them, took the place of paintings and portraits, which they could not afford. Lately there has been a resurgence of this art form and the choices range from elegant to easy.

In answer to this resurgence, the Guild of American Papercutters was organized in 1988 in Hershey, Pa. The guild is now located in Somerset, Pa. The GAP, as it is referred to, is open to anyone who has an interest in this type of art. You can visit their website at

Now is a perfect time to try your talents. With the holidays fast approaching, you could try cutting your own Christmas cards this year. You will be amazed and delighted at the results and the many compliments you will receive.

Children love paper cutting. They can make easy tree ornaments or they can cut out snowflakes to hang in their windows. When children see the results of their cutting, their expressions are priceless.

Alison Tanner is one of the biggest and best suppliers of patterns, scissors, paper and anything else you will need to complete a project. Go to her site at and check out all of her current patterns.

One of the easy ornament patterns offered by Alison is K-45. This is an assortment of 20, three-dimensional designs. Although the pattern states that it is for the intermediate scissorist, there are several easy patterns for the beginner.

The dove and the chickadee are great for the younger child to cut. The small white chickadee pattern starts out as just a flat piece of white paper. When the slash in the paper (done by an adult) is made and the part of the paper that is the wing is inserted through the slash, the chickadee becomes dimensional and can be hung with string. These produce guaranteed glees of delight from everyone.

There’s not much you need to cut paper except a scissors and/or an X-Acto knife, a self-sealing cutting mat, paper and pattern. Of course it goes without saying that children should not use an X-Acto knife. Just remember though, as you cut, you move the paper, not the scissors.

Supplies can also be purchased at any craft shop such as Michaels, A. C. Moore or Ben Franklin Stores. Cutting mats are also available from stores like Joann Fabrics or Walmart. And, if you go to or you can run a search in paper cutting books, scherenschnitte, Back Street books or patterns — any words that will bring up items for sale. Back Street books contain some very easy patterns. For more information, YouTube offers a quick tutorial at

Alison Tanner, as mentioned before, offers a large variety of patterns that can be used for all-occasion cards and also offers patterns for snowflakes, ornaments and symbols. These patterns can also be used for scrapbooking. One of her newer additions is the Alpine Star tree topper, which is listed for a beginner. Many of these little ornaments and symbols lend themselves quite well to being painted with a watercolor wash. The tree topper or a snowflake could be painted with white glue and then sprinkled with diamond glitter. The options are endless.

You might want to try some of the beautiful paper cuttings that I refer to as “paper quilts.” How about a cutting for the antique auto lover? Framed small cuttings make great gifts. You can finish a cutting and have it matted and framed before Christmas.

You might find that you’ve discovered a whole new hobby when you discover how easy paper cutting can be.


Try one of these sites for more information:













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