Brief History of Parchment Craft

German Parchmenter 1568

Historians believe that parchment craft originated as an art form in Europe during the 15th or 16th century. Parchment craft at that time occurred principally in Catholic communities, where crafters created lace-like items, such as devotional pictures and communion cards. The craft developed over time with the addition of new techniques and refinements.


Although the invention of the printing press led to a reduced interest in handmade cards, by the 18th century people were regaining interest in detailed handwork. Parchment cards became larger in size and crafters began adding wavy borders and perforations.


In the 19th century, influenced by French romanticism, parchment crafters began adding floral themes, cherubs and hand embossing.


Until the 16th century, parchment craft was a European art form. However, missionaries and other settlers relocated to South America, taking parchment craft with them. As before, the craft appeared largely among the Catholic communities. Often, young girls receiving their First Communion received gifts of handmade parchment crafts.


Parchment craft has grown immensely over the last twenty years or so. It has become extremely popular all over the world but mainly in Europe. Many new techniques have been introduced and a huge variety of tools and materials developed and manufactured. Coloured and patterned parchment paper is now available and a staggering range of embossing and perforating tools. Painting on parchment has become tremendously popular and some of the media used are oil pastels, coloured pencils, watercolours, felt tip pens, acrylics, oils and inks. There are two companies that manufacture their own range of products and both provide training and tutor courses. Tutor run parchment craft classes are to be found throughout the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Austria, Australia, and also in Canada, the United States, Asia and Africa. Dedicated exhibitions and workshops are held throughout Europe.

... and Now

 Lacework and Colour by Gail Sydenham  Handbag by Gail Sydenham

  Lacework by Linda Williams



Parchment then...

Finished parchment made of goatskin

Central European (Northern) type of finished parchment made of goatskin stretched on a wooden frame.

 English deed written on fine parchment or vellum with seal tag dated 1638

An English deed written on parchment, 1638.

1385 copy of the Sachsenspiegel

A 1385 copy of the Sachsenspiegel, a German legal code, written on parchment with straps and clasps on the binding.