Did you know punch needle started in the 1880's?! Where did it go all these years?! I don't know, but I'm glad it's back! It seems to have disappeared so much, it's a lost art having everyone asking all the questions. How do I start? What do I need? Where can I buy it? Have no fear, punch needle wonder woman is here!
What do I need to start?
Tools you will need:Punch needle tool with threader
Punch Needle Tools
The main thing to notice here is the difference between an embroidery punch needle and a yarn thickness punch needle (see below).
- Adjustable Handle Punch Needle – one tool, 6 adjustable loop lengths, wood handle, stainless steel needle, smooth entry into fabric, smaller handle, use of threader required
- Oxford Punch Needle – one tool, one loop length, easy to thread (no threaders), wood handle, stainless steel needle, smooth entry into fabric, large handle, to experience different loop lengths multiple tools need to be purchased
- Amazon Punch Needle – one tool, 4 adjustable loop lengths, plastic handle, copper needle, needle catches fabric somewhat (still usable just not as enjoyable), copper needle tarnishes over time, after some use the middle portion pops out too easily while working, cost effective for use in starting out
- Embroidery Punch Needle – this tool is intended for use with small embroidery thread (think cross stitch), it is too thin to hold yarn. It is a beautiful art as well, but not to be used when wanting to work with yarn.
- Hobby Lobby teal handle Punch Needle (not pictured) – one tool, one loop length, plastic handle, copper needle, needle catches, copper needle tarnishes over time, very cheaply made
Punch needle does require a special foundation fabric. Fabrics found in local craft stores or big online fabric stores (i.e. fabric.com) will not work for punch needle. The needle is too large for typical fabrics, it will make holes in non-punch needle foundation fabrics and will not hold the yarn.
- Monks cloth – most common, softest, most pliable, smoothest needle entry, fabric strands move most easily, holds yarn the best, not as pretty to use as a background (typically project will cover all the fabric)
- Traditional linen (or burlap) – pretty for use as part of the design, project doesn’t have to fill the entire area (since fabric is pretty), stiffer material, doesn’t hold yarn as well, fabric strands don’t move as easily
- Rug warp – same in color as Monks cloth, stiffer fabric, doesn’t hold yarn as well as Monks cloth
- Wooden embroidery hoops – pretty end product, fabric becomes loose easily (this can be fixed by preparing the frame before starting, pulling fabric as tight as possible, trimming fabric and hot gluing to the hoop, if this is done fabric will not slip)
- Plastic no slip embroidery hoops – Holds fabric well, pulls fabric tight, cannot use to display work after done (not cost efficient and not very pretty), can transfer work to another frame when completed
- Wooden frames – fabric has to be stapled or tacked to frame, can leave in frame for completed project, can also transfer to another frame or made into something else (like a pillow), staples or tacks hold fabric tightly. Wooden frames can be as easy as buying an artist painting canvas, removing the canvas material and then using the wood frame in your project. There are also stretcher bars available that can be assembled by hand.
- Carpet tack wooden frames (not pictured) – there are some frames that use carpet tack on the edges to hold the fabric, these tend to be expensive. You can make this frame by applying carpet tack to a wooden frame if you are up for the project. (Example: Oxford Gripper Frame)
100% wool yarn – Is this really required? No, it is not. If you are working on a true rug and intend to use it as a rug, then yes definitely use 100% wool yarn. It is also handy if you intend on using your project excessively (i.e. make it into a purse or pillow). If you are not making a rug nor a purse, you can use whatever yarn you want! Cotton yarns, acrylic yarns, wool blends, fancy yarns, even cut up strips of plastic bags and fabric.
Yarn thickness – Yarn thickness varies within the different types of yarn. I find that yarn weight of 4 (medium) or 5 (bulky) work best for punch needle. I have had mixed results with yarn weight 6 (super bulky). Some of my 6 weights work okay, some I have to fix several times as I work (yarn loops are too small and I have to go back) and some won’t stay at all. With that said, I have a beautiful grey 6 weight yarn that works great and it’s one of my favorites. So don’t shy away from it, but do be away it might not work as easily as you would like. A yarn weight 7 (jumbo) would be too big and would not work at all. On the flip side, yarn weights 1 (super fine) and 2 (fine) are too small and would have a hard time being held in the fabric. I have used yarn weight 3 (light) and it works fine, however, you do have to close your stitch length (go every 1 or 2 holes in your fabric) so the fabric can hold it and it fills in. I tend to stay away from weight 3 for this reason, but it would work if you find one you love.
Design or no design? – I believe this is personal preference. My first piece I didn’t want to spend hours trying to find the perfect design (like I did deciding on my yarn colors, haha) so I let my heart and gut lead the design and I love it! I have also had fun designing premade designs for the kits in my store. Either way you can’t go wrong. Punch needle involves making art with yarn and in my punch needle journey I have found that yarn is beautiful in itself. As long as you have beautiful yarn, you can’t really go wrong. Let your heart lead your decision. My one recommendation is to allow thinking ahead just long enough to know where your design is going and draw a line to guide you. Your foundation fabric has holes and fabric strands to lead you, but in the process of pulling and tightening the fabrics, the lines are skewed and don’t always follow a straight line. Drawing your design allows you to follow the pattern you wish to obtain and not relying on the unreliable fabric to guide you. My first design I drew few lines and my shapes are somewhat misshapen.
I want to encourage you to try to have fun with this. Art can be a beautiful thing, but somehow a lot of us have found a way to make it stressful and frustrating (me included). Punch needle spoke to me because it was a form of creativity with little stress. I find it relaxing and easy. In teaching others, I’ve seen it’s not always the case for others. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. The yarn comes out easily and you get to start again and it doesn’t take long to come back to where you left off. So take a deep breath, relax and begin. If it gets frustrating, leave it and come back to it later. If you have any questions along the way, please feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)! I’d love to hear from you.