How to Make a Punch Needle Pillow
When I came across a punch needle (or rug hook) pillow on Pinterest, I just had to make one myself. A pillow with texture?!?! Ooooohhh!
This was a fun project for me because it included you, my friends. I included my IG followers in helping make yarn color choices and the overall design for the pillow. And let me tell you, you have good taste!!
(Shawna’s 2 cent wisdom: In the world of crafting, I feel there is an unspoken perfectionist standard. For years this hampered my creativeness, turned me off to trying new crafts/arts and made my creative process stressed and unsatisfying. After much work, I’ve learned to accept my faults, welcome mistakes and let my heart talk more than my head. By doing so, I have unconventional ways of doing things. I hate measuring, preparing and planning. I want to do. And this works for me. So throughout each post, I will try my best to give accurate instructions for those that thrive with precise directions. I will also add ‘Shawna’s 2 cents’ throughout the post for those like me who want to make it already. These tips will be less precise and involve less planning. Try one or both. Or neither and do it your way. Learn what makes your heart happy and lean into it.)
Monks Cloth – ½ - 1 yard depending on your pillow size
Stretcher bars or Artist Canvas - 2 inches larger than finished pillow size
Yarn (Wool recommended, but not necessary) – Weight of 5 Chunky preferred
Flat Head Tacks or Staple gun
Flat Head Screwdriver (needed if using staple gun)
Regular and Zipper foot
½ yard pillow back fabric (linen or double gauze are great options)
1. Decide your pillow size. Standard pillows found at Target are going to be 18”x18” or 16”x16”. Once you’ve determined your pillow size, find a working frame for your punch needle.
- A large artist canvas 2-3 inches larger than your final pillow size (18” square pillow, buy a 20-21” canvas).
- Stretcher bars
- For a round pillow, a large embroidery hoop
2. Tack fabric to working frame. A staple gun will work, however, will require labor in removing the staples when completed.
These flat head tacks worked wonderfully! Easy to insert and easy to remove.
The best way to get the tightest fit for your Monks Cloth, is to start in the middle of one side, pull fabric over frame and insert tack. Move to the opposite side, pull fabric taut (the tighter the better so don’t hesitate to pull hard), insert tack.
Move to the right-hand side, pull fabric tight and insert tack. Next the opposite side on the left, pull fabric tight, insert tack.
From here, work in the middle of each tack. Halfway between the edge and the tack, pull fabric tight, insert tack. Go to the opposite side of this point, pull fabric tight, tack. Go to the same point on the opposite side and continue along until you’ve made it all the way around and there is no more room for tacks.
3. Transfer design template to your Monks cloth. If your frame is larger than your final pillow size, draw the square of your pillow on the Monks cloth.
My stretcher bars allowed for a 12”x12” pillow insert. I hand drew a 12”x12” square and my design lines on my Monks cloth using a permanent marker. If you have a top stitch portion on your pillow, you will want to draw lines for that portion on the front of your cloth.
4. Punch needle time! Thread punch needle tool.
Use threading wire to thread the needle. Insert wire through the top of the needle.
Place 2 inches of yarn through threader loop end. Pull back through the needle.
Then push loop of yarn through the eye of the punch needle. Pull yarn through.
To adjust punch needle for different loop lengths, use notches. Simply twist the needle, pull or push to desired length and turn to lock in place.
5. Start punching! If your design has small detailed areas (i.e. eyes of an animal), start with those areas first. If your design is simple like the dreamy waves design here, you can start wherever you want. I started with the grey and worked my way up.
Insert needle until wooden handle touches canvas. Pull needle out and move over 2-3 holes.
Open side of needle points toward the direction you are working.
As you work, be sure to graze the tip of the needle along the fabric.
To ensure even loops, keep your needle point close to the fabric as you work and be sure to touch your wooden handle to the fabric each time.
Continue until the edge of the square. Turn the frame in your hands as you get ready to go back along the next row. Keep needle in fabric as you turn the corner. Next row should graze the first row.
To fill in the pattern, you can choose to do an outline and follow into the center (picture below on the left) or go row by row (picture on the right).
To finish each color: No knots needed! Punch the needle to the long loop side. Pull a small loop out.
Cut the loop with scissors. Pull needle back through to the front side. Trim yarn tail so that it hides within the other loops.
6. Repeat punch needle steps until all colors are completed.
If you have loops that are too long:
Long loops can be trimmed so that yarn tails will be hidden by the other loops. The fabric holds the yarn in place so it won’t pull through. You can also adjust loop sizes by evening them out. A small loop can be pulled to shorten an adjacent longer loop.
If you have yarn colors mixing:
Use punch needle tool to separate and guide the yarn colors back to original pattern.
Simply fill in the row where needed, with the correct color.
7. Now to make the pillow!
Remove all tacks from frame.
8. Cut backing fabric to allow for pillow size. Linen or double gauze fabrics are great options for backing fabric. I used a cotton fabric, similar to a quilting cotton fabric.
For backing fabric measurements, take your pillow size and add 2 inches for the width (if pillow is 18” square pillow, width is 20”). 2 inches to account for bulking yarn punch needle portion.
There will be 2 different size lengths to account for the envelop style closure. For first length, take width value divided by 2 and add 1” (18” square pillow - width 20”, divide by 2 = 10” and add 1” = 11”). First backing piece is 20”x11”.
Second length is width divided by 2, add 5” for envelope overlap and 1” for seam allowance (18” square pillow would be 20”/2=10”+5”+1” = 16”). Second piece is 20”x16”.
(For a 12”x12” pillow, width is 14”, first length is 8” and second length is 13”. Backing fabric is 14”x8” and 14”x13”.)
Shawna’s 2 cents: If those measurements intimidated you like it did me, just start cutting your fabric and make it really big (a good 6 inches bigger on 2 sides).
9. Prepare the envelope closing seam. Fold the seam over ½” and iron. Fold again ½” and iron.
Sew hem with 1/8” seam allowance (Shawna’s 2 cents: sew close to your folded edge and try to make it straight).
10. Repeat with second backing piece.
11. Sew pillow pieces together. Lay your punch needle piece out with pretty side up. Lay your backing fabric on top of punch needle piece pretty side down.
The backing fabric will overlap about 5” so lay your first piece down (pretty side down) and then lay your second piece on top with a 5” overlap.
The pretty sides should be in the middle, pretty punch needle kissing pretty backing piece.
Switch your sewing machine foot to a zipper foot, this will make it easier to sew the punch needle portion.
Pin your fabrics together, leaving an inch of fabric on the outside pillow edges. If you have more than an inch of fabric on some sides, this is okay, you can trim the fabric after all edges are sewn.
Once pinned, it’s time to start sewing. I used my punch needle design to guide my sewing. Sew as close to the punched yarn as you can without trapping the yarn loops. I got a few yarn loops when I sewed and it still turned out great so don’t stress about catching the loops.
When you get to a corner, ensure needle is in fabric, lift sewing foot, turn fabric so that you are guided to the next line, lower foot and continue sewing.
When all 4 sides are sewn, end stitch by backing over stitch a couple of times.
12. You’re so close now!! If you have excess fabric over an inch on each side, cut fabric all around.
I left a good inch all around so that my Monks cloth would have room to fray and not ruin the pillow.
If you want to ensure longevity, you can use a Serger or a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine to finish off the inside Monks cloth edge and prevent any future fraying.
Shawna’s 2 cents: It’s on the inside, little wear and by the time it frays, I’ll probably want a new pillow anyway. 😊 So no further stitching was done by me.
13. Turn the pillow cover inside out and insert your pillow insert!! And admire the heck out of what you just created!!! The ultimate favorite part of any work of art.