Learn how to punch needle with this easy step-by-step tutorial. Punch needle embroidery makes beautiful cushion covers, pillows, framed pictures, wall hangings, and even rugs. The item you make really depends on the size of the needle and the type of yarn you use. Punch needle craft does need some special tools, but the process is really simple. This tutorial will lead you through step by step, showing you how do punch needles work and give you all the punch needle instructions for this new hobby.
How to Punch Needle Tutorial for Beginners
What is Punch Needle Embroidery?
Punch needle can simply be described as a decorative art using a special punch tool and different yarns or embroidery floss. The design is crafted onto the fabric with the punch tool, which has a special hollow needle threaded with yarn.
The open weave of the fabric helps with the punch technique as the needle is pushed or punched through the fabric creating loops of yarn on the back while the front side looks like small stitches. Interesting works of art with texture can be created by mixing the front and back stitches.
How Does Punch Needle Work?
The principle behind punch needles is that small holes are made in the fabric with a special hollow needle through which the thread is passed through the inside. The needle and thread create loops as they are punched through the fabric.
History of Punch Needle
This form of creative craft has been around since medieval times, possibly even as far back as the ancient Egyptians. It is making a comeback at the moment and a revival of punch needle has prompted an interest in this craft.
Punch needle tools originating from different parts of the world have evolved into different types. They are known to have come from Japan, Russia, India, Mexico, and even Brazil and Argentina.
Is Punch Needle Easy?
Punch needle is a fast and easy hobby that creates textured designs much faster than other hand embroidery techniques. It is suitable for all levels of crafters, including beginners.
Punch Needle vs Rug Hooking
There does seem to be some confusion over the difference between these two techniques. They look similar, but they are not the same, with the main difference being that rug hooking uses a hook and pulls the yarn up from the base.
Punch needling uses a tool called a punch needle and it is inserted into the fabric and punches loops down into the base of the fabric. The punch needle is a needle with a beveled end and an eye. A rug hook is a hooking tool.
How to Punch Needle - Supplies
The main supplies you will need for punch needle crafts are:
- Punch Needle Tool
- Yarn or Embroidery Floss like DMC
- Embroidery Hoop
- Embroidery Scissors
Punch Needle Tool, Types of Punch Needle
The tools used for punch needles come in many different sizes to suit different thicknesses of threads.
- SMALL - The smallest sizes are used for embroidery floss and are sometimes known as a Russian Miniature punch needle or Igolochkoy.
- LARGE - The larger punch needles are used for rug making, cushions, and wall hangings and have a larger needle to take bulky wool. This type of punch needlework looks very similar to a rug hooking tool. There is, however, a subtle difference in the process because the punch needle pushes the loops down into the fabric while a rug hook pulls them up.
- ADJUSTABLE - Some punch needle tools have an adjustable depth gauge to control the length of the yarn loops.
Best Yarns for Punch Needle
Most punch needle projects work with rug wool. Choose good quality wool and avoid snags and pulling. Wall hangings and lighter-weight projects work well with knitting yarn.
Yarn vs Embroidery Floss for Punch Needle - Embroidery floss or finer yarn is recommended for fine embroidery work using a smaller pattern and finer fabrics. You can also use a few strands of embroidery floss at a time.
Best Fabric for Punch Needle
Woven fabrics also called foundation fabric, are best because the punch tool is going to pierce in-between the weave of the fabric. Monks cloth, open canvas, weaver's cloth, linen, burlap, or rug warp are recommended. Monk’s cloth from 100% cotton is a favorite as it is smooth and strong but easy to work with while it holds the yarn. My samples were done using Monk's cloth.
Hoops to Use for Punch Needle
A wooden frame to hold the fabric tightly while you work is very important when punch needling. Depending on the project, an embroidery hoop will work but if you want to have less frustration and a better end product look for one of the non-slip frame options. There are non-slip embroidery frames and a frame named ‘Gripper Strip Frame’ that is very useful for this technique of sewing.
Punch Needle Kits
A beginner to this form of embroidery may find buying a kit a more worthwhile investment. A starter kit will give you all the basics to use and get familiar with the craft. Then when you know how to manage the tool you can go ahead with your own designs and projects.
Best Designs & Punch Needle Patterns
There are lots of free and paid punch needle patterns on the internet. When you are starting, look for designs with larger areas that are not too detailed. Etsy has lots of beautiful designs by independent designers.
A popular beginner motif for punch needle is rolling hills. Here is a free download for you to start learning punch needle with. It works for a 7 inch or smaller hoop.
You can, of course, create your own designs. Coloring books and clip art are great sources of simple designs. Look for flowers, animals, and geometric designs.
How to Punch Needle, Step by Step Instructions
Step 1 - Transferring Punch Needle Designs to Fabric
Before you start this wonderful craft, you need to know how to trace a pattern onto your fabric. Here are some suggestions of ways to get a pattern onto the fabric ready to punch needle.
There are two simple methods to transfer the pattern onto the cloth. Depending on whether or not you have a lightbox.
Window or Lightbox
If you do not have a lightbox then a window letting light into a room is a good substitute. Hold up the pattern and tape it to the window with the fabric secured over the pattern. The light shines through and makes the pattern visible on the fabric ready for you to trace out the design.
The alternative is to use the embroidery hoop or frame you plan on working the punch needlework onto. The hoop or frame can support the pattern at the back of the frame with the fabric stretched over the frame.
Hold the frame with the pattern up to a light source like a window, and the process is the same as using a lightbox. Take a fine-tipped marking pen or removable fabric marker to trace the pattern.
The transfer pen is another method to use to get a pattern onto the fabric. The pen is used to draw or trace a pattern onto paper and then the traced pattern is ironed onto the fabric with a hot iron. Remember the traced side of the paper pattern is put face downwards onto the fabric.
Now you are ready to thread up your punch needle and start to punch in the pattern onto the fabric.
Step 2 - How to Thread the Punch Needle
There are a few brands of punch needles with different threading instructions. The packaged instructions that come with your tool will help you with your particular needle.
- The Oxford punch needle tool is a very common tool and simple to thread. The slit in the handle holds the yarn or thread, and the tip of the thread is pushed through the eye of the needle. Pull the thread from the top and the bottom to settle the thread evenly into the tool.
- Other punch needles, such as the Lavor brand, have a needle threader included for getting the yarn through the eye of the needle. Insert the threader into the needle tip to the other end of the punch. Thread the yarn into the end of the threader and pull through. Then thread the end of the yarn through the eye of the needle.
Step 3 - How to Punch Needle Stitch
Once you have your punch needle threaded and your fabric design ready, you will start punching stitches.
Hold the tool with pencil grip with the yarn tail away from the direction you are stitching. Insert the tip of the needle into the fabric and punch down. Lift and move a short distance and punch again.
Here are some tips to consider while you practice this form of embroidery or rug making.
- WORKING SIDE - Work from the reverse side of the material and use the punch tool to make stitches according to the pattern.
- HOW TO HOLD THE PUNCH NEEDLE TOOL - Hold the tool with pencil grip with the open bevel side facing the stitching direction. The eye with the yarn stitching out show be away from you.
- STARTING POINT - It is best to start in the middle of a row or outlines of the design to secure the tail of the yarn through the needle of the punch tool. Don’t worry about the little tails as they are dealt with at the end.
- STITCHING - Punch the sharp end of the tool down through the fabric up to the handle. You should punch down as far as your tool will allow. Pull up, then move the tool a short distance and repeat. The needle should not be lifted too high. Each stitch you make creates a loop held in place by the foundation fabric. When you push the needle through the holes in the fabric, a loop is formed underneath and held in place by the tension of the fabric.
- DIRECTION OF NEEDLE - The beveled part of the needle should face in the direction you are sewing facing up and towards the end of the row.
- DIRECTION OF PUNCHING - If you are right-handed, punch the needle from left to right. If you are left-handed, punch from right to left.
- SIZE OF STITHES - Keep your stitches small when you start out and move the needle across very small spaces.
- HOLD THE FRAME - Don’t rest the work on a table or flat surface because the needle is going through the fabric in a stabbing motion and will stab anything lying underneath. Keep your frame at a diagonal angle to prevent stabbing yourself.
- SPACING - Beware of punching two rows too far apart and leaving a gap along the row because it is too widely spaced. Luckily punch needle allows you to go back and fill in the gap.
Step 4 - Changing Direction
Each time you come to a corner, you will need to turn the frame so that the yarn coming from the eye of the needle continues to run smoothly. Continue to punch the fabric evenly as you fill in your design.
Step 5 - Changing Yarns of Punch Needl
Changing colors and finishing off is really easy. Changing yarn change is the same as the method used to start. A tail will be left at the back of the punch needle design. When the design is completed the little tails are simply snipped off and become embedded into the loops of the yarn.
Step 6 - Finishing Punch Needle Projects
Once your design is complete, you may remove it from the loop or frame ready to make it up into a cushion or wall hanging or any creative craft it is suited to.
Troubleshooting & FAQs for Punch Needling
Yarn slippage is a common problem with punch needlework and there are several common reasons for this problem.
Why are my punch needle stitches not staying?
NEEDLE HEIGHT - Pulling the needle up too far when crossing to the next hole in the fabric can cause skipped stitches. If the needle is pulled too far out, then the yarn pulls out and causes a problem. The needle should always just graze over the fabric to the next hole. Keep the tip of the needle touching the fabric as you start to punch into a new hole.
USE THE CORRECT YARN THICKNESS - If the yarn is too thick it will get caught in the fabric and not pull out properly. A yarn weight of 3, 4, or 5 is best suited to needle punch. Thicker yarns can be tricky to work with.
YARN GETTING CAUGHT - Stitches pulling out can be caused when the yarn tail is getting caught and is not able to move freely. If the tail is too short, then let out more yarn. Check that something is not stopping the yarn from pulling through, as this can cause tension problems in the yarn.
How do I get Even Stitches for Punch Needling?
DEPTH OF PUNCHING - When stitches look uneven there could be a problem with the depth you are pushing the punch needle. The needle must be inserted and pushed all the way down into the fabric up to the wooden handle.
DIRECTION OF STITCHES - The punch needle tool must face the direction of your stitches. Hold the needle like a pen and keep it perpendicular to the fabric. The open part of the needle must face the direction you are sewing and the tail trails behind the punch area.
FABRIC PROBLEMS - Check your fabric is not too loose in the frame and tighten if necessary. Also make sure you are using the right cloth. Monk’s cloth is a popular choice.
FILL IN GAPS - If the backing fabric shows through, you have not covered all the areas with loops. It is possible to go over these areas again and fill in gaps. Needle punching takes some practise and with time you will get a more even result.
How do You Seal Punch Needle Embroidery?
To finish your punch needle embroidery, you will need to seal the back. You can use white glue or clear craft glue to attach felt or fabric to the back. This will stop the loops from pulling out. Make sure any glue you use dries clear, and be careful not to get any on the right side. Fabric glue can be used on the edges to stop any fraying.
Which Side is the Right Side of Punch Needle Projects
Traditionally, the right side of the fabric on a punch needle project is the loopy side but you can choose the other flatter side instead. It is purely up to personal preference. In the photo below, you can see the difference between the so-called right and wrong sides. Personally, I like the look of the flatter stitched side.
Uses of Punch Needle Projects
Although this is a really simple craft, it does take some practice. Try some simple projects before you get going on something big and challenging. Here are some easy punch needle projects to try:
- Punch Needle Wall Hangings
- Punch Needle Cushions
- Punch Needle Rugs
How to Punch Needle - In Conclusion
Punch needle has made a return to the needlework and crafting forums of this world. It is interesting to note how often comments are passed about rolling with the punches of life.
Try out this form of craft and see for yourself. Perhaps taking the time to do punch needle work will open a new door for you to a different craft – a revival style of needlework called punch needle.
- Trace your pattern on to the fabric either with a lightbox, window or transffer pen. Thread your punch needle.
- Start stitching with the punch needle. Hold the tool with pencil grip with the yarn tail away from the direction you are stitching. Insert the tip of the needle into the fabric and punch down. Lift and move a short distance and punch again.
- Each time you come to a corner, you will need to turn the frame so that the yarn coming from the eye of the needle continues to run smoothly. Continue to punch the fabric evenly as you fill in your design.
- Changing yarn change is the same as the method used to start. A tail will be left at the back of the punch needle design. When the design is completed the little tails are simply snipped off and become embedded into the loops of the yarn.
- To finish your punch needle embroidery, you will need to seal the back. You can use white glue or clear craft glue to attach felt or fabric to the back.