by Lesley Hill
May 16, 2019
Punch needle embroidery is fast, easy-to-learn and completely addictive. But because it's a relatively new craft (or at least enjoying a resurgence thanks to social media), there aren't a lot of resources out there. To get you started, I've compiled a list of the punch needle questions I most commonly receive on Instagram and at my in-person workshops.
How does punch needle work? Won't all my stitches fall out?
A punch needle works by forming continuous loops with yarn into cloth. The tension of the yarn and the cloth is what keeps your project from unravelling. Unlike traditional embroidery, there are no knots in needle punching. (Bonus- this helps to make punch needle projects fast to complete!)
What punch needle should I buy?
There are many types of punch needles on the market, but my absolute favourite is the Oxford Punch Needle. Oxford Punch Needles are available in a variety of sizes from #8 to #14. The size of the punch needle determines the weight or thickness of yarn you use, as well as the height of the yarn when making a loop stitch. I stock two sizes of Oxford Punch Needles in my shop- the #10 Regular and the #14 Mini. The #10 Regular is a great option for beginners and the size that is included when you order one of my punch needle kits. The #14 Mini is best for more detailed projects and creates stitches that look similar to needlepoint. Learn more about how to use your punch needle in this tutorial.
What type of yarn should I use?
My favourite part of punch needle is getting to experiment with so many beautiful shades and textures of yarn. If you’re new to working with yarn, know that yarn is generally categorized by weight ranging from size 1 (super fine) to size 6 (super bulky). When using a #10 Regular punch needle, choose yarn that is a size 5 (bulky) weight. When using a #14 Mini punch needle, choose size 4 (worsted) weight or tapestry yarn.
For beginners, I recommend starting with 100% wool pencil roving or wool/acrylic blends. This type of yarn is easiest to punch with, and will give your project a full and soft look. My punch needle kits come with a selection of 100% wool roving and plied yarn, allowing you to try punching with different textures and yarn types.
A 100 g ball of bulky weight yarn will cover about an 8" x 8" section depending on how close together your stitches are and the type of yarn you use. Other material can also be used in needle punching, including fabric strips cut into ¼” wide strips when using a #10 Regular punch needle.
Can I use any type of fabric to punch needle on?
The short answer? No. In order to create the right tension required for your punch needle stitches, you do need to use a specific type of fabric.
The most common and affordable material to punch on is monk’s cloth, a 100% cotton even-weave fabric. When shopping for monk’s cloth, look for fabric that has 12 to 14 holes per inch. Traditional or primitive linen, bleached linen and rug warp are other great options for punch needle projects. Cross stitch fabric or Aida cloth will not work as it doesn't maintain the tension needed for punch needle.
What type of frame should I use?
It’s super important that your cloth is stretched very tightly across a frame while you punch your project. The simplest options for frames are stretcher bars (square or rectangular frames) and non-slip hoops (circular frames). Wood stretcher bars can be purchased unassembled at most art supply stores, or you can purchase a stretched canvas frame and remove the canvas. You will need a staple gun to attach the foundation material to your frame.
My favourite hoop to punch with is the No-Slip Morgan Hoop. It looks like a regular embroidery hoop, but has a stronger tightening mechanism and a tongue and groove configuration to keep fabric taut. Punch your project in the no-slip hoop, then transfer it to a regular embroidery hoop (available in any craft store) for display. Check this post out for more information on using embroidery hoop frames.
If you've moved past the beginner stage, you may want to invest in a gripper strip frame. While pricier than the other options, a gripper strip frame allows you to quickly get your foundation material stretched as tight as a drum.
What should I punch? Do I need a pattern or can I create my own?
Lots of people like to start with a pattern- check out my free grapefruit and evergreen tree templates or shop my bunny or penguin patterns. All are perfect for beginners and quick projects to complete.
If you’d prefer to create your own designs here are a few things to keep in mind. Simple designs are best with punch needle- choose large and bold shapes with minimal overlapping lines and lots of open spaces. If you can trace it with a chunky marker without it looking messy, it will punch well!
If I'm making a stuffie or pillow, do I need to seal the back of my punch needle stitches so they don't fall out?
If you use the correct foundation material and yarn for your project, the tension created will be enough to keep your punch needle stitches in place. If your project is going to be used heavily (like if you have a persistent toddler pulling at every strand of yarn on a stuffie you've made), you may want to seal the back to add an extra layer of durability. You can do this by ironing a piece of fusible interfacing onto the back of your project or by "painting" over the backside with craft glue and an artists brush.
Want to try making your own punch needle stuffy? Check out my tutorial here.
Where can I learn more about punch needle?
Check out this blog post where I link to my favourite resources for learning about punch needle plus a round-up of my favourite needle punchers to follow on Instagram. Or shop my ebook Drawing with Yarn: A Beginner's Guide to Punch Needle- in this instant digital download you'll find over 50 pages of clear instructions, info on where to buy punch needle supplies, plus exclusive punch needle projects to try once you've mastered the basics. Ready to get started? Buy a punch needle kit (which includes a copy of my ebook) and have all the supplies sent to you.
Is there something you're wondering about punch needle embroidery? Comment below and tell me your punch needle question!
May 14, 2020
Hi, have just tried my first piece of punch needling, and one thing I’ve found is that I can’t make it as neat on the back as the front, as the front side gets so clogged up with loops that making the back neat means punching into already-made loops. Does that make sense? It helped when I made the loops a bit smaller and am also trying to angle the needle away from an already made line…
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by Lesley Hill
February 15, 2020
by Lesley Hill
January 13, 2020
by Lesley Hill
January 09, 2020
To kick off 2020, I’m sharing my punch needle evergreen pattern with you! When you're done stitching your tree you can turn it into a stuffy like I did, or fill in the background and turn it into a wall-hanging. This beginner pattern is great for using up yarn scraps, and is a fun addition to your winter decor now that the holidays are over.
Covid-19 Update: Punch needle orders are shipping within 1-3 business days, but expect delays with postal delivery and customs clearances.