Punch needle embroidery seems to be the newest craft in town, and many are already hooked on it. What most people don’t know is that the craft has actually been with us for ages; it’s only making a comeback now.
The secret to a successful punch needle embroidery piece is getting started with the right tools. Unfortunately, there isn’t adequate information in one place to guide beginners, which often leads to them starting wrong and giving up or not attempting it at all.
For punch needle embroidery, you need a punch needle tool, a hoop or frame, fabric, and yarn.
But what is punch needle tool? A punch needle tool is a specialized needle used for embroidery that goes through the fabric and comes out, leaving a loop on the other side. The crafter creates many continuous loops close together, forming them into a design. If you are familiar with rug hooking, the two techniques are closely related.
Where most people go wrong with punch needle embroidery is not selecting the right tools. Although a few of the standard surface embroidery tools can work for punch needle embroidery, you’ll need specialized punch needle tools for frustration-free time. Let’s look at them.
Punch Needle Tools
The punch needle is the primary tool needed for this craft, so we’ll start with it first. There is an overwhelming number of punch needle tool brands today than a couple of years ago, which is great for choice.
They come in different shapes and sizes, colors, and materials, but all work using the exact same mechanism. However, each has its pros and cons; therefore, you have to choose appropriately.
There are three crucial factors to consider when choosing a punch needle tool:
Completing even a simple punch needle piece takes a reasonably long time, especially when you’re a beginner. You will tend to lag a bit and maybe spend hours holding the punch needle tool.
It will be no fun if you end up with sore fingers and wrists. Therefore, you have to choose a tool that is really comfortable in your hands for a hassle-free time.
When you’re comfortable, you tend to grasp concepts faster than if you’re experiencing disruptive aches and pains. An ergonomic handle is all it takes.
2. Ease Of Threading
The significance of threading is evident when doing a multi-colored punch needle piece. It is painfully frustrating to switch thread colors if the threading mechanism is complex.
Sometimes the yarn end slips out if the tool has no locking system, so you have to rethread the device. Open slot punch needle tools are the easiest to load.
Full hollow punch needle tools need a threader to load the thread, so you must always have one within reach at all times. On the bright side, the thread never gets pulled or stuck with this system.
The size of the punch needle tool influences the thickness of the thread you can use and also the pile length you can create.
Some punch needle tools are designed to have adjustable sizes to make loops of varying lengths. Notwithstanding, others will create only a specific loop length.
The same goes for thread thickness. Some punch needle tools are specific to a particular yarn thickness, while others are usable with a range of yarn sizes from worsted weight to bulky yarns. The thinnest punch needle tools like the embroidery punch needle are compatible with embroidery thread only.
It goes without saying that quality is a top priority if you’re serious about leveling up your skill. A sturdy punch needle tool is reliable and will remain with you for a long time.
It really makes your work easier and quicker, and results are more refined than a low-quality one that either breaks, becomes blunt, or keeps stopping or snagging on the thread.
A stainless steel needle, for example, is far more durable than copper, which tends to tarnish and is not as strong. Also, beware of cheap plastic handles.
Suggested Product: Oxford Punch Needle
If you’re a beginner, we recommend the Oxford punch needle. It is everything you want in a punch needle tool.
It is constructed of robust materials and built for durability and heavy use. The needle is made from stainless steel, and the handle is maple wood. It will last you through the entire learning curve and beyond.
The handle is ergonomically contoured with a slender middle and a bulging end to fit comfortably into your hands without causing fatigue, even after crafting for a long time.
Threading this punch needle is also a breeze, thanks to an open slot design. And an instructional booklet makes every step more straightforward.
The one minor downside with the Oxford punch needle tool is that it is a one-loop length punch needle and only makes 1/4 inch loops. But this is no deal-breaker considering its quality.
5. Hoop Or frame
The second and equally significant tool you need is a frame or hoop to support your work. This is a specialized frame with clamps that holds and stretches the fabric taut while you punch away.
Tight fabric is tantamount to a smooth gliding punch, which results in less fatigue, even loops, and faster results. Therefore, choose a frame that holds the material taut.
Key considerations to make when choosing a frame:
There are mainly two beginner-friendly frames for punch needlework: plastic non-slip hoops and wooden stretcher frames with grippers.
Wooden frames are beautiful and long-lasting, but PVC frames are smoother, lightweight, and come at a pocket-friendly price. Whatever you choose, ensure that it is not overwhelmingly cumbersome.
But the material is not the key issue with the type of frame. Instead, it is the backing mechanism. Non-slip hoops hold the fabric between two rings that fit tightly together, while the frame with gritters has tiny teeth that secure the fabric firmly, deterring shifting.
The width, or diameter, also matters. If you’re just starting, you can opt for a small size like an 8″ or 10″ because you’ll probably be making simple mats or coasters. But if you are ambitious enough to do large wall hangings and rugs, you need to go bigger.
There are square, circle, and oval frames, handheld, and lap standing options. The choice here is a matter of personal preference and individual comfort.
If you are the kind that crafts on the go, you might need to check for disassembly features. This way, you can dismantle the frame when you need to take it with you somewhere else.
To get off on the right foot, we recommend Q snaps frames. They’re made from wide top-grade plastic tubes that you can assemble and collapse.
This frame clamps the fabric tighter than tight. It won’t loosen even after repeated punching for hours. Holding the wide frame in your hands gives you a better and comfortable grip than narrow versions.
There’s also something known as hoop marks which you get with the traditional hoop. They are a real pain, and experienced embroiderers can attest. Luckily, you won’t have to experience those with this frame.
It is affordably priced and comes in various sizes, with the smallest being 6″ x 6″ and the largest being 17″ x 17″. If you’d like a round hoop, then go with Morgan’s lap stand.
Strapped for cash? Not yet ready to invest in a hoop? Don’t worry – there are multiple DIY options. You just need to get creative.
The simplest is stapling the fabric tightly all around an ordinary frame. It works for small, simple punch needle crafts. When doing needle hook rugs and carpets, you may use nails and tack pins to secure the fabric around a wooden frame.
Some crafters have even turned artists’ canvases into punch needle frames. You are free to work with whatever you have for practice purposes.
Although the fabric isn’t exactly a tool, it is one of the foundational supplies for punch needle projects and is the key to success. Like many beginners, you are probably wondering whether there is one right fabric for punch needle embroidery.
Well, there isn’t one right fabric for punch needle embroidery. However, not any material will be up to the task. There are good ones, ok ones, and just plain bad ones.
When choosing fabric for a punch needle, the thread count is what matters the most. Let’s start by understanding the finer details of how a punch needle works.
Once you punch the fabric, the needle does not make a hole through by puncturing the weave. Rather, it pushes the strands aside to be able to penetrate through to the opposite side.
Therefore, you don’t want the weave too tight, lest you break the threads, and not too loose that it lacks the tension needed to hug the loop. Fabrics with 12-hole/thread count have the ideal balanced weave for punch needle. Which fabrics are these?
Monks cloth is an absolute favorite and is perfect for beginners, and experienced crafters love it too. It is 100% natural cotton, strong yet flexible, and super easy to work with.
Make sure it is 12-14 count, as there are large weave monk cloths on the market with as low as 7 count thread. Other great options are rug warp, burlap, Aida cloth, and primitive linen.
Avoid dense fabrics such as denim, Jersey, or any stretchy fabric and synthetic fabrics. They are the worst for punch needle projects.
Lastly, you need to select yarn. This is perhaps the most exciting of the four essential punch needle embroidery supplies for many crafters.
We all have our personal favorites that we can’t wait to put to the test. You are probably thinking of that gorgeous yarn in select colors with a lovely feel to your hands but hold your horses.
There’s yarn made explicitly for this technique, and it is called wool rug yarn. Wool rug yarn is spun from tough fleece fibers making it resilient and durable.
You know what a rug goes through under our feet, and therefore it needs a hard-wearing yarn. Wool rug yarn fits the description, being bulkier and more textured than typical yarn.
Another reason why this yarn is so great for needle punch is because the roughness gives it some tooth. This way, the loops stay secured and even. That said, it’s not as rugged as you might think for the soles and still makes rugs comfortable enough to step on.
But as a beginner, your maiden project is likely something much smaller than a rug. In that case, you have the freedom to use any yarn you like; bulky, worsted, light worsted. It is really up to you. Just try and keep off of slippery options. Wool and wool blends are your friend.
Slippery yarn is shifty and will slide down, causing uneven loops. Novelty yarns with extra frills are no good either, as they easily get snagged by the punch needle eye.
Also, if you recap what we said about punch needle tools, they are yarn thickness specific. Therefore, you must pick your yarn after the tool to make sure it is the ideal weight and not too thick.
However, if you select a thinner yarn than what is required, either intentionally or inadvertently, it’s alright. You can turn this around by doubling or tripling the strands going through it.
There you have it, the four punch needle tools you need to get started. How about purchasing an entry-level punch needle kit and obtaining all these in one bundle? It will save you a few dollars as you go through the learning process.
Other Tools You’ll Need For Punch Needle Embroidery
In addition to the four primary punch needle tools, you’ll need these additional small yet handy tools as you go along. They are pretty basic, and you probably already have them lying around in a drawer or sewing kit somewhere.
Having a pair of scissors is a little obvious for any kind of craft that involves thread and fabric. You can use any scissors, but we recommend embroidery scissors for this job.
They are suitably shaped and sized for punch needle embroidery. It would help if you had them to cut the threads to size with the loops at the very end.
An embroidery needle or any ordinary needle with a large eye aids in finishing your punch needle embroidery for a clean look. Once you are done with a particular color, you will use a needle to bring the long loose end of the thread you left when you started to the backside and sewing it in.
3. Designing Tools
What you need here depends on whether you are drawing a freehand design or using a pattern template. For pattern templates, carbon paper is indispensable for accurately transferring the design onto your fabric. You can trace on it using a pencil or tracing wheel.
Alternatively, draw a freehand design with an erasable or washable pencil or fabric marker. If you make permanent markings, you’ll have to conceal them with the loops.
4. Yarn Winder
A yarn winder is that ‘not mandatory, but great to have’ kind of device. Yarn tends to tangle pretty quickly. A yarn winder ensures you progress smoothly by unwinding the ball systematically.
We hope you’ve really enjoyed this post and that it has offered you the guidance you needed to take the very first step towards a punch needle project. Remember, practice and experimenting with variety is key to finding what works and what does not.