With 8 different sizes of Oxford Punch Needle, how do you know which needle is right for you? To make this determination, it’s important to understand what the sizes mean, the type of yarn they work with, and what type of items they create.
To begin, let’s review the two key aspects that apply to any punch needle.
The needle length (size 8-14) is what determines the height of the loop that you will create on the front of your textile. The longer the needle, the higher the pile will be. To be precise, your loop height will be half the length of the needle.
The needle width (Regular vs. Fine) determines the type of yarn you will use in the needle. The “Regular” sizes requires a thicker yarn, and will create a thicker loop. The “Fine” sizes use a thinner yarn, and creates a thinner, more delicate loop.
Shown below are examples of punched pieces with the 14 Fine (on the left) and the 10 Regular (on the right). You can see the difference in the look of the loops -- the Fine has a more densely packed look with smaller, tighter loops whereas the Regular needle creates a larger, more visually distinctive loop.
From the side, you can see the difference that the height of the needle makes, the 14 Fine (on the left) being a much shorter loop creates a shorter pile height, whereas the taller 10 Regular loop on the right creates a textile with a higher pile height.
So where did this numbering system come from? The Oxford Punch Needle was based off the numbering system of The Craftsman Punch Needle, which was one of the most commonly used punch needles for rug production prior to the Oxford Punch Needle. The Craftsman needle is adjustable, and has 10 different needle lengths, 1 being the longest, and 10 being the shortest. It is often used for more extreme sculpting, and the longer loop lengths can be clipped to produce a softer, cut-pile texture. When Amy Oxford created her punch needle, she followed this numbering system to keep her needle consistent with the system already in place, and help professionals easily understand how the loop length of her needles compares to the Craftsman tool.
The above image from Amy Oxford’s website does a wonderful job of illustrating where the Oxford Punch Needles fall on the spectrum of punch needles, not only in relation to not only the Craftsman, but also the commonly practiced technique of Punch Needle Embroidery (shown all the way on the right). As you can see, there is a significant difference in the size of the loops for each of these techniques!
Now let’s break down the general pros and cons of the different needle widths and lengths.
REGULAR NEEDLE WIDTH
PROS: Makes it faster to punch and fill an area, you can combine multiple strands of yarn together to create a neat effect, using thicker wool rug yarn creates a sturdier piece less prone to wear
CONS:: It can sometimes be hard to find yarn that is thick enough for this needle on its own
FINE NEEDLE WIDTH
PROS: Great for punching finer lines and more detailed artwork
CONS: It takes much longer to complete a piece as you will need to make many more loops to fill an area
LONGER NEEDLE LENGTH
PROS: Creates a higher pile that is good for rugs and sculpting/clipping pieces, longer pile can make a piece sturdier (less prone to pulling out)
CONS: Uses more yarn per square foot (you would not want to use a longer needle if you like to use the flat back of your stitches as the front)
SHORTER NEEDLE LENGTH
PROS: Creates a lower loop and pile height that is good for flat and more decorative pieces, uses less yarn per square foot (meaning your yarn goes a longer way)
CONS: The shorter loop makes it more likely to pull out (requires more skill/careful punching)
With all of that being said, what type of needles are recommended for the type of work that you want to do? See below for our quick tips -- now that you understand some of the key differences determined by needle length and width, the below recommendations should make more sense!
If you intend to make rugs, the size 9 Regular is recommended by professionals for a full, soft pile. (I also use the 10 Regular for rugs.)
- For pillows, the 10 Regular is recommended for a look with larger loops. The 13 Fine is recommended for pillows with a very detailed design.
- The 13 Fine is recommended for smaller accessories like coin purses or clutches.
If you want to punch something more detailed, in a lower pile height that looks more similar to punch embroidery, the size 14 Fine is recommended
If you intend to clip or shear your loops to create a cut pile look, a size 8 Regular or Fine is recommended as this is the tallest Oxford Punch Needle height.
If you want to use the flat back of your stitches as the front, the size 10 Regular is recommended for thicker yarn, or the size 13 Fine for thinner yarn.
Overall, the size 10 Regular is recommended for beginners for it’s ease of use, speed and versatility in all applications from artwork to pillows to rugs.
Shown below are a selection of clutches that are punched with the 14 and 13 Fine Oxford Punch Needles. The difference in the look of the loops is due to the varied thickness of the yarn used in each.
Shown below is a belt and a pillow each punched with the 10 Regular Oxford Punch Needle.