Punch Needle, while considered an “easy craft”, can still be the source of much confusion! Below we summarize the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about this craft and clear up some misconceptions.
What is Punch Needle?
The term “Punch Needle” refers to a sharp, hollow metal needle that is used manually to push loops of yarn, fabric or thread through a woven (even-weave) backing fabric.
How does Punch Needle work? How does the yarn stay in the fabric?
In Punch Needle, you do not create a hole in the backing fabric, but rather you are pushing the needle in between the warp and weft threads of a woven material, creating more density in the fabric. The yarn is held in place by the tension created from multiple loops being pushed in between the weave of the fabric. The more loops that are packed in, the denser and more secure the textile becomes.
What kind of things can you make with Punch Needle?
You can make all sorts of things with punch needle! From functional pieces like rugs and pillows to decorative pieces like artwork and wall hangings, artists and crafters all over the world are experimenting with the possibilities. Some of the things we’ve seen include: stuffed animals, placemats, baskets, oven mitts, coats, handbags and slippers.
What are the tools I need to get started?
The only tools you need to get started punching are a punch needle, frame, foundation/backing fabric, yarn, and small pointed scissors.
Here is a more in depth overview of The 4 Essential Tools You Need to Begin Punching.
Why are there so many different Punch Needle tools? How do I know which one to choose?
There have been hundreds of punch needle tools developed in the last century alone! They vary slightly and different tools are used for different purposes. It can be daunting trying to decide which tool is right for you when you’re starting out! When selecting a punch needle tool, you will want to consider the needle size, the needle length, the style of the handle and the materials it is made out of, as well as what type of project you are making.
For more help on determining the right punch needle type and tool for you, check out our blog post here.
How do I know kind of frame and backing fabric should I be using?
The frame and backing fabric will be determined by what you’re trying to make, and the skill level that you’re at. Frames can vary in price, so until you’re committed to punch needle you might want to go for something simpler and more cost effective. You also may want to select your frame based on the type of projects you are working on — some frames do not enable you to create larger pieces, which is important to note if you’re trying to make a rug or larger artwork. Backing fabric varies as well, with certain styles being more suitable for beginners, for artwork vs. rugs, etc.
I have all the tools, but it’s still not working for me! What am I doing wrong?
It sounds simple, but the first thing to check is to make sure you have threaded your needle correctly! From there, a few quick troubleshooting questions to ask yourself:
Is there anything restricting the movement of your yarn through your needle, like a knot in the yarn, a tanged ball or even yarn that is caught under your frame or elbow as you work?
Is your thread or yarn is the correct size for your needle? Read our post here for tips on yarn and matching it to your needle.
Are you following best practices for even punch needle loops, like facing the channel in the direction that you’re punching, and not lifting your needle too high as you move from stitch to stitch?
Another key reason why you might be having trouble is that you may be working with a tool meant for one style of punch needle, yet trying to punch on fabric meant for another punch needle style.
Wait, isn’t all Punch Needle essentially the same thing?
No, not all punch needle is the same! In fact, all the variations that exist under the broader umbrella of “punch needle” are what leads to so much confusion when beginners are looking to get started. Below are the three types of punch needle technique that have informed our modern use of this craft:
Punch Needle Rug Hooking
Russian Miniature Punch Needle Embroidery (Igolochkoy)
Japanese Punch Embroidery (Bunka)
Though each of these crafts use a version of a hollow metal needle, it is important to note that they all have their own histories, uses and techniques, and each require different tools and materials.
Today, the term “Punch Needle” is becoming a catch-all phrase for a craft that is a mash-up of the above techniques. But it is important to understand the history and to be able to distinguish between these three styles, in order to better contextualize the work we’re doing today.
What is the difference between Punch Needle Rug Hooking and Punch Needle Embroidery?
Punch Needle Embroidery as it is practiced today, evolved from versions of both Igolochkoy (Russian Punch Needle Embroidery) and Bunka (a Japanese embroidery technique). Punch Needle Rug Hooking on the other hand, evolved from the American and Canadian Rug Hooking tradition. As such, Punch Embroidery and Punch Rug Hooking have various techniques, functions, and many of the “rules” that apply to one, don’t apply to the other. This can get pretty confusing!
An overview of some of the differences include:
Punch Needle Rug Hooking is used with a thicker yarn, and is usually taught with the goal of being sturdy and functional (for rugs). Punch Needle Embroidery was traditionally used as a decorative addition to clothing, napkins, curtains. Neither of these crafts have ever required glue to secure their stitches! Glue is a modern addition of recent years that will actually weaken your piece over time.
100% Cotton monkscloth and linen is recommended as a backing fabric for Punch Needle Rug Hooking, but will not work for Punch Needle Embroidery. A 50/50 Poly-Cotton blend with a much tighter weave (like weavers cloth) is most recommended for Punch Needle Embroidery.
Punch Needle Rug Hooking and traditional Russian Punch Needle Embroidery is worked from the back of the piece, with the looped side being the front or “right” side of the textile. Contemporary Punch Needle Embroidery artists often use the flat stitches on the back side for the front of the design, which is a little more similar to Bunka embroidery — but is ultimately a modern interpretation of only the last few years!
For more information, check out our YouTube video on the History of Punch Needle Rug Hooking.
How can I make sure that all my tools and materials will work together?
Because of the variations in punch tools, yarn and backing fabrics, it can be helpful to purchase all your punch needle supplies from one seller, or to reach out beforehand to confirm that the tools, fabric or yarn you are purchasing will work seamlessly with any existing items that you may already have! Here at Punch Needle World, we try to be as clear as possible in our product listings about which tools will work with our fabric and which yarn will work for our needles. And if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out!