While Punch Needle is an easy craft to learn, its success relies heavily on using the right tools. Many people who have tried Punch Needle and become frustrated that it doesn’t work are simply using the wrong tools and materials, or using them incorrectly.
The four most important tools that affect the quality of your punch needle work are your frame, your backing fabric, your yarn and your punch needle.
In punch needle rug hooking, the foundation cloth that you punch into is a key aspect of success. The most common mistake people make is trying to punch using a backing fabric with a weave that is too tight or too loose for their punch needle. Punch needle does NOT work in all fabric! It requires an even weave fabric with a specific number of threads per inch, in order for the punch needle to penetrate between the weave.
Contrary to what it may look like, when you punch into backing fabric, you are not creating a hole in the fabric. You are pushing a yarn loop in between the threads of a woven fabric. The threads in the fabric do not break, they are pushed aside to accommodate the needle and the yarn. This is why it’s important to choose a fabric that is not woven too tight. If the weave of your backing fabric is too tight, the punch needle will simply rip a hole in the fabric. If the weave of your fabric is too loose, it will be difficult to create enough tension for your loops to stay in place.
The ideal fabric has between 12-14 holes per inch. This type of backing fabric is the most versatile, as it will work for both regular and fine sizes of the Oxford Punch Needle. Punch needle rug hooking will not work on leather, stretch jersery, synthetic fabrics or denim.
For beginners, Punch Needle World recommends 100% Cotton Monkscloth with 14 holes per inch.
To learn more about the variations and different options for backing fabric, check out our blog post All About Backing Material.
A good frame is another key component of punching success! Your frame is where you stretch your foundation cloth in order to punch. It is responsible for keeping your material tight while you work so you can see the weave and the needle can enter smoothly. The tighter the fabric, the easier it will be to punch through the fabric, to see your stitches and to ensure you are creating even loops. There are three types of frames that can be used for punch needle — a gripper strip frame, a carpet tack frame and a no-slip embroidery hoop. Each of these three options use a different method to secure the fabric along the edge of the frame. The gripper strip frame uses small, sharp “teeth” that are placed very close together, and ensure a very tight and secure backing. The carpet tack frame uses nails spaced 3/4” apart and is typically used in conjunction with tacks to keep the backing tight. The no-slip hoop grips the fabric between two plastic hoops that lock together and keep the fabric secure. Each frame has its pros and cons and different frames may serve you at different times.
For beginners, we recommend a No-Slip Hoop or Gripper Strip Frame.
Yarn is an important (and fun) ingredient to punch needle success! The color and texture of a yarn can really make your designs pop! However, some yarn is harder to work with than other yarn, which is something to consider especially when you are just beginning. The best yarn for Punch Needle Rug Hooking is a 100% wool rug yarn. Rug yarn is a bulkier, slightly rougher/more textured yarn, and because of it’s texture it holds very securely in your backing fabric. This makes it a great choice for beginners, and for those looking to create sturdier pieces (like rugs!) that need to stand up to use and wear. Of course, there is so much gorgeous yarn out there, you’ll want to experiment! Creating decorative pieces gives you more latitude in the texture of yarn, however some of the softer, finer threads may be so soft that they are almost slippery, making it harder to punch even loops. The other thing to consider about yarn is the thickness, or weight of the yarn. You will need to select the correct weight for your punch needle. Oxford Regular Punch Needles, the Craftsman Punch Needle and other needles with a larger eye will require yarn that is approximately 1/8” thick. The Oxford fine/mini needles, along with other punch tools with a smaller eye require a thinner worsted weight yarn.
For beginners, we recommend a 100% wool rug yarn.
For more in depth info on yarn, check out How To Select Yarn For Your Punch Needle.
The punch needle! This is of course the main tool you will be using for your punch needle projects. The ease of threading, the comfort of the handle, and the size of the needle are all things to consider when selecting this tool. The handle is the first thing to consider. Punching is a time consuming craft, so you want a handle that is both sturdy and comfortable for your hands and fingers. The ease of threading is important, as you may be changing colors frequently, or may need to re-thread if your yarn pulls out of the needle. There are also various needle lengths and sizes, that affect both the thickness of the yarn that you can use, as well as the length of the loops that punching creates. A sturdy punch needle with a strong handle and durable metal needle is imperative for the success of this craft.
For beginners, we recommend the Oxford Punch Needle - Size 10 Regular.
To learn more about the various punch needle options, check out our blog post on Oxford Punch Needles – Which Size Is Right For You?