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Punch Needle Embroidery Basics


There’s a new love in my life, and my husband is actually pretty excited about it. I recently discovered the magical world of punch needle embroidery (and my recently I mean I was supposed to write this post in April).

Learn the basics of punch needle embroidery

Why is my husband happy about it? Let’s list the things that make punch needle awesome (my husbands favorite reasons are #1 and 2 by the way):

  1. It’s really cheap as far as crafting hobbies go.
  2. It doesn’t take up a whole lot of space, you can store everything you need in a small box.
  3. The finished pieces are small and easier to store than say, painted buffets.
  4. The learning curve is small, you can pick it up in an afternoon.
  5. The finished pieces make great gifts
  6. It’s easy to do sitting on the couch and hanging out with the family (as long as you aren’t holding a baby!)
  7. The possibilities are endless

Are you convinced? Either way stick with me to the end of this crash course in punch needle embroidery basics and you might find yourself in the mood for some punching.

What is Punch Needle?

Learn the basics of punch needle embroidery

Punch needle embroidery is one of those ‘old’ crafts that maybe your grandmother or great grandmother did. It uses a pen-like needle with thread running through the middle (where the ink would go) to make loops in a piece of tightly hooped fabric. You work from the back of the fabric and push the needle though and pull it out through the same hole, move a little bit and repeat leaving a line of loops on the right side of the fabric. The needle separates the threads in the base fabric making a hole for the thread to go through and when you pull the needle out the hole closes around the thread leaving a loop on the right side. If your base fabric is too loosely woven your loops will fall right out. The terrible cellphone picture above is my first punched piece. I made it for my boss, the white kitty (Mister) was our work kitty until he passed away and then she adopted Honey, the brown striped kitty.

Punch Needle Supplies:

  • Ultra Punch Needle Set (needle + threader)Learn the basics of punch needle embroidery
  • Locking Embroidery Hoop – I love these from Michael’s, you can get them for cheap in the store in a bunch of sizes. Make sure they have the locking rim, the outer hoop has a groove that the inner hoop fits into
  • Embroidery floss –  I really like the look of Size 5 Pearl cotton but it’s not available in as many colors as the regular floss. I never separate my floss, I use all six strands at once.
  • Fabric – You’re supposed to use weavers cloth but I never have. I do all of my needle punching in scraps I bring home from work, usually a 7 or 8 oz cotton twill or denim. You want a sturdy fabric that will hold the loops in place. If you want to do it the right wayyou should probably track some down.

Punch Needle Patterns:

To he honest you don’t need a pattern. But most of us do better with some type of guideline so they are a good thing to have. You can find digital downloads on etsy or from online shops. I like to do a rough sketch on the fabric itself and make up the rest as I go along. A quick search on Pinterest for “Free Punch Needle Patterns” will turn up some good stuff.

Learn the basics of punch needle embroidery

Now that you have the pattern all printed off it’s time to get it onto your fabric. I prefer the window method because it doesn’t require any additional supplies. Simple hold the pattern against the window, place your fabric over it and lightly trace with a pencil. If you’re having trouble holding it or the design is a little complicated you can also tape the paper and fabric to the window. The other option is a light table, I’ve seen a few tutorials for those online but I haven’t found the need to make or use one yet.
Learn the basics of punch needle embroidery
*Remember you’re working from the back so trace your pattern onto the wrong side of the fabric.

How to Punch:

  1. Thread the needle using the threader that comes with your punch. These things are basically invisible and you will loose it constantly. I’m thinking about making a neon flag to attach the end of mine.Learn the basics of punch needle embroidery
    1. Insert the threader down through the needle, place the thread in the loop and pull it out. There is a tiny loop at the bottom of the threader that will hold the thread without slippingLearn the basics of punch needle embroidery
    2. Remove the thread from the threader and now place the threader though the hole in the needle. Put the thread back into the threader and pull it though the hole. Remove the threader and put it somewhere you absolutely will not lose it.
    3. Pull the thread back through the tool until you’ve got about an inch or a little more sticking out past the holeLearn the basics of punch needle embroidery
  2. If you’re using a pattern now is the time to transfer it to your fabric (I explained one method in the Punch Needle Patterns section above). Place the inner ring of the hoop on the table, center your fabric over it and apply the top ring, turn the screw to tighten. It has to be pretty loose to fit over the ridge on the inner ring so you’re going to have to tighten it a lot. Make sure all the edges are captured in the hoop Learn the basics of punch needle embroidery
  3. Start by outlining the part you’re going to work on. I like to fill in the smaller details and them move out to fill in the bigger sections. You are literally going to punch the needle through the fabric until the plastic nose is resting against the fabric. It makes a little thunk sound with each stitch. Pull the needle out just until the tip of the needle is free and then move down about an eight of an inch. I always work towards myself, rotating the hoop as I go. If your working towards yourself the hole in the needle should be facing away from you. I find that there is a ‘sweet spot’ where the needle goes in evenly and it doesn’t kill your hand. Learn the basics of punch needle embroidery
  4. When it’s time to stop working a color put your finger on top on the thread right where it’s coming out of the needle, pull the needle out and clip the thread. You don’t need to tie any knots or anything. Re-thread and start the next color
  5. When you’ve filled in all the areas and you’re done flip over your work. Take a pair of clippers and shear off any loops sticking up too far.

If this all sounds confusing (it’s sounds harder than it is) there are a bunch of videos on Youtube that show you step-by-step how to do punch needle embroidery. Here is one I like:

Just Keep Stitching Punch Needle Tutorial 




  1. Hi Alicia
    Just read your infor on the punch needle embroidery. I would like to try it. thank you for the info you posted.

  2. Hello……so the beveled part of the needle faces away from the direction your working? AND what kind of fabric are you using in this demo?

    Thanks 😀

  3. I can’t punch needle even though I was able to do it before several years ago. No thread will stitch through fabric even though fabric is taut in hoop.