There’s a new love in my life. I recently discovered the magical world of punch needle embroidery (and my recently I mean I was supposed to write this post in April). It’s a pretty old school needle craft that has a lot going for it.
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. The only spendy parts are the embroidery pen or punch needle and a hoop. Embroidery floss is very inexpensive and you hardly use any fabric at all.
2 – It doesn’t take up a whole lot of space, you can store everything you need in a small box. I use one of the shoe box style craft containers from Michael’s. I also keep my floss in a plastic case when I’m feeling organized.
3 – The finished pieces are small and easier to store than say, painted buffets. It’s easy to frame them or put them in a hoop like my ornaments.
4 – The learning curve is small, you can pick it up in an afternoon. And if you go… years without picking it up you can jump right back in without missing a beat.
5 – The finished pieces make great gifts. You can easily swap colors to make things personalized.
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. You don’t need a pattern but even if you use one there is an infinite number of ways to switch it up and make it your own.
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?
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. She couldn’t take a picture of the two of them together so I made one.
Punch Needle Supplies:
♦️ Ultra Punch Needle Set (needle + threader) I bought a cheaper one on Amazon and it sliced through the fabric, saving the money was not work the headache!
♦️ 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 way you 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. In 2018 I started my own line of digital punch needle embroidery patterns so if you like my style you should definitely check them out!
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.
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.
2 – 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 slipping
3 – 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.
4 – Pull the thread back through the tool until you’ve got about an inch or a little more sticking out past the hole
5 – 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
6 – 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.
7 – 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
8 – 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: