How to Punch Needle

Learn how to do punch needle embroidery, also called punch needle rug hooking. A fun craft to do with wool yarn, monks cloth, and an embroidery hoop

If you like the look of traditional embroidery, but want a project with a little more “instant satisfaction”, you will love punch needle embroidery.  Needle punching is a fun way to create projects like a textile wall hanging or pillow cover in hardly any time at all.

What is Punch Needle Embroidery?

Punch needle embroidery is the craft technique of using a punch needle tool to loop yarn, floss or ribbon through fabric to create a pattern or design.

The punch needle tool pierces the fabric on one side and leaves a loop a thread or yarn on the other. Traditionally, punch needle projects are worked from the back, or “wrong”, side of the fabric.  The back side looks more like embroidery, while the looped right side looks more like a hooked rug. Although the looped side is traditionally called the “right” side, some artists prefer to display the back of their work — it’s a matter of preference!

Punch needle tools come in different sizes to accommodate different weights and types of fibers. Smaller punch tools, like the Ultra Punch, are used with 6-strand embroidery thread on fabric with a tighter weave — like linen or weavers cloth.

Other punch needle tools, like the Amy Oxford punch needle, are used with bulky wool yarns and ribbons on specialty fabrics with a looser weave — like monk’s cloth or rug warp.

What You Need to Get Started

  • Punch Needle tool
  • Foundation fabric
  • No-Slip embroidery hoop or frame
  • Rug yarn or bulky weight knitting yarn
  • Scissors
  • Pencil or Water-Erasable Marker

Let’s get started with punch needle embroidery. For this project, we will be using the large size Amy Oxford punch needle and bulky weight wool yarn.   For our foundation fabric, we will be using monk’s cloth.

  1. Transfer the Design.  Use a pencil or a water-erasable marking pen to transfer your design onto the fabric. Trace your pattern onto the “wrong” side of the fabric, remembering that it will be reversed when turned over.
  2. Stretch the Fabric.  For punch needle embroidery work with wool yarn, monk’s cloth is a recommended foundation fabric.  Wooden frames or no-slip embroidery hoops work best for punch needle embroidery.  It is important to stretch the fabric tightly in the frame or hoop for best results.
  3. Thread the Needle Tool.  You can thread the Amy Oxford punch needle by hand — first by threading the yarn through the eye of the neddle and then pulling the yarn down into the slot in the handle.  Some other punch needle embroidery tools require a threader to help get the yarn loaded. First, pass the threader up through the needle end. Pass the embroidery floss through the metal loop sticking out. Then, pull the threader out of the tool. Next, insert the threader into the front of the eye of the needle. Insert the embroidery floss and pull the threader through. With that done, you’re ready to punch.
  4. Start to punch.  To start, outline your design with stitches. Insert your needle, leaving a small tail of yarn through the eye of the needle, and the rest of the yarn out through the handle. Pull the tail of thread to the “right” side of the fabric.  (Remember, you are punching from the back!) Punch your needle tool straight down, making sure the shaft of your needle has gone all the way down. Gently pull your needle back up. Move the needle along the surface of the fabric a small distance, and punch again. (Don’t pull your needle too far away from the surface of the fabric!)  To change directions, turn your needle in the down position.
  5. Keep on Punching.  As you go, you’ll see a line of flat stitches on the back and small loops on the front.  Continue filling in your design by following your transferred design on the fabric.  To change colors, rethread your needle with a more yarn.  Insert the tool as before, leaving a small tail as you did with the very first stitch.  You don’t need to tie any knots.  The tension of the fabric will keep your stitches in place.
  6. Make a Mistake?   If you make a mistake or a stitch doesn’t want to stay in, gently pull on the embroidery floss to undo the work. Gently scratch over the fabric to erase any mistake punch holes, and punch the area over again.
  7. Finishing.  When you’re done punching, simply trim your thread, leaving a small tail on the “right” side of your work.  Remember, no knots are needed.


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