Top 10 Tips for Punch Needle Embroidery

Punch needle embroidery is a simple, fun, and fast fiber art that you can learn in an afternoon.  In punch needle, you’ll use a special punch needle tool to punch loops of yarn into fabric to fill design areas with color.  It’s like painting with yarn!

Punch needle is a craft technique suitable for all ages.  Even my three-year-old was able to pick up the basics with a little coaching. 🙂  It’s one of the fastest types of needlework, and so satisfying.

Ready to try Punch Needle embroidery?  Here are my top ten tips for punch needle success.



You can get started with punch needle right away.  The required supplies are relatively inexpensive and small.  You don’t need to invent a lot of time, money, or space to begin punch needle.

Even better? It’s so easy to learn. After some instruction and experimentation with punch needle basics, you can start creating beautiful objects right away.  Here are some tips to help you:

1. Use the correct fabric for your foundation.  If you are punching with rug yarn, you’ll want to look for Monk’s Cloth fabric.  Monk’s cloth 100% cotton fabric with a sturdy, yet flexible weave.  Use monk’s cloths for your backing fabric when you’re making pillows, bags, stuffed objects, or even punch needle rugs. 

Monk’s cloth is available several sizes of weaves. For punch needle, you want a monk’s cloth with a tighter weave.  For punch needle, choose a monk’s cloth with approximately 12 holes per inch.  Be careful, because most craft stores — like Joann — carry a type of monk’s cloth with a much larger weave, usually 7 holes per inch. This type of monk’s cloth has a very open weave, which means your yarn won’t be held as tightly and may slip out. 

If you are punching with a fine needle and embroidery floss, you’ll want to use fabric like Weaver’s Cloth for your foundation fabric.  Weaver’s Cloth is a poly-cotton blend with an even weave and a heavier weight. You can find Weaver’s Cloth online, and in the bottom-weight section of craft stores like Joann.

2. Use the right weight yarn.  Use a size of yarn that is thin enough to flow easily through the punch needle tool, yet thick enough to stay in the holes of the foundation fabric.  For use with the Amy Oxford punch needle, I recommend 3-ply rug yarn or bulky-weight knitting yarn.  You can also use two strands of worsted-weight yarn held together, or even 3 or 4 strands of sock-weight yarn held together.

For use a smaller gauge needle like the Ultra punch, you can use 6-strand embroidery floss, like DMC embroidery floss.

3. Use a proper frame to hold the fabric tight for punching. Basic wooden embroidery hoops can’t usually hold the fabric tight enough for punch needle embroidery.   With each stitch, the fabric gets looser, and ends up making the whole process really frustrating.  Instead, look for a heavy duty frame made for punch needle.

Some of the best frames are gripper strip frames or Q-snap PVC embroidery frames.  If you’d like to use a hoop, I recommend a plastic no-slip hoop like the Morgan or Clover.   You can also make a DIY carpet tack frame, or even use a staple gun to staple your backing fabric to a wooden frame.

4. Keep tight tension on the fabric. Always keep fabric drum-head tight (tight enough to bounce a coin on) so your needle can properly and neatly form stitches.

5. Keep loose tension on the yarn.  This is a little tip, but it can make a big difference.  Make sure that you have plenty of slack on the ball end of the yarn.  Otherwise, any tension you have could pull your stitches out.

6. Pay attention to the direction of your needle when stitching.  The open end of the needle faces the direction of stitches.

7. For even stitches, and even loops, punch down and at even depth.  Punch the needle all the way down into the fabric until the wooden part of the handle is just touching the fabric.  The length of the needle creates the depth of he loops.  If you punch down to the same place on every stitch, then the loops will be a consistent pile height at the end. 

8. Don’t lift the point of the needle off the surface of the fabric between stitches.  Rather, just barely drag the tip of the punch needle across the surface.

9. Start with the outlines.  Use smaller, closer stitches in the outlines than the fill stitches. 

10. Fixing Mistakes: If you don’t like an area, you can pull your stitches back out.  To fix any lingering punch marks in the monk’s cloth, run your fingernail over the fabric to close up the holes in  the weave.  Then, just try again!

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