Anna is an artist who enjoys collecting and repurposing old objects to turn into special things.
How to Start Learning Punch Needlecraft
If you are planning to learn how to do punch needle art, here are a few things you need to consider or expect. Punch needle art is very calming, and I highly recommend you try it because it is simple and relatively easy to master.
Before we get into the step-by-step instructions, let's look at some things to consider and expect before you begin learning punch needlecraft:
Things to Consider
- Expenses: You need to budget for craft materials like yarn, cloth, patterns (optional), punch needles, and frames. All of these materials are easy to acquire and relatively inexpensive.
- Time and Patience: Like any art project, you need time to invest in creating all the work. Punch needlecraft is tedious and requires a lot of patience and creativity.
- Pain: In the beginning, expect to experience some pain in your fingers, hand, elbow, deltoids, shoulder, and neck. The punch needle requires a little bit of strength to force the needle onto the fabric. The repetitive action is what stiffens the muscles and causes discomfort.
Materials You'll Need
These are the materials you need to buy to start a tapestry, rug, pillow, or stuffed toy:
- Punch needle
- Cloth (monk's cloth is recommended, but I use burlap)
- Wooden frame
- Gun tacker
- White glue
These materials are not expensive, but making these types of projects will use up a lot of yarn, so make sure to have enough to finish larger pieces. Here are a few examples of the yarn and the punch needles you might want to start with, or you can also visit your local art supply store. They will most likely have the materials you would need to start doing this craft.
Types of Punch Needle Tools
- Wooden handle punch needle tool: I recommend this for beginners. These needles are very easy and comfortable to use. I recommend having more than one needle so you don't have to always rethread every time you need to change yarn color.
- Plastic punch needle tool: This has plastic handles and adjustable needle lengths. The needle length will determine how long your loop will be.
- Oxford needle: This is a punch tool with a canal right down the middle of the tool for easy threading.
How to Choose Yarn
You can start by using this kind of yarn. I recommend you get different colors so you can have a lot more freedom in coming up with patterns yourself: That way, you won't be limited with just a few colors. I also combine 2 to 3 strands at the same time—not only to save time in punching, but to also get a rainbow effect.
You can also use recycled materials instead of yarn to make your creation have a different look and feel. You can also combine yarn, ribbons, and plastics to create a dynamic piece of art. This is for advanced crafters; if you are a beginner, I recommend you to start with yarn.
How to Develop Your Technique
Punch needle art does take time to make. So, if you plan to crank out a lot of pieces, you have to have enough time set aside to make these. Here's some tips for how to work more easily and efficiently:
- For the loops to look tight and plush, you need to punch the yarn in spots very close to each other and not see any canvas in between. This way, you can have that fluffy and dense look.
- Once you have got the hang of this technique, you can go a bit faster, but not by much—especially if you are using a single-strand yarn.
- Use two strands of yarn at the same time. This means buying two balls or skeins of yarn of the same color if you are creating a big piece. This will help you finish faster.
- You'll find that in the beginning, you'll have a few hiccups like the yarn not punching through the cloth. This means you do not have enough slack in your thread, so it would be best if you frequently pulled your yarn to give it enough allowance.
- Be patient. Once you have your technique down, it will be more comfortable, and you will be amazed at the art you will be making.
What to Do About the Pain
There will be a little bit of pain in the beginning! Punch needlecraft requires a bit of strength in punching the thread through the cloth. You will find that your hand and fingers will get a bit stiff. There might be a bit of elbow pain. In my case, there was also some lower back pain, some neck aches, and general pain throughout my right arm and shoulder. Of course, it got better after a few days and with a bit of practice.
Here's what you need to do to help avoid or get rid of the pain or discomfort:
- Choose a comfortable chair; this is important. Make sure you have enough lower back and neck support.
- Be conscious of your posture.
- Make yourself stop and stand up a few times. Stretch!
- If your fingers get stiff, you can massage them or put something warm on them like a microwaveable heating pad. This will help your fingers feel better.
- Make sure you work in a well-lighted space; this will help your eyes not to get strained.
- Never put your frame directly on your legs. The punch needle is a bit long, and with a bit of force, you might stab your leg with it.
- Make sure all your yarn is within reach.
How to Prepare Your Frame and Canvas
First, you'll want to prepare your frame and canvas by fitting and securing your cloth in your frame. Make sure it is stretched out. Draw your pattern on your cloth. You can get patterns online or freehand your own.
The side you will be working on is the "wrong side" of the cloth. The end result of the stitches will look like embroidery, where the yarn will lay flat on to the fabric and will look more like running stitches. The "right side" of the canvas is the one facing the floor. You will get the "loops" on that side. This will give you the "rug look." You can display both sides, depending on the style you are going for. But if you are planning to show the "wrong" side or the rug side, make sure you draw your pattern in reverse.
Step-by-Step Punch Needle Instructions
Step 1: Insert the threader into the brass needle.
Step 2: Insert the yarn into the threader.
Step 3: Pull the threader through.
Step 4: Insert the yarn into the small hole at the side of the needle.
Step 5: Pull the string through.
Step 6: Punch your needle into the cloth.
Step 7: Pull the yarn at the backside.
Step 8: Leave about an inch.
Step 9: Move about 5 mm and punch the needle up to the hilt.
Step 10: Lift the needle without pulling it too far from the fabric. Make sure the needle is almost touching the cloth at all times.
Step 11: As you lift, move the needle 5 mm and plunge it again into the fabric.
Step 12: The opening of the needle or the hollow end should always be facing the direction where your stitch is going.
Step 13: When you have finished, turn it over and see if all areas have loops. If not, go back and punch additional loops in the bald spots.
Step 14: Remove the cloth from the frame. Brush white glue on the "wrong side" of the fabric, covering all of the stitches evenly. Let dry. This will prevent the threads from being pulled out.
More Helpful Tips
- Make sure your yarn has enough slack. If at any time your thread is no longer being punched in and you find your line is just straight and laying on top of the cloth, this means you did not have enough thread allowance or slack.
- If you make a mistake, simply pull the thread and start over.
- If you want longer loops but don't have longer needles, simply pull the loops on the other side to make them longer. Keep doing this until you get the height of the loops you want. You can do this to areas you want to highlight, like the center of flowers. You can also add pompoms or accessories to make your art more attractive.
- You can use two different color threads to create a two-toned or multi-color effect.
- You can die-cut your work and make them into pillows or bags or stuffed toys. Or you can hang them on your wall. I recommend stitching the edges to give it a finished look.
© 2020 Anna Javier