Punchneedle tips and tricks

by brae  

I'm not an expert on punchneedle, but several people have contacted me about it so I decided to make a blog post with some of the things I've encountered.  I haven't finished a punchneedle rug, but when I do I will add those instructions here.

Find the largest (highest resolution) image of your design as possible if you are adapting from a real life design.  This will help you capture as much detail as possible.  Print the image in the finished size you want in the house, test out the fit and adjust as needed.

Make a high contrast printout in the final size (shown on the left in the photo below).  I did this in Microsoft Office Picture Manager, but you can do this with any program that allows you to adjust the brightness and contrast.  You need to be able to see the design through the tracing paper.

Trace the high contrast printout using Aunt Martha's Tracing Paper and a Sulky Iron-On transfer pen.  Simplify the detailing.  You can stitch in more detail, but you don't have to draw it all in. (Note: I've since found fine tip transfer pens at Sublime Stitching which offer a better pattern for fine needlework. See this post for more info.)

The recommended fabric is "weaver's cloth" but I'm not sure exactly what that is.  You can purchase it from the same place that sells the needles.  I went to Joann and bought a poly/cotton, relatively sheer woven fabric.  You don't want anything bulky.

Get a Dee Lite Ex. Small punchneedle.  Adjust the dark blue stopper as close to the tip as possible while still getting the loops to stick. 

The pile on my rugs is about 1/16" high.

You'll need needle threaders, but I think those come with the punchneedle.  Take really good care of these since a bent one won't work and you can't use the needle without one.  I keep mine in a folded Vermont Covered Bridges map since it's the right size and doesn't bend.

Get a no-slip hoop in the appropriate size.  You can see my write-up here.  You'll want a little room around the rug design but also consider the size of any rugs you want to do in the future.  The fabric has to be as tight as you can get it, otherwise the loops slip out during stitching.

Follow the package instructions for the iron-on transfer to your fabric.  Be sure to take into consideration your hoop size when you place the design on the fabric.  You will be working from the back, with your finished design away from you.  Your transfer will be "opposite" of your original, but the final piece will match your original.  In other words, you don't need to flip your design.

Here you can see where I had cut my fabric too close, so I sewed on some additional fabric.

Buy DMC embroidery floss in your chosen colors.  You will need more than you think.  Punchneedle takes a lot of thread.  Wait for a sale or a coupon, but buy a lot of each color, especially backgrounds.  Make sure the dye lot numbers match, too.  I bought multiples of each color in the example below though only one of each is shown in the photo.

When working with the floss, I'd cast the skeins onto cardboard bobbins first.  Then, you will cut a long, long, long strand to work with while stitching.  Once you've done some stitching, you'll see what I mean about wanting a long strand.  Otherwise, you spend all your time threading the needle.  You'll need to separate the floss into individual strands as shown here.  This method cuts down on knotting.

Here are two good videos on threading the needle and punching: video one and video two.  I don't think it's possible to describe the technique in words.  :D

Some miscellaneous tips for punching:

  • Get a good pair of sharp embroidery scissors.
  • Pay attention to the direction of your needle when stitching.  You want the open part of the tip toward you with the thread trailing.
  • Keep in mind that punchneedle work doesn't look like anything good until you get a large area covered.
  • Start with outlines.  You'll want at least 2-3 "rows" for each line you want to show up in the final design.  Once the fill colors abut the outlines, the lines will "shrink" visually in the final design.
  • Try to get as many loops as possible by controlling how much space you skip in between.  You can always go back and fill in, but it's better to do this from the start.  Since we're using 1 strand of floss, you want a lot of loops to get full coverage.
  • Punch until the thread runs out.  You can snip the start and finish ends right to the fabric.  Be careful not to pull the thread once you've made loops because they will come right back out.
  • If you end up with loops that are too tall (sometimes the needle will push a previous loop out of place), just snip them level with the pile on the front.
  • If you don't like an area, you can pull it back out and move your fingernail against the fabric to close up the weave...then start over.

If you're interested in the comparison between punchneedle and French knots, here is the Bees and Trees rug compared to the Prairie Rug.  The pile is definitely finer with French knots, but punchneedle takes considerably less time and is still convincing in miniature.

I hope that answers some of your questions and points you in the right direction.  :D


Comment from: Lucille [Visitor]

A wonderfully accurate explanation, Brae! Thank you so much. That rug will be so beautiful when it’s done. I love your choice of colours!

01/09/14 @ 14:35
Comment from: 12Create [Visitor]

Thank you Brae. Have printed this out and put with my punch needle so I can refer to it when I do get around to having a go.

01/09/14 @ 15:08
Comment from: Abbe PB [Visitor]  

Wonderful tips! I’ve been working on my own post about my punch needle experience, but I thought I’d add a couple of recommendations here:

I’ve found very inexpensive no-slip embroidery hoops at Michaels in the sewing aisle; they work very well, are brightly colored, and come in a very wide variety of sizes. I’ve also purchased a hoop like you show above which is much heavier duty and stands up better to the larger punch projects, and those are sold at Joann Fabrics as quilting hoops, along with other quilting accessories. You may find some at more local sewing and quilting shops if that is your prerogative!

A lot of real life rugs have either a bias edging (if machine produced) or one that looks more wrapped/rope-like/embroidered if it’s handmade. I like to mimic the embroidered edge by folding over the edges and doing a very tight whipstitch through both sides of the fabric. This allows me to get in close to the punchneedle loops to keep it all uniform, and enables me to cover up any mistakes I’ve made with the straightness of the edge!

01/09/14 @ 15:51
Comment from: Abbe PB [Visitor]  

Oh! And one final tip - when I was just getting started, I had a lot of trouble with basic cotton/poly fabric. It was a lot easier to try things out on aida fabric with a very high threadcount. Aida is good for cross-stitch, because it’s very even in its weave - this also makes it excellent for training yourself to make even punch stitches!

01/09/14 @ 15:58
Comment from: Lyssa [Visitor]

Thanks, Pea!!! I can’t wait to get started….once I buy all the stuff. Haha!

And, Abbe, your tips are very helpful, too. Thank you!

01/09/14 @ 17:07
Comment from: Cinderella Moments [Visitor]

That makes a perfect pile for dollhouses. It’s really going to be quite the piece of art when you get done with it. Your talent is amazing.

01/09/14 @ 19:41
Comment from: Susan Korman [Visitor]  

Hi Brae,

Thanks for the tips on punchneedle, especially the tracing the design part. I really like the Weaver’s cloth and I believe I ordered mine from an online provider but unfortunately it has been a while ago and I have no record of where I got it. I did get a lot of it for a fairly cheap price though.


01/10/14 @ 05:37
Comment from: Laurie [Visitor]

I think weaver’s cloth is used to line things like handbags. I bought some at Joann’s. My next rug I’m going to use the weaver’s cloth, and I also picked up some buckram to try.

Thanks for the tips - I’m going to have to get tracing paper and transfer pen.

01/10/14 @ 09:11
Comment from: Blondie [Visitor]

Thank you so much for this tutorial!

01/11/14 @ 15:42
Comment from: Christina [Visitor]

This is so great, Brae! After seeing yours and Abbe’s beautiful rugs, I’ve really wanted to try punchneedle, but couldn’t find any simple guides like this.

Oh, and I finally figured out why I never see your posts in my reader…I put your blog in the wrong category–one I rarely read. Oops. Now, I have a couple months of posts to catch up on!

02/11/14 @ 04:43
Comment from: Beth Podgwaite [Visitor]  

PLEASE HELP! I am doing a punch needle rug and can’t keep the hoop around the fabric now that I have the yarn on spots I went out and bought bigger one but that too seems to small can’t keep it on what can I do?

10/21/14 @ 12:22
Comment from: brae [Member]

Hi, Beth - sorry for the late reply as I was moving. Are you trying to put the hoop over the stitched portions? That might be too bulky to hold the fabric tight. I’ve been using hoops larger than the stitched area, so I don’t have any other suggestions.

11/07/14 @ 11:14
Comment from: Gwyneth [Visitor]

Beth Podgwaite-I think your best bet is to sew some more fabric around the edge of your rug, so that when it goes in the hoop the hoop doesn’t touch any of the already punched areas. You can remove the extra fabric when the rug is done and finish off the edges of the rug as explained by others here.

02/11/15 @ 00:21
Comment from: Kelly Hall [Visitor]

Thank you for sharing. You have pure natural talent. I’m fixin to turn 58 and decided I want to learn miniatures. I did my years of cross stitch so this look so fun. Can’t wait to get started.

06/01/17 @ 18:02
Comment from: brae [Member]

You’re welcome! :>> Good luck and have fun!

06/02/17 @ 08:51
Comment from: Veronica [Visitor]  


I realky need some help, I just started needle punch, I must be doing something wrong! It won’t work! The stitch keeps coming out. I don’t know what to do! Thanks for your advice.

10/02/17 @ 00:12
Comment from: brae [Member]

I’m not an expert, but you might have the needle set incorrectly or are using the wrong type of fabric. The way you hold the needle also matters. It really is a lot of trial and error to start. Try the youtube videos I linked in the post. :)

10/03/17 @ 08:37

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