Find out what punch needle fabric is best for YOUR punch needle, plus I have a free printable cheat sheet for you!
When you’re first starting out with punch needle, figuring out which supplies you need can be confusing.
There are different fabrics that work for different size needles, which in turn work with different sizes of yarn or embroidery thread.
If you end up with the wrong combination of tools, it’s frustrating and you might think “maybe punch needle isn’t for me”. I don’t want you to think that!
That’s exactly what happened to me when I first started out, but I’m really stubborn and decided I was going to figure punch needle out if it was the last thing I did.
To help you out, I decided to put together this article and a handy printable cheat sheet so you can see at a glance which fabrics work with your punch needle, and which ones won’t.
Punch Needle is simple but can be confusing for a beginner.
One of the first mistakes I made when I started messing around with punch needle was choosing the wrong fabric for my punch needle.
Related: Check out this list of must have punch needle supplies!
I ordered an adjustable rug punch needle comparable to the Oxford punch needles.
When I was trying to figure out what supplies I needed, I didn’t realize how different in size the rug and miniature punch needles are. I also didn’t realize there was such a big difference in foundation fabrics.
I ended up with was a large rug punch needle and a couple of yards of Weaver’s Cloth. That combo doesn’t work, I found that out for sure!
To help explain the differences visually, I made a printable cheat sheet showing which fabrics work best with which punch needles.
You can grab yours at the bottom of this post!
Let’s look at each type of fabric and I’ll explain what they are and when to use them.
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Punch Needle Foundation Fabrics
First, let’s talk about foundation fabrics that work with large rug punch needles (like the Oxfords).
Monk’s cloth is the most popular cloth for the larger punch needles. You can sew it into purses or pillows after you do your punching and it works beautifully.
Monk’s cloth is an even weave 100% cotton cloth similar to Aida cloth (but definitely NOT the same).
There are two types of Monk’s cloth. One is perfect for punch needle, and the other is NOT.
The correct Monk’s cloth will be a natural color with white stripes running through it every two inches or so and it’s 12 holes per inch.
The WRONG kind of Monk’s cloth is a solid color (no white lines) and is typically used for other needle crafts like Swedish Weaving. This is the kind you’ll commonly find in craft stores. This fabric is 7 holes per inch.
While you’ll sometimes get lucky and find the correct Monk’s cloth in the wild, it’s really easy to pick it up online.
Linen & Primitive Linen
Linen is a beautiful and long-lasting foundation fabric to use for punch needle. You can leave parts of the linen backing exposed to add a different texture to your design.
Because of the high quality of linen, you can rest easy knowing your punch needle projects can be heirlooms passed down through the generations.
Primitive linen is very similar to linen but less expensive and, well… primitive. It has a beautiful rustic look.
Here’s a project I did using primitive linen as the foundation fabric. It makes a gorgeous background! (Also: that pattern is available in my shop!)
Rug warp (or primary rug backing) is a strong cotton foundation fabric and is frequently used for rug making.
It’s heavier and stiffer than Monk’s cloth, and made of 100% polyester.
This is a great fabric to use if your punch needle project will be subjected to lots of abuse and obviously perfect for rugs!
It’s actually made for rug tufting with a tufting gun, which is a lot harder on the backing fabric than punching by hand. This stuff will last forever!
A Couple Fabrics to AVOID
Aida cloth is used for cross stitch and other needlecrafts.
While it is possible to do punch needle on 16 or 18 count Aida Cloth, it’s not the best choice.
The fibers in Aida Cloth don’t hold yarn the same way fabrics like Monk’s cloth do, and if you’re just starting out the last thing you want is a frustrating experience.
You’re better off to save this stuff for your cross stitch projects.
Burlap is another foundation fabric that isn’t highly recommended but works in certain situations.
The good thing about burlap is it’s cheap, it comes in several colors, and it’s easy to find. In some countries, Monk’s cloth and primitive linen are harder to find, but you can almost always find burlap.
However the cons are it’s scratchy, the weave is inconsistent, and it breaks down over time.
There are some kinds of burlap that are higher quality than others, but I would only use this as a last resort and avoid it if you can.
Now let’s look at your foundation cloth options for embroidery punch needles (like the Ultra Punch).
Weavers cloth is a cotton/poly blend fabric that is a favorite for punch needle embroidery.
If you’re just starting out with punch needle embroidery, this is really your best choice. It’s reliable and you’ll get great results!
With embroidery punch needles, you can actually punch right on cotton fabric!
This opens up a whole world of possibilities with patterns and cool backgrounds you can add to your project.
Don’t like punching backgrounds? This is a great option, just find some cotton fabric with a pretty pattern and you’re good to go!
The quilting section of your local craft store should have some cotton fabric in stock, or you can find it online.
One important thing to take into consideration: the fibers in cotton fabric can rip or tear if you pull your punch needle loops out multiple times and repunch.
Take care and be gentle with this fabric.
100% Cotton Denim
Denim is a popular fabric for lots of things, including punch needle. It’s tightly woven and comes in different weights.
I recommend sticking to 100% cotton denim for your punch needle projects. This is a great way to upcycle some old jeans!
Check out this tutorial to see how to do a punch needle design on a pair of jeans!
Any poly-cotton blend is worth a try for punch needle embroidery.
Do some experimenting and see what works for you. As long as it’s a woven fabric, I’d say it’s worth a try.
I tried punching on a 100% cotton drop cloth with my Ultra Punch, and it worked really well!
Once you get comfortable with punch needle techniques, try doing punch needle on other woven fabrics!
The Ultra Punch is a great needle to experiment with because it’s nice and pointy and will go through most fabrics.
I hope this article was helpful and will clear up some confusion about punch needle fabric options.
If you haven’t already, be sure to grab your printable cheat sheet above!
Here are some more helpful punch needle articles for beginners!
Related Punch Needle Posts
- Punch Needle Tips You Need to Know BEFORE You Try It (+ Free Patterns!)
- How Does Punch Needle Stay in Fabric? (& Dealing with Problems When it Doesn’t)
- 13 Best Punch Needle Kits for Beginners!
Best Foundation Fabric for Your Punch Needle
Crystal Martin is the crafty lady behind Marching North. She loves sharing easy to follow tutorials and patterns for macrame, crochet, punch needle, and pretty much anything else involving yarn or textiles.
Her work has been featured on Creative Fabrica, Craft Gossip, Ravelry, as well as her own site and YouTube channels.
18 thoughts on “What Fabric Works with YOUR Punch Needle? [+ Free Cheat Sheet!]”
I see above you said that you’ve punch needled on quilting cotton fabric, what needle did you use for that project? I’ve only used monk’s cloth but am hoping to try something different!
I used my Ultra Punch needle for that, it’s a small embroidery sized needle and it works great with quilting cotton as long as you add some woven fusible interfacing to the back!
Hello! I’m about to embark on this new craft. I have some cotton fabric canvas I want to work with for a throw pillow. Would embroidery floss be a better fit than yarn?
I purchased a #14 mini Oxford punch needle and wondered what fabric to use thanks
Hi I’m new to this and some of the cloth needed is quite expensive. So I noticed I have a few cloth diapers laying around, can I use that to tryout my needles? I do have large and small needles. Any help would be appreciated.
I am new to punch needle embroidery. I was scrolling through Instagram and noticed a lady who was punching pillows using cotton canvas. I bought some of this and the Boye Embroidery needle set with sizes 2.20mm, 1.60mm, and 1.26mm. I tried punching on this cotton canvas using a fingering weight yarn. I cannot seem to get the stitches to stay. Do you think I am using the wrong foundation fabric or should I switch to embroidery thread? I’m trying to punch some lettering to make a pillow.
Hmm… I haven’t used the Boye punch needle myself, but I know someone who started out with it and said it was really frustrating to use so that could be the problem. If the yarn flows freely through the punch needle without any friction, it should work but if it’s got any drag at all that could be the problem. As for the fabric, the best fabric that everyone recommends for embroidery punch needle is weaver’s cloth, but I’ve successfully done embroidery punch needle on several other fabrics and as long as the punch needle and floss or yarn are compatible I would think the canvas would work. I hope that helps!
Could I needle punch to repurpose my lamp shade? Is there a needle you would recommend?
It would depend on what kind of material your lampshade is. It would need to be a fabric one and I would probably try the Ultra Punch if it’s like a cotton or similar fabric. I’ve never tried that so I can’t say for sure but it never hurts to try! Good luck!
hi My daughter is wanting to try punch needling. She has seen clips on Tic Tok which say to get 7 count Monks cloth but everything ive read says not to get this. What is best as she is a novice and want to make a small rug. thanks
It gets really confusing! Here’s an affiliate link to a good Monk’s cloth that will work properly. Good luck to her!
Hi – would an ultra punch needle with the large needle be able to use monks cloth to punch a rug? I know it’s no advised in the article above, but I’m hoping it’s still a possible combination, as I recently just bought the Ultra and don’t want to purchase a new needle so soon. Thanks!
Hi there, this is such a helpful post. I’m based in South Africa and finding the right foundation fabric is a bit tricky. I am able to find normal linen – ie Irish linen and linen used for dress making. Do you think that would be alright to use? I notice that the linen you have recommended is the primitive linen which I cannot seem to find here.
Also, would any upholstery fabric or canvas work?
Thanks a lot.
You could use Irish linen or other finer linens with the Ultra Punch, or a comparable embroidery punch needle. It wouldn’t work with a rug punch needle like the Oxford though. The primitive linen I talked about has a much larger weave and is closer to burlap. You can actually use burlap with the Oxford punch needles, but I’ve always heard that it can break down over time if you make a rug or something like that. I’m not sure if that’s always the case because I’ve also heard people say they use it and haven’t had any problems, so that’s really up to you. I hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by!
hi there..a beginner here..have you tried punch needle on a cotton tshirt?
Hello! I have not tried punch needle on a cotton t-shirt yet. I’m not sure it would work on a regular cotton t-shirt because of the stretchiness of the fabric (but I’m not 100% sure about that). I have done punch needle on denim and quilting cotton fabric (the non-stretchy stuff) and had good luck with both of those, plus I made a punch needle sweatshirt using woven interfacing on the back and that’s held up really well. Hope that helps! Thanks for stopping by!
May I ask if anyone has tried using a punch needle on a foundation of handknit projects for embellishment? Like flowers and scrolls, not an allover design. Is it even possible? Thank you!
I’ve never tried it myself, but I’d think it would have to be very tightly knit for it to work. I have seen someone do punch needle on handwoven fabric, though! Thanks for stopping by!