Are you having punch needle problems?
Or maybe you’re wondering how punch needle stays in fabric, anyway?
If you’re new to punch needle, the whole idea is probably boggling your mind.
I know I didn’t get it at first! There are no knots involved! How is that supposed to work? It seems like the loops would just pull out so easily and then all your hard work was for nothing.
However, that is not the case.
Punch needle has been around for many years.
People have made beautiful rugs and decor using larger punch needles since the 1880s. With miniature punch needles, people have been creating beautiful embroidery for even longer than that.
If a punch needle rug can last without falling apart it must be true that the loops stay in the fabric. Rugs get a lot of abuse!
But what is happening to make the punch needle loops stay? When I first started out with punch needle, and I was wondering the same thing.
Now that I’ve been doing punch needle for the last year (both with yarn and with embroidery floss), I can assure you it stays in the fabric just fine!
That is… if you have the right fabric/punch needle/fiber combo, and know how to do the basic techniques.
Luckily, it’s all pretty simple. Let’s talk about how punch needle stays in fabric, and how to troubleshoot punch needle problems when they happen.
(This post contains affiliate links. If you click one and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Read the disclaimer here. Thank you for your support!)
How Punch Needle Stays in Fabric
The fabric used for punch needle is called your foundation fabric.
You can’t use just any old fabric for punch needle. The kind you use will depend on what size of punch needle you’re using and what your finished project is going to be.
For large rug punch needles like the Oxfords, Monk’s cloth is a really great reliable choice.
It’s important to note that there are two types of Monk’s cloth, and one is not good for punch needle.
The wrong kind of Monk’s cloth is usually what you find in craft stores and it’s used for Swedish weaving.
The right kind of Monk’s cloth has white stripes running through it every so many inches.
There are other fabrics you can punch on with both types of needle, but if you’re just starting out, you’ll get reliable results with those two fabrics.
New to punch needle? There are some important things you need to know. Check out my ebook Punch Needle Basics to find out everything you need to know!
When you stretch the foundation cloth tightly in an embroidery hoop or on a wooden frame, it opens the holes in the weave up more and makes it easier to punch.
The tension created by adding more and more loops to the cloth creates pressure that makes the loops stay in the cloth.
Then, when you remove the fabric from the embroidery hoop or frame, the weave snaps back a bit and that also helps the loops stay in place.
If You’re Having One of These Punch Needle Problems…
- Uneven loops
- Punch Needle just making big holes in the fabric
- Loops not staying in the fabric
It’s Probably Because of One of These Mistakes:
- Pulling the needle up too far between stitches
- Not punching the needle all the way down
- Too much tension in yarn or thread
- Wrong fabric weave size for your yarn or thread
- Holding the punch needle incorrectly
Let’s look a little deeper at each of these problems and figure out how to correct them.
Pulling the Needle Up Too Far Between Stitches
When you pull your needle up and are about to push it back down to make another stitch, you want to just graze the tip of the needle across the fabric.
Don’t pick it up off the fabric. If you pick it up too far, it can cause your last few loops to come out or become uneven.
Here’s a demo I did using my Oxford punch needle and Monk’s cloth.
Not Punching the Needle All the Way Down
While this isn’t as likely to cause your loops to slip out, it definitely does cause your loops to be uneven on the other side.
The last thing you want is to be happily punching along and flip your work over only to realize you have uneven loops and now you have to pull a bunch back out to repunch.
Make sure the handle of the punch needle touches the fabric each time you punch. It’s a pretty simple fix, but super important.
Too Much Tension in Your Yarn or Thread
If you have too much tension in your yarn or thread, the loops end up pulling out and driving you crazy.
If you’re using a regular old skein or ball of yarn, unwind a decent length of it and keep slack in it while you’re working.
The same goes for embroidery thread or floss, just be careful not to get it tangled up as you go if you unwind it a lot while you work.
Wrong Fabric For Your Yarn or Thread
If you’re using a rug punch needle (like an Oxford), the best fabrics to use are Monk’s cloth, primitive linen, or rug warp.
Don’t try to use Weaver’s cloth or other finer weave fabrics with a large rug punch needle. It’ll just make big holes and the yarn won’t stay.
Likewise, don’t try to use an embroidery punch needle with Monk’s cloth or primitive linen. It won’t hold the floss at all.
Holding the Punch Needle Incorrectly
When you’re punching into your fabric, you want to hold the punch needle mostly straight up and down.
There is a caveat to that though: if you’re punching right next to another row of a different color, you can angle the needle slightly away from the previous row to help the different yarn colors stay separated a bit better.
Also, it’s really important to have the beveled side of the punch needle facing in the direction you are punching.
You can also punch with one side of the needle facing in the direction you’re punching.
Most importantly, you can’t punch with the needle facing backward or your fiber won’t stay in your fabric very well.
Right-handed people should punch from right to left, and left-handed people should punch from left to right.
If you’re ambidextrous, I guess you can pick your preference.
I hope this article has helped you solve your punch needle problems and demystified how the whole thing works.
Punch needle is a very fun (and addicting!) hobby that you should definitely try!
I have several more punch needle articles here on my blog that will get you headed in the right direction. Here are a few great ones for beginners!
Punch Needle for Beginners Posts
- Punch Needle Tips You Need to Know Before You Try It (+ Free Patterns)
- 13 Best All-in-One Punch Needle Kits for Beginners
- Punch Needle for Beginners // Tutorial + Video