Why Won’t My Punch Needle Loops Stay in the Fabric? (Troubleshooting)

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punch needle embroidery in a wooden embroidery hoop with an Ultra Punch needle on top

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.

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How Punch Needle Stays in Fabric

Punch Needle Yarn Loops 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.

The most popular and reliable fabric for punch needle embroidery is Weaver’s cloth. It works great with the Ultra Punch needle.

pulling the needle back out
Ultra Punch Needle & Weaver’s Cloth

For large rug punch needles like the Oxfords, Monk’s cloth is a really great reliable choice.

Monk's cloth for punch needle
Monk’s cloth and a rug punch needle

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.

If you’re a beginner, I strongly recommend you start out with Weaver’s cloth for embroidery punch needles, and Monk’s cloth for rug punch needles.

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.

Photo showing which side of the needle faces front

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.

In Summary

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

How Does Punch Needle Stay in Fabric? (& Dealing with Problems When it Doesn’t)

Similar Posts


  1. Hi! I’m just starting out and love watching your videos. They break things down so nicely. I have a stupid question. Are you working on the reverse side of what will be the finished product? I like how the back loops look raised, but don’t know if that is a different technique.

    Thanks you so much for your help.

  2. Hi,
    I’m just starting out. I was wondering if you can use regular cotton fabric for needle punching.
    I have tons of cotton fabric and would to try it on .

  3. Hi Many thanks for the needle punch information, very useful. however please can you tell me what you use to seal the reverse side of a project when completed? I did a small project some years ago and remember using some kind of glue which when dry had a flexible rubbery finish.
    Many thanks

    1. It depends on what you’re making. A lot of times people would put a glue like you’re describing on the back of rugs, but it actually can cause more harm then good because the glue breaks down over time and ruins the rug. Most of the time, punch needle stays secure without needing any glue because of the pressure of the yarn pressing against the fibers of the fabric. For certain projects like this punch needle sweatshirt, I’ll put some washable fabric glue on the back since it’s going to be in the washing machine frequently. Aleene’s OK to Wash It is my favorite brand of glue for that. Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Does anyone put a knot at the beginning of the project or at the end??? I’m afraid it’s going to come apart if it goes in the wash or some kid wants to play with the loops thank you in advance

        1. No you don’t need to put a knot at the beginning or end, but I do recommend keeping your punch needle projects away from your pets or little kids because they can pull out the loops if they get too aggressive with it. (Trust me, I know from experience!) They stay in just fine with normal wear and tear though.

      1. I would say they are, but you’d want to be careful with it. You can’t just throw them in the washing machine, you’d need to hand wash so that’s one issue. I have kids so it’s a big no for me, but otherwise it should be fine!

  4. Hi Crystal,
    Thanks for this it’s been so helpful. Do you have any advice for this: I make the outline of my pattern but when I fill in stitches, the needle sometimes hooks onto the loops I’ve already made in round one and then pushes them out with the result being uneven loops. Has anyone else experienced this and do you have any advice?

    1. Hi Nadine! I’m so glad it was helpful! Yes, that happens to me sometimes too, and usually, it’s when I’m making my rows too close together. Try to leave a little space between your rows, and sometimes it also helps to angle the punch needle slightly away from the previous row when you’re punching. I hope that makes sense! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. Hi! I’m just starting out. I bought Monk’s cloth but accidentally bought an Ultra Punch not knowing it might not work with Monk’s cloth. In your opinion, will I be okay or should I go ahead and purchase another needle? (I’m using medium size acrylic yarn btw)

    1. I did basically the same thing when I first started out! You’ll want to use Weavers cloth with your Ultra Punch and it will need embroidery floss or superfine yarn. I would recommend getting an Oxford Fine Punch Needle to use with your medium acrylic yarn and monks cloth. I have the Oxford Fine #10 and it’s one of my favs. The Oxford regulars are better for bulky yarn or two strands of worsted weight yarn. Monks cloth is for the large yarn Punch needles and weavers cloth is for the smaller embroidery punch needles (like the Ultra Punch). I hope this helps!

      1. Very thorough and helpful. You “came down to the people” and spoke our language and read my thoughts – especially the one about how the loops stay in to begin with 😂
        Thanks a lot

        1. I’m so glad it was helpful! Believe me, I had all the problems starting out so I definitely am sympathetic to beginners, lol. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. I have been wanting to try it for a long time. I bought the only needle I could find here, but I haven’t had the courage to start. I’ve seen so many beautiful works and, it seems really not that difficult, but I’m still afraid. That’s the reason I’m reading some articles, before trying it out. Thanks for your advice.

    1. Hi Gloria! Don’t be afraid, it’s a really fun hobby and pretty forgiving. If you aren’t happy with part of it, you can just pull it back out and try again! I just posted a couple of beginner tutorials showing how to do punch needle embroidery and how to do punch needle with yarn, I use the Ultra Punch and the Oxford #10 for these videos, but you can use whatever punch needle you have as well. I hope they help! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  7. I recently bought a needle punch set It looks so much fun and so easy to do in the ad but it is taking me forever to even thread the needles. There are seven different needle heads! Anyway after a couple of days I think I have that bit done! Then I tried punching and all the loops came out! Think I have the wrong fabric needle and thread chosen!!! Thanks for your article!

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