How does punch needle stay in fabric, anyway? If you’re new to punch needle, that’s one of the first thoughts you probably had.
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 stay? I’m still fairly new to punch needle, and I was wondering the same thing. I did a lot of research and here’s what I found out.
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How punch needle stays in fabric
The foundation fabric that you use for punching needs to be a loosely woven cloth. Depending on the size of punch needle you are using, it could be weaver’s cloth, Monk’s cloth or another even-weave fabric.
Weavers cloth is a finer weave poly-cotton blend, and Monk’s cloth is a larger weave 100% cotton fabric that comes in different counts, similar to Aida cloth.
If you’re using a larger punch needle, like the Oxford Punch Needle, Monk’s cloth is the most popular choice.
For a finer embroidery punch needle, like the Ultra Punch Needle, weaver’s cloth is what most people recommend.
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.
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 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 find your loops are slipping out of your fabric, it could be a few different issues. Typically, it’s one of the following:
- 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 little demo I did showing how to punch a row of loops. I’m using my adjustable rug punch needle and bulky weight yarn on Monk’s cloth. It’s the same technique for any size.
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.
I imagine if your loops end up too short because you aren’t punching all the way down, it might theoretically be easier for them to pull out as well.
Either way, you don’t want uneven loops, so be sure to push your needle all the way until the handle touches the fabric.
Too much tension in yarn or thread
If you have too much tension in your yarn or thread, the loops end up pulling out and driving you crazy. When I first started with punching, I found this out the hard way.
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. They sell this thing called a yarn butler that might help with this, although I haven’t tried it yet.
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 weave size for your yarn or thread
If you’re using yarn, an Oxford punch needle (or one similar), and Monk’s cloth, you want to make sure your cloth is 12-count or has 12 holes per inch.
A lot of the time at craft stores you’ll find 8-count Monk’s cloth which doesn’t work very well for punching.
Some people have had luck using Aida cloth, but it needs to be 14-count or higher. Other options are burlap, rug warp, and linen.
However, if you’re using a fine punch needle like the Ultra Punch needle, the most popular fabric to use is weaver’s cloth.
You can also use denim (not the stretchy kind) and other even-weave fabrics, but the general consensus is stick with weaver’s cloth if you don’t want to pull your hair out.
I’m going to be experimenting with different fabrics and my Ultra Punch needle soon, and I’ll update this afterward with my own findings.
Holding the punch needle incorrectly
When you’re punching into your fabric, you want to hold the punch needle straight up and down. Don’t have it tilted to one side or the other at an angle.
There is a caveat to that though if your punching right next to another row of a different color if you angle the needle slightly away from the previous row it helps the different yarn colors stay separated a bit better.
Also, it’s really important to have the open side of the needle either facing in the direction you’re punching or facing toward you and sort of punching sideways.
Right-handed people are 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.
If you follow these simple rules, your loops will stay in your foundation fabric with no problem. Punch needle is a relaxing and fun fiber art that you should definitely try if you haven’t!
It’s great for people without a lot of time or who get a lot of interruptions (cough…moms!) You can put it down and come back to it later and not have to worry about which stitch you were on and losing your place.
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Have you started punch needling yet? Let us know in the comments about your favorite needle, cloth, and fiber combo!