Punch Needle for Beginners: Tutorial

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Learn how to get started with punch needle embroidery in this Punch Needle for Beginners Tutorial! I’ll show you how a punch needle works, what supplies you need to get started, and some helpful tips.

What is punch needle, anyway?  

Punch needle is a fiber craft/art that involves punching loops of thread or yarn through a woven foundation fabric.  

The result is a front side with loops that form the “pile”, and on the backside, there are flat, embroidery-like stitches.  

Pile side of punch needle
Looped side
Fixed holes from punch needle
Flat side

Technically, the looped side is the front, but many people (myself included) like the way the “wrong” side looks as well. 

You can even mix the two for some really cool texture.


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This tutorial is a quick start guide for punch needle embroidery. For a more in depth guide for large punch needle AND punch needle embroidery, click here to check out my 70+ page ebook, Punch Needle Basics!

Punch needle embroidery is fast, easy to learn, and you can make absolutely beautiful designs with it. 

It’s easy to put it down and pick it back up later because there’s no stitch counting involved.  

As a crocheter with little kids, that’s one of my favorite parts! 

I’m constantly starting crochet projects, getting interrupted, and forgetting what the heck I was doing by the time I get back to it.  

Not so with punch needle! 

It’s perfect for busy crafters looking for a creative outlet that doesn’t require a lot of time and concentration. 

You can just zone out and punch!

It doesn’t matter what size needle, fabric, or type of thread or yarn you’re using, you can follow along with this tutorial regardless because the technique is the same.

Not sure what supplies you need to do punch needle?

Basic Punch Needle Supply Combos for Beginners

Ultra Punch + Weaver’s Cloth + DMC Embroidery Thread

Oxford Punch Needle #10 Regular + Monk’s Cloth + Bulky Wool Yarn

Oxford Punch Needle #10 Fine + Monk’s Cloth + Worsted Weight Wool Yarn

There are plenty of other workable combinations, but when you’re new there’s no sense in getting overwhelmed. 

Once you get the basics down, check out this post for more information about needle/fabric/thread combos.

Want to bypass shopping for supplies and get an all-in-one kit? Check out this list of 13 fabulous punch needle kits with everything you need to get started.

Let’s look a little deeper at the supplies you’ll need to do punch needle and then get on to the punching!

Supplies You’ll Need for Punch Needle Embroidery

Before we start, lets touch on the basic supplies you need for punch needle as a beginner.  

For further information, check out this post for what supplies to get, this post for info about foundation fabrics, this post for helpful punch needle tips, and this post to learn how the loops stay in the fabric

Foundation Fabric

The type of fabric you need for punch needle will depend on which type of punch needle you’re using. 

There are two main types: rug punch needles and miniature punch needles.

Monk’s cloth is best for large punch needle, and Weaver’s cloth is best for punch needle embroidery.

For this tutorial, I’ll be using Weaver’s cloth.

Weaver's cloth for punch needle | punch needle for beginners

Hoop or Frame

You’ll need a secure embroidery hoop or frame to hold your foundation cloth.  

For beginners, I highly recommend Morgan No-Slip hoops and Snap frames.  They hold the fabric drum-tight and they’re affordable.  

For this tutorial, I’ll be using a 7″ Morgan No-Slip hoop.

Morgan no slip hoop for punch needle

Punch Needles

There are rug punch needles (larger) and miniature punch needles (smaller). 

The technique is the same, but it’s super important that you have the right punch needle/thread/fabric combo.  

I’m using the Ultra Punch in this tutorial, and it’s fitted with the medium needle (it has three sizes).  The stitch height is set to 5.

Ultra punch needle

Floss or Yarn

If you’re using a miniature punch needle, you’ll need embroidery floss, thread, or really fine yarn depending on your needle size. 

For rug punch needles, you’ll need bulky weight yarn or doubled up worsted weight yarn.

I’m using six strands of DMC embroidery floss in this tutorial.

embroidery floss for punch needle


You’ll also need a punch needle threader (should come with your punch needle) and a small pair of scissors.

Punch Needle for Beginners Tutorial

Alright, now we’ve gotten the supplies figured out, it’s time to start punching!

Put Your Fabric in the Hoop

First, you need to put your foundation fabric in your hoop.  

Separate the two rings of the hoop. 

inner hoop of embroidery hoop

Lay the inside hoop on your work surface and lay the foundation fabric on top of it.  

Laying foundation fabric onto embroidery hoop

Make sure the fabric is smoothed out and straight, and then put the outer hoop over it and push it down.  You may have to loosen it a bit to get it to go on.  

Put the top hoop back on

Once the hoop is put back together, tighten the screw down most of the way, and go around the edges pulling the fabric tight all the way around.  

Pull the fabric tight all the way around

Tighten the screw the rest of the way. 

The fabric needs to be stretched drum-tight, and try to keep the weave straight.

drum tight weavers cloth | punch needle for beginners
Me playing the bongos on the drum-tight Weaver’s Cloth, lol

As you’re punching, the fabric may loosen a little bit.  Just keep tightening it back up when it does.

Here’s a video tutorial showing how to use the Ultra Punch. The written tutorial is below.

How to Thread a Punch Needle

Gather your punch needle supplies

Note: If you’re using an Oxford punch needle, you don’t need a threader.  Just feed the yarn through the channel in the handle.

Insert the end of your threader into the pointy end of the needle.  

Insert threaader into the end

Feed it all the way through until it pokes out the other side.  

Threader poking out the other end of punch needle

Insert the end of the embroidery thread into the part of the threader that’s sticking out.  

insert floss into threader

Then, pull the threader back out of the needle, taking the thread with it.  

Pull embroidery thread through the punch needle

Now, insert the threader into the eye of the needle and pull the thread out through the eye.  

Insert threader into the eye of the punch needle
pull thread through the eye of the punch needle

Pull the thread back a bit so just a little bit is sticking out of the eye of the needle.  

threaded punch needle

You’re ready to punch!

How Does a Punch Needle Work?

Let’s start with the basic punching technique.  First, position your punch needle on your fabric with the open side facing in the direction you’re going to be punching.

Needle punching steps

Press the punch needle all the way down through the fabric.  Try to keep your punch needle fairly straight up and down. 

Needle Punching steps

For the first stitch, keep the punch needle pressed down through the fabric and pull the end of the thread through so it’s sticking out on the side where the loops will be.  

Pull the thread through to the other side

Pull back the thread so there’s just a small bit sticking out, and pull the punch needle back out of the fabric.  

Don’t pull too far though!  You want the tip of the needle to stop at the surface of the fabric.  

pulling the needle back out

Then, graze the tip of the needle along the fabric in the direction you’re punching about a needle’s width, and punch again.  

Slide the punch needle over a needles width

Pull straight up and repeat.  

line of punch needle stitches

That is the basic technique of punch needle.  Pretty easy, right?!

Now that you know the basics, let’s talk about how to make shapes with punch needle.

Punching the Outline of Shapes

On the outlines, you want to make your stitches closer together. 

This helps make the border of the shape more solid and not jagged looking.

Also, when you’re punching a shape in a pattern, keep the border stitches just slightly inside the lines instead of punching directly on them. 

Starting in one corner, push the punch needle straight down.

Punch needle outline 1 | punch needle for beginners

Pull the thread through…

pull thread to the other side
Don’t mind my terribly dry hands. It’s that time of year here in the Midwest!

… and pull the thread back a bit. That helps conserve your thread.

Shorten the thread thats sticking out

Pull the needle back up, slide it over a needle’s width, and punch down again.

Punching the outline
Punch needle outline stitches

Keep punching along until you reach the corner.

punching outside border
punching outline of shape | punch needle for beginners

When you come to a corner, punch the needle all the way down and turn the fabric/hoop while the needle is down. 

Getting ready to turn a corner
Turning the hoop

Then, continue punching along in the new direction and repeat at each corner.

Completed punch needle outline

Once the border is complete, it’s time to fill in the shape!

Filling in Shapes

To fill in the shape, you’ll punch around the inside in a spiral until the whole inside is covered. 

Filling in the middle | punch needle

Your filling stitches will be longer than the border stitches were.

Keep the rows close together, and stagger your stitches. 

filling in punch needle

Check the loop side occasionally to make sure there aren’t any gaps or bald spots. If there are, just go back and add a few more stitches in those areas.  

loop side of punch needle | punch needle for beginners

Continue punching around in a spiral until the whole shape is filled in.

finished filling in shape

When you get to your last stitch, punch the needle through and hold it in the fabric, take your scissors and cut the thread at the same height as the loops. 

Trimming the thread when you're finished punching

Then pull your punch needle out. That’s all there is to it!

Filled in punch needle shape

Don’t Panic if the Loop Side Looks Disheveled at First

When you’re punching shapes in your design, don’t panic if they look like random blobs at first.

As you continue punching around the border of the shapes, the edges will become more defined.

Here’s an example of what I mean. 

blob looking flower | punch needle for beginners

I punched this flower in the same way as the rectangle, except following the shape of the petals. 

back of punch needle flower

As you could see in the first picture, it doesn’t really look much like a flower. It pretty much looks like a pink blob.

I threaded another color into my Ultra Punch and punched a border around the flower.

Border around punch needle flower
Better flower with border

As you keep adding more stitches around your shapes, the borders of each shape will become more clear and defined.

Don’t panic and give up because it’s not looking so hot at first. It gets better!

Another issue you’ll notice is that the borders of the different colors get a little jagged and the loops don’t always stay in their line. 

moving the loops into place after punch needling

Use the tip of your punch needle or another pointy tool to go in and poke the loops into place.

Don’t panic, everyone has to do this!  The picture below is after moving the stitches into place.

Borders look better after poking them into place

Another tip when it comes to keeping borders neat is to angle the needle with the tip pointing away from the other colors border.

punching at an angle
punching at an angle

This will help keep the loops from intermingling and give a neater appearance.

Punch Needle Problems

If things don’t seem to be working right, make sure you aren’t making one of these mistakes.

Pulling the needle up too high between stitches

pulling the needle up too high

Pulling the needle up too high causes the stitches on the backside to look bubbled up and not lay flat.

Bubbled up stitches on the back

Compare the sad-looking orange loops in the foreground to the nice correctly punched loops in the background.

Uneven mini loops on the back from pulling the needle up too high

Make sure you don’t pick the needle up off the fabric in between stitches to prevent that from happening to you.

Keeping tension in the thread

It only takes a little bit of tension to end up with mini-loops or no loops at all.

Keep plenty of slack in your thread while you punch.

Stitching too close together

If you make your stitches too close together, the loop side of the shapes will start getting bulkier and sort of mound up.

It’ll also be hard to get your punch needle piece to lay flat once it’s completed.

Stitching too far apart

If you make your stitches too far apart, you’ll end up with bald spots and gaps in your project.

You can always go back and add more stitches if you notice this happening.

Punching with your needle facing in the wrong direction

It’s important that you punch with the open side of the needle facing in the direction you’re going.

If you have the needle facing the wrong way, it can cause the loops to be smaller or not stay in the fabric as they should.

Punch Needle Troubleshooting

It’s super easy to fix mistakes with punch needle! 

To fix a spot, gently pull the thread out.

pulling out punch needle thread | punch needle for beginners
Pulling thread out of punch needle project | punch needle for beginners

Then, scrape the end of your needle or your fingernail over the fabric to remove the holes that are left behind.

Fixing punch needle holes

Now the fabric is ready to be punched again!

Fixed holes from punch needle

If you have a spot in your project where the loops are small and you didn’t notice it until after you punched a lot of your project, mark the spot with a pin on each end.

Gently pull the loops out from the back between the pins and trim that thread.  Rethread your punch needle and repunch that area.  

Ready to Get Started?

I created some free punch needle patterns that you can get started with today!

They’re available in the Free Resource Library for all of my newsletter subscribers.

Sign up below and I’ll send you the secret password and you’ll get access to all the awesome freebies in there!

Punch Needle for Beginners: Tutorial

7 thoughts on “Punch Needle for Beginners: Tutorial”

  1. I am looking for instructions on abstract punch needle. I have seen some finished pieces on Internet and really like and want to try this type of punch needle. Can you help me, are there any books of instructions? Thank you. Marilyn Wichita. Ks

    1. When you say abstract, do you mean like organic shapes and textures? If so, I also love that type of punch needle and I’m working on some patterns for that type of thing! If you’re subscribed to my email list you’ll get a notification when I release them and other fun stuff. Thanks for stopping by!

    1. The weave of the fabric holds the thread in surprisingly securely. If you’re going to be washing the finished piece, you can always apply a thin layer of fabric glue to the back, just in case.

  2. Shirley. A.Hammock

    Thank you very much for all this information. I Did this a long time ago.I had forgotten how to do it .I really mean the Thank You .Shirley A.Hammock

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