Learn how to get started with punch needle embroidery in this ultimate beginner’s guide! I’ll show you how a punch needle works, what supplies you need to get started, and some helpful tips.
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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.
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 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!
This tutorial is specifically for punch needle embroidery. Check out this post to learn how to do punch needle with yarn!
Supplies You’ll Need for Punch Needle Embroidery
Before we start, lets touch on the basic supplies you need for punch needle embroidery.
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.
The most popular foundation fabric for punch needle embroidery is Weaver’s cloth. It’s a woven cotton/poly blend and won’t give you any problems.
You can also needle punch on other fabrics, like linen, denim and cotton, but I recommend starting with Weaver’s cloth at first.
Sometimes you can have issues (like the needle ripping the fabric when you’re using cotton) and it’s better to start with something you know will work right.
I’m using Weaver’s cloth in this tutorial.
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. They hold the fabric drum-tight and they are my personal favorite.
Another option is a gripper frame, which is like a wooden frame with strips of super strong metal velcro on each side. It holds the fabric nice and secure and you won’t have to worry about it slipping at all!
In this tutorial, I’m using a Morgan No-Slip hoop.
One of the most popular embroidery punch needles is the Ultra Punch.
It comes with three different sized needles and it has 12 different stitch heights that you can easily adjust by turning the handle.
I highly recommend that brand, especially if you’re new to punch needle, because I know it works well (and some punch needles just don’t work right.)
In this tutorial, I’m using the Ultra Punch Needle with the medium needle inserted and the stitch height is set to 5.
Floss or Yarn
When you’re doing punch needle embroidery, you’ll need to use six strand embroidery floss, perle cotton, or super fine yarn.
I’m using six strands of DMC embroidery floss in this tutorial.
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.
Lay the inside hoop on your work surface and lay the foundation fabric on top of it.
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.
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.
Tighten the screw the rest of the way.
The fabric needs to be stretched drum-tight, and try to keep the weave straight.
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
Insert the end of your threader into the pointy end of the needle.
Feed it all the way through until it pokes out the other side.
Insert the end of the embroidery thread into the part of the threader that’s sticking out.
Then, pull the threader back out of the needle, taking the thread with it.
Now, insert the threader into the eye of the needle and pull the thread out through the eye.
Pull the thread back a bit so just a little bit is sticking out of the eye of the 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.
Press the punch needle all the way down through the fabric. Try to keep your punch needle fairly straight up and down.
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 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.
Then, graze the tip of the needle along the fabric in the direction you’re punching about a needle’s width, and punch again.
Pull straight up and repeat.
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.
Pull the thread through…
… and pull the thread back a bit. That helps conserve your thread.
Pull the needle back up, slide it over a needle’s width, and punch down again.
Keep punching along until you reach the corner.
When you come to a corner, punch the needle all the way down and turn the fabric/hoop while the needle is down.
Then, continue punching along in the new direction and repeat at each corner.
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.
Your filling stitches will be longer than the border stitches were.
Keep the rows close together, and stagger your stitches.
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.
Continue punching around in a spiral until the whole shape is filled in.
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.
Then pull your punch needle out. That’s all there is to it!
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.
I punched this flower in the same way as the rectangle, except following the shape of the petals.
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.
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.
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.
Another tip when it comes to keeping borders neat is to angle the needle with the tip pointing away from the other colors border.
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 causes the stitches on the backside to look bubbled up and not lay flat.
Compare the sad-looking orange loops in the foreground to the nice correctly punched loops in the background.
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.
Then, scrape the end of your needle or your fingernail over the fabric to remove the holes that are left behind.
Now the fabric is ready to be punched again!
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?
Get your free Queen Bee punch needle pattern that you can get started with today!
- Weaver's cloth
- 6 strand DMC embroidery floss
- Ultra Punch Needle
- Morgan No-Slip embroidery hoop
- Fine tip sharpie (optional, to transfer design)
- Stretch your weaver's cloth in the no slip hoop until it's drum tight.
- Thread the embroidery floss into your punch needle with the long threader that comes with it. First, insert the threader up through the needle until it comes out the other side of the punch needle and pull the floss through. Then, thread the floss through the eye of the needle.
- To punch, hold the punch needle so the beveled side is facing in the direction you want to punch and push the needle all the way through the fabric. Pull the short end of the embroidery floss to the loop side.
- To continue punching, pull the punch needle up until the end just comes out of the fabric, slide it forward a needles width, and punch it back down into the fabric.
- Repeat those steps until your area is punched.
- When you're finished, trim the floss on the loop side even with the loops.
If your loops aren't staying in the fabric, make sure there is absolutely no tension in the floss.
It's also really important to use the correct fabric and the correct size punch needle for your floss or yarn.
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