Punch Needle with Yarn (Ultimate Beginner’s Guide!)

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Learn how to do punch needle with yarn the easy way in this step by step tutorial!  Includes everything you need to know to create your own beautiful needle punch art projects even if you’ve never tried it!

finished snake plant punch needle wall hanging

Punch needle is a fun and easy version of embroidery that you can use to create all sorts of beautiful pillows, wall hangings, home decor, and more.  Once you know the basics, it’s one of the most relaxing crafts around!

That being said, it can be incredibly frustrating if you try punch needle and it doesn’t work!

Sometimes the loops don’t stay in the fabric and you just can’t figure out what you’re doing wrong. Be sure to check out the end of this post for some helpful troubleshooting tips if you’re struggling!

In this article, I’m going to be focusing on large punch needle with yarn.  Are you looking for info about punch needle embroidery with embroidery floss?  Check out my post here all about punch needle embroidery for beginners!

Before we get started, let’s talk about punch needle a bit and go over the basics. 

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Want to remember this? Post this Punch Needle with Yarn tutorial to your favorite DIY Pinterest board!

punch needles sitting on a pile of fabric with yarn on a table

What is a punch needle?

A punch needle is a tool that consists of a long metal tube and a handle.  One end of the metal tube is pointed and has an eye like a sewing needle.  

You thread yarn into the tube and then through the eye and use the tool to punch in into an open weave fabric to create the characteristic punch needle loops or “pile” on the other side.

Is punch needle easy?

Once you get the hang of it, punch needle is a very easy and relaxing craft. There are a few things you need to know before you start, though.

I’ll show you the basics down below, plus be sure to check out my 8 Essential Punch Needle Tips post (and video) so you get started off right!

Punch Needle Sizes

Rug punch needles come in several different sizes and lengths.  

The diameter of the tube determines what thickness of yarn can be used with it, and the length will determine how long the loops of yarn will be.

For example, the Oxford punch needles have two thicknesses: regular and fine.  The regular works with bulky yarn and the fine works with worsted weight yarn.

oxford regular and fine punch needles
The one on the left is the Oxford #10 Fine, and the one on the right is the Oxford #10 Regular

They also come in five different lengths: #8, #9, #10, #13 and #14.  The higher the number, the shorter the loop, so #8 makes a loop about ½” long compared to the #14 that makes a loop about ⅛” long.

You can also get an adjustable punch needle that can make various sized loops by adjusting the length of the needle.

Punch Needle vs Rug Hooking: What’s the difference?

With punch needle, you’re punching the yarn down into the fabric to create a loop on the other side.

With rug hooking, you’re using a hook (similar to a crochet hook) and pulling a loop through the fabric on the same side you’re working on.

The resulting pile is very similar, but the technique is quite different.

How do punch needles work?

First, you need to thread your punch needle and stretch your foundation fabric into either a no-slip hoop or frame.

Then you’ll push the punch needle down into the open weave fabric (like Monk’s cloth), pull it back out until the tip of the needle is barely out of the fabric, move over about a needle’s width and punch it in again.

As you continue punching down into the fabric, the yarn will form loops on the back and flat stitches on the front side.  Traditionally the loop side is considered the front, but the flat side makes a really interesting texture too and is frequently used as the front in modern punch needle.

How to Thread a Punch Needle

There are two different kinds of rug punch needles: the kind that require threaders and the kind with a easy threading slot.

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The Oxford and Decoaguja punch needles have a slot that goes all the way down the metal tube and handle that you can easily slide the yarn into.  Then you just have to thread it through the eye of the punch needle and you’re ready to go.

Most other punch needles require a long threader to pull the yarn through the punch needle.

Check out this quick video to see how to thread a punch needle that doesn’t have a slot!

Related: Must-Have Punch Needle Supplies (and Where to Find Them!)

What Yarn is Best to Use for Punch Needle?

Wool yarn is the best yarn to use for punch needle rugs and anything that needs to stand up to some abuse and wear.

Specifically, rug wool yarn is a durable bulky yarn that is perfect for punch needle rugs.

Yarn for punch needle

For things like pillows, wall hangings, and other home decor items, you can needle punch with any yarn that fits through your punch needle.

Yarns that have textural bits or uneven bumps and whatnot don’t work great for punch needle because they can get hung up inside the needle and make punching very difficult.

Depending on the size of your punch needle you can use fine, worsted weight, or bulky yarn.  

You can also double or triple up your yarn if, for instance, you have a larger Oxford punch needle and you want to use some worsted weight yarn you have in your stash.

Can You Use Acrylic Yarn for Punch Needle?

Yes, you can use acrylic yarn for punch needle.  

As long as the acrylic yarn you’re using flows freely through your punch needle, it’s a great option!

One thing to keep in mind is you can’t touch a hot iron to acrylic yarn, so you’ll need to steam it or use a cover cloth when you go to finish your piece.

I’m personally a bit allergic to many wool yarns (which is a total bummer because I love them!) so I tend to stick with acrylic or cotton yarns, especially for things like pillows that I’ll end up touching.

You can also use other fibers like t-shirt yarn, fabric strips, cotton rope, and more!

What is the best needle punching fabric?

Monk’s cloth is the best fabric for punch needle.  It’s soft, holds yarn perfectly and is easy to finish into a wall hanging, pillow, rug, or whatever you want to create.

Monk's cloth

It’s important to note that there are two kinds of monk’s cloth: 12 count and 7 count.

The 12 count monk’s cloth is made specifically for punch needle and comes in a natural off-white color with white lines running through it every 2 inches.

The 7 count monk’s cloth is white and doesn’t have any lines running through it.  This type of monk’s cloth is used for Swedish weaving and doesn’t work very well for punch needle.

There are several other open weave fabrics you can use for needle punching, like linen and rug warp. You can find more info about punch needle fabrics in this post.

What is the Best Embroidery Hoop for Punch Needle?

The best kind of embroidery hoop for punch needle is a no-slip hoop.  My favorite brand is Morgan No-Slip hoops, but any locking lip hoop should work pretty well.

two morgan no slip embroidery hoops in different sizes

A regular embroidery hoop won’t be able to hold the fabric tight enough and you’ll end up adjusting your fabric constantly.

Another options to hold your foundation fabric is a gripper frame.  They have strips on the edges with rows of tiny metal hooks sort of like velcro that hold the fabric super tight.  You never have to worry about your fabric slipping on a gripper frame!

Learn how to make your own gripper frame in this tutorial.

How to Transfer a Punch Needle Pattern

Before we discuss the ways you can transfer a punch needle pattern, I want to mention one important thing.

If your finished project will have the loop side as the front, the pattern will need to be mirrored.  Otherwise, the finished result will be reversed, since you’ll actually be working from the back of the fabric.

When you’re planning on having the flat or stitched side as the front, you don’t have to mirror the pattern.  In that case, you’ll be working from the front of the project so what you see is what you get.

OK, now that we covered that, there are a few ways to transfer your paper punch needle pattern to the fabric.

My favorite way is to tape the pattern up to a sunny window and then tape the fabric on top of the pattern, making sure it’s centered and stretched out evenly.

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Then you can just grab a sharpie, pencil or fabric marker and trace around the pattern.  Take care that any straight horizontal or vertical lines follow the threads of the fabric and do your best to stay true to the pattern while you’re tracing.  After that it’s ready to go in the hoop!

You can also do the same technique with a lightbox instead of a window.  Tape the pattern down to your lightbox, tape the fabric down over top of it, and carefully trace your pattern.

One other way to trace your pattern (and one I commonly do) is to stretch your fabric evenly in the hoop or frame, making sure the lines of the fabric are straight.  Then tape the pattern to the back of the fabric, hold the whole thing up in front of a light or a window and trace the pattern that way.

That technique works best for a simple pattern or something that doesn’t have a lot of small details.  If you need to be precise, it’s better to use one of the other two methods.

How to Use a Punch Needle

OK, now that we’ve covered all of that, let’s get down to punching!

Check out this video tutorial showing how to do punch needle with yarn!

Before we start punching, stretch your fabric in your no-slip embroidery hoop.  You want it to be drum tight.

  1. Grab your threaded punch needle and hold it in your hand like a pencil.  You want the open beveled side to be pointed in the direction you’ll be punching. 
  2. Push it straight down into the fabric until the handle hits the fabric.
  3. Pull the punch needle straight back out of the fabric, stopping as soon as the end of the needle comes out.  Move the needle forward skipping one or two holes in the fabric, and repeat.

That’s the basic technique!  There are also a few other things you need to know.

  • When you are punching a pattern, you’ll want to punch the outline stitches a bit closer together with six stitches per inch.  For the filler stitches a bit further apart, with about four stitches per inch. Just remember to skip one hole for each outline stitch and skip two holes for each filler stitch.
  • Try to make your punches in a brick pattern, so each row is punched so that the stitches alternate from the previous row.  This will help the loops nest together and prevent any bald spots on the loop side.
  • To turn a corner, you will punch all the way to the corner, keep the needle punched down into the fabric and turn it in the next direction you’ll be punching.  Then just continue punching in the new direction!

Finishing Your Punch Needle Project

Once you finish punching your pattern, it’s time to do some cleanup and finishing.

You might notice that the loop side of your work is a bit of a mess.  Don’t worry, this is normal!  

First, trim all the long ends even with the loops.

cutting the yarn on the loop side of a punch needle project

If the loop side is going to be the front, use the end of your punch needle to poke any disheveled loops into place.

Check out this post for some inspiration on what to do with your finished punch needle piece!

Punch Needle Troubleshooting

If you are having trouble with your loops staying in the fabric, here are a few of the likely culprits:

  • Your fabric isn’t stretched tightly enough
  • You’re pulling the punch needle too far out of the fabric in between punches
  • There is tension in the working yarn while you’re punching 
  • The yarn is too thick for the punch needle you’re using.  You want it to slide freely through the punch needle.
  • You’re using the wrong type of fabric.  12 count Monk’s cloth is what I recommend.

If you finish your pattern and decide you want to change the color in a certain area or something, all you have to do is carefully pull the yarn out in the section you want to repunch. 

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Just be sure you go slow so you don’t accidentally pull out the surrounding sections.

Then, gently scrap the end of your punch needle or your fingernail over the fabric to even out the threads and repunch!


If you notice you have loops of one color stuck inside loops of another color where a color change happens, you can gently pull the loops apart with the end of your punch needle.


When you finish punching a section and you notice the loops are mounded up and uneven looking, it means you made your stitches too close together and you’ll need to pull out the yarn and re-punch that section.

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If you finish a section and you notice bald spots in between loops, you can either pull out the yarn and re-punch the area, or just go in and add a few more stitches to the empty spots.

For more info about dealing with punch needle problems, check out this post!

Punch Needle Kits

When you’re first starting out with punch needle, a great option is an all-in-one punch needle kit!

There are some great ones out there, and also some not so great ones. I made a list of my favorite punch needle kits that you can check out right here.

Punch Needle Patterns

Once you get the hang of using your punch needle, you’ll need more patterns!

I sell digital punch needle patterns in my shop! They come with printing instructions, a supply list and photo tutorial.

You can also get a free printable punch needle pattern if you sign up for my newsletter down below!

Yield: 1

How to Do Punch Needle with Yarn

doing punch needle with yarn an the oxford punch needle

Learn how to do punch needle with yarn in this step by step tutorial!

Prep Time 10 minutes 5 seconds
Active Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes 5 seconds
Difficulty Easy

Materials

  • Monk's cloth
  • Bulky yarn (Wool, cotton or acrylic)

Tools

  • Large Punch Needle
  • Morgan No-Slip Hoop
  • Scissors
  • Marker or pencil for tracing pattern

Instructions

    1. Grab your threaded punch needle and hold it in your hand like a pencil.  You want the open beveled side to be pointed in the direction you’ll be punching. 
      hold the punch needle straight up and down like a pencil
    2. Push it straight down into the fabric until the handle hits the fabric.
      push the punch needle all the way down in the fabric
    3. Pull the punch needle straight back out of the fabric, stopping as soon as the end of the needle comes out.  Move the needle forward skipping one or two holes in the fabric, and repeat.
      slide the punch needle forward two holes
      doing punch needle with yarn an the oxford punch needle

Notes

  • When you are punching a pattern, you’ll want to punch the outline stitches a bit closer together with six stitches per inch.  For the filler stitches a bit further apart, with about four stitches per inch. Just remember to skip one hole for each outline stitch and skip two holes for each filler stitch.
  • Try to make your punches in a brick pattern, so each row is punched so that the stitches alternate from the previous row.  This will help the loops nest together and prevent any bald spots on the loop side.
  • To turn a corner, you will punch all the way to the corner, keep the needle punched down into the fabric and turn it in the next direction you’ll be punching.  Then just continue punching in the new direction!

Recommended Products

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In summary

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial about how to do punch needle with yarn!

Looking for more punch needle info? Check out these related posts!

Punch Needle with Yarn (Ultimate Beginner’s Guide!)

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