Some tips & techniques for punch needle embroidery
Punching is much like coloring in a coloring book. It's best to outline your areas first with a particular color and then fill in with rows of punching. The end result will be clean lines and evenly punched areas.
- Consistently punch just inside the lines so your finished piece will be in proportion.
- Keep your thread ends clipped as close as possible to the fabric to avoid pulling out the row.
- When punching next to a line of a different color, angle your needle away from the row so your loops won't intermingle.
If you aren't happy with a punched row, simply pull out the threads and gently scrape your fingernail over the weaver's cloth. This will put the weave of the fabric back in line so you can once again punch on it.
Flip your hoop/frame over often in between punching to make sure your loops are consistent and even.
While your work is still in the hoop/frame, turn it over to the finished side and hold it up to the light to make sure all areas are filled in. If you see any holes or gaps, fill in the area with the proper color.
Remember to keep the trailing thread at the end of your punch needle clear from any obstacles while punching. It's easy to snag it on your arm or hand while you're holding the hoop/frame. This will result in lost loops and lots of frustration!
Use the tip of your punch needle to gently nudge stray loops in place.
A note about punching with wool threads
You'll soon discover that wool threads give a punched piece an entire different look than punching with cotton floss.. Punching with wool fills in a design quickly with a soft-to-the-touch end result! Don't limit yourself to using these threads alone, though. Cotton floss, wool/acrylic thread, silk, rayon, even plain old sewing thread can all be used in your punch needle with amazing results! A rule of thumb is…if it'll freely flow through your punch needle, you can punch with it! Be creative and experiment!
Not all hoops are made alike.
Be sure to get a brand made specifically for punching. These vary in design but it's essential to have the fabric ‘drum' tight in the hoop at all times. These include a locking lip or No-slip feature. A gripper frame is also a good alternative to a hoop. This frame has rows of tiny ‘teeth' around the frame to grip the fabric.
Threading your punch needle is a two-step process.
Many beginners [myself included!] forget to thread the eye of the needle after threading the barrel of the punch needle. Always make sure your threads are trailing out from the rounded part of the needle at the eye. Make sure you have plenty of threaders on hand too. These don't last forever! I like to take a red felt tip marker and draw a big heart on the paper tab at the end of the threader so I can find it easily if it's dropped on the floor.
Weaver's cloth is the fabric of choice for punching.
It is a cotton/poly blend that is tightly woven and wonderful to punch on. You can also experiment with other fabrics too.An all cotton fabric is not recommended, though. This causes holes and the threads are more apt to break over time due to the sharp needle. It's best to stick with a cotton/poly blend. You can also punch on wool and wool felt. You must use an iron on woven fusible interfacing as your backing and remember to set your loop gauge a step higher since you'll be punching through a thicker amount of fabric.
This is a great tip if you are using a punch needle that has the tiny tube gauges that you slip onto the needle to adjust your loop length. use a large safety pin to store your gauges. its keeps them always at hand and are so easy to see them at a glance.
Learn more punch needle embroidery techniques: Punch Needle Basics.