Punch Needle Art – A How To for Beginners

Punch needle art may seem intimidating at first, but it’s a lot easier than you think! One of the most exciting aspects of punch needle art is the freedom it offers for creativity. Whether you’re drawn to abstract patterns, geometric shapes, or whimsical landscapes, the possibilities are endless.

We’ll cover the materials/tools you’ll need to get started, selecting fabric and frames, preparing your materials for optimal results, basic punching technique and troubleshooting common challenges.

Punch needle art of a bunny in lavender colored yarn

Join us at our studio for our Intro to Punch Needle Class!

Materials & Tools Required to Start Punching

  • Punch Needle Tool
  • Long Needle Threader
  • Yarn or Embroidery Thread
  • Monk’s Cloth
  • Embroidery Hoop or Frame
  • Pattern
  • Pencil, Pen or Marker

When I decide to try a new hobby I often opt for basic, inexpensive supplies to learn the craft. I want to make sure I enjoy the hobby before I spend a bunch of money on tools and supplies. So in this post, I’ll primarily review basic tools and materials you can purchase to get started, but I’ll also include info on more expensive options.

Punch Needle Tool, Long Needle Threader & Yarn

As a beginner, I would recommend learning to punch with yarn, as opposed to embroidery thread. And when it comes to yarn, I would recommend using a thick yarn like a yarn weight of 4 (worsted) or 5 (bulky). Thicker yarns are easier to work with and also allow you to finish your project faster, both of which are a plus for beginners.

The size of yarn you use will determine the size of punch needle you’ll need. When you buy a punch needle tool, the packaging should tell you what size yarn/thread you’ll want to use with it. Most punch needle tools will tell you the category of yarn to use like a “worsted” or “bulky” weight yarn (which equates to a yarn weight or 4 or 5).

punch needle tool

This punch needle tool from Amazon is a good, inexpensive tool to use with thick yarn.

long needle threader

It also comes with a long needle threader, to thread the yarn through the tool.

The manufacturer states it has a 5mm needle and recommends using a 3mm yarn with this tool. So, instead of listing the category of yarn (i.e. worsted) it has listed a size of 3mm. One thing that is tricky about this is, 3mm does not mean a yarn weight of 3. Yarns are weighted from 0-7 (see our Understanding Yarn Weight post) but these numbers do NOT equate to mm.

red heart super saver yarn in green

Red Heart Super Saver Yarn, is an inexpensive, worsted weight 4 that measures 3mm.

I tried using the red heart yarn with my punch needle tool and it worked great. While I have not tried it yet, I think a yarn weight 5 might also work with this needle. I think a yarn weight 3 will be too small.

Now, if you want to purchase the Rolls Royce of punch needle tools, you want to go with the Oxford Punch Needle. These tools come in different diameters for either worsted or bulk yarn and also different needle heights, which allows you to do different loop lengths. Loop lengths are something you may want to play around with once you learn the art of punch needle, but as a beginner I would hold off on that and just learn the basic techniques.

Monk’s Cloth for Punch Needle Art

There are 2 types of fabric to use for punch needle: Monk’s cloth and Weaver’s cloth. If you’re punching with yarn, you will want Monk’s cloth. If you’re punching with embroidery thread you’ll want Weaver’s cloth. But remember, as a beginner I recommend punching with yarn, so Monk’s cloth is what you’ll want.

monk's cloth with 2 fabric marker pens

This Monk’s cloth from Amazon is inexpensive and comes with disappearing ink markers.

Monk’s cloth is 100% cotton and comes in different sizes called “counts”. For punch needle, you will want a 12 count Monk’s cloth. The count is the number of holes in the cloth per inch. A 12 count Monk’s cloth means it will have 12-14 holes per inch of fabric.

Embroidery Hoops and Frames

A regular embroidery hoop is all you’ll need as a beginner to get started. There are two different styles of embroidery hoops: regular and no-slip.

basic embroidery hoop

A regular embroidery hoop has two smooth hoops.

A no-slip embroidery hoop has a tongue on the outside of the inner hoop and a groove in the inside of the outer hoop, which really locks the fabric into the hoop, not allowing it to slip as you punch. As you advance to more intricate and/or larger projects you may find you want a no-slip hoop, but for a beginner a regular embroidery hoop will work just fine!

Another option is to go with a frame. You can use a Q-snap frame or a Gripper strip frame. For a DIY option, you can purchase a regular blank, framed canvas. Turn it over to cut away the canvas and then staple your Monk’s cloth to the frame.

4 images showing the canvas progression of a canvas being removed from the frame, to use the frame for punch needle art

Punch Needle Pattern

The last thing you need is a punch needle pattern. Getting a “pattern” may sound intimidating, but really a pattern is just an image of the item you want to punch.

heart for punch needle pattern

This is the heart pattern that we used to create our heart punch needle art.

Once you have your pattern, you just need to trace it onto your Monk’s cloth. You can use a pencil, pen or marker. You may want to purchase a disappearing ink marker to use to trace your design. The benefit of using one of these is if you decide you want to pull the yarn out and practice a different design on the same piece of cloth, you won’t have the old pattern showing up.

Preparing your Materials for Optimal Results

Monk’s cloth frays/unravels easily. Before you begin you will want to secure the cut edges to prevent them from fraying/unraveling.

monks cloth with the edges taped to prevent them from fraying

It is best to either tape the edges with masking tape or sew a seam along the edges, if you know how to sew.

Place the Monk’s cloth into the hoop, hand-tighten the clamp a little bit, then pull your cloth taught from all sides. Hand-tighten the clamp more and pull your cloth taught again. Hand-tighten as much as you can and pull your cloth taught again Now use pliers or a screwdriver (if your clamp has a slot in it for a screwdriver) to completely tighten the hoop.

You want your fabric to be as tight as a drum.

Basic Punching Technique

  1. Make sure you have plenty of slack in your yarn.
  2. When punching, make sure to push the handle all the way down to the cloth.
  3. When you pull the needle back out, avoid taking the needle off the fabric. Keep the needle in contact with the fabric while you move the needle forward for your next punch.
  4. Make sure the eye of the needle is always facing the back when punching. The beveled opening leads the way and the eye is in the back.
  5. When you need to change direction, punch into the cloth, then while the needle is down in the cloth, rotate the needle so that the bevel is facing the direction you want to go. Once you have rotated the needle, you can pull the needle back out and punch your next stitch.
  6. After you have completed the border, starting punching the inside. You want to punch as if you were laying bricks. Your stitch should start at the middle of the stitch next to it and go to the middle of the next stitch.

Troubleshooting Common Challenges

  1. Your stitches keep coming out.
    • Possible cause: You do not have enough slack in the yarn
    • Possible cause: You have a knot in your yarn which is caught in the needle. Pull yarn back out of the needle to reveal the know. Cut the knot out, re-thread and continue punching.
    • Possible cause: You are pulling your needle too far out and pulling your stitch out of the cloth.
  2. Stitches are sticking up and not laying flat against the cloth
    • Possible cause: You’re pulling your needle away from the cloth as you pull it back out. When you pull out, make sure to keep your needle in contact with the cloth as you advance to the next punch.
    • Possible cause: You are not rotating your needle appropriately as you change direction. Make sure the bevel is always facing the direction you want to go and the eye is in the back.
a group of people holding up their punch needle art pieces they completed in class

Join us at our studio for our Intro to Punch Needle Class!

Stencil is located at 10855 N. 116th Street, Scottsdale AZ 85259

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Author: Nicole Bolin