Guide to Punch Needle Crafting

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The best way to hold the punch needle is to hold it as you would a pencil.

Depending on how deep your frame is, you may need to adjust your hold of the frame to keep the needle from hitting your work table. I prefer to work with the top of the frame leaning on the edge of the table and the bottom of the frame resting on my lap. Experiment with your working position to discover what you find most comfortable.

In most instances, I prefer to start a piece of punch needle by working the motifs. I start with the main image within the design, which I finish before moving on to the background and any negative spaces or in-between shapes. After choosing a spot to start, punch the needle through the Pl base cloth as far as the tool will allow. Without pulling the tool up, check whether the loose end of the yarn coming from the tip of the needle is still visible from the front. If so, reach underneath and pull so that the end hangs down on the back side.

The point of the punch needle will find the openings in the base cloth so you don’t really need to aim the tool. Simply apply enough pressure to push the needle through and continue pushing all the way down until the base of the handle touches the cloth.

There are a few key things to pay attention to here. As you pull the needle out all the way, leaving the yarn in the cloth, you do not want to lift the needle too high. In fact, you want the needle only to graze the surface of the cloth as you move it to the next spot, which should be approximately 3 holes away, rather than every hole. When stitches are too close together, the tension will be too tight. However, if your stitches are too far apart, the tension will be too loose. With a little practice you will learn how close to punch your stitches to achieve the perfect tension. Also – and this is important – keep the channel of the tool facing in the direction of your movement. If your line of stitches changes direction rotate the frame so that the tool remains comfortable to hold.

If you find that your stitches are pulling out as you punch, make sure the yarn supply from the ball to the punch needle tool is loose, free-flowing and not caught on anything. In addition, check that the weight and content of your yarn is suitable to use with your base cloth. For instance, cotton may be too slick, whereas a wool or acrylic has more texture and therefore might work better.

Punch needle is very forgiving when it comes to uneven stitch length and to be honest, I think it gives the piece a lot of character when they are slightly uneven. But if you do want a more even look, then it really comes down to practice.

It’s best to punch into every third hole when working with Monk’s cloth. If you place your stitches too close together the tension will be tighter and if it’s further apart it will be looser. You won’t need to follow this rule strictly as this can change depending on the yarn you use and how you want your stitches to look. When working with linen and a smaller tool you will find your stitches work better smaller and closer together.

There is no prescribed way to move through the shapes as you stitch. I tend to outline each area or shape before filling it in, which I do either by going back and forth or by following the contour of the shape. Once it is filled in, I move on to other similarly coloured areas and repeat this process. The way you fill in the shapes, whether random or ordered, is entirely up to you. Keep in mind that outlining the outside edge will give your pieces a clean finished look whether they are left as art pieces or sewn into objects. To change yarns simply snip the piece you are using at the tip of the punch needle, rethread with your desired yarn and continue punching. When the piece is finished trim any loose ends. If using embroidery stitch you may want to gently pull the loose end through to the back of your piece.

Move your hand in slow, even increments much, like writing. The stitch direction is of equal importance. Giving your stitches a common direction will help your piece seem more unified.

When all areas of the design are filled in, there will likely be plenty of loose ends of yarn hanging about and probably the occasional stitch or two that seem looser than the others. ‘Snipping’ is the process when you simply snip loose ends to clean up the appearance of the piece.

Likewise, if there are any gaps where you’ve missed a stitch, simply return to that area and fill those gaps in. If an entire area is not to your liking – perhaps you have changed your mind about the stitch or colour – then remove the yarn in question by finding or snipping an end and pulling out as much as you want. Before you begin to punch into that area again, even out the weave of the base cloth a little with the point of your tool.

There are many ways to make some stitches differ from their neighbours. Changing direction or length can change stitches in a subtle way.

Once a project is completed, the entire surface will feel solid as each stitch is held in place by the others around it. You shouldn’t need to worry about losing stitches through wear and tear. If a loose stitch does appear, it can be tucked in again or snipped off. I rarely feel the need to go beyond this point, however there may be some cases where you want to protect the stitches. An option is to paint the back of a punch needle piece with a white or fabric glue, or even liquid latex. Protecting the back by sewing on a fabric backing and edging is also an option.

Punch needle is very forgiving when it comes to uneven stitch length and to be honest, I think it gives the piece a lot of character when they are slightly uneven. But if you do want a more even look, then it really comes down to practice.

For more contrast the best way is to use different colours, different weights and types of yarn, or different types of stitches, such as those that result from working from the front or back of the frame.

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Cover courtesy of Quadrille

Excerpted with permission fromPunch Needle: Master the Art of Punch Needling Accessories for You and Your Homeby Arounna Khounnoraj, published by Quadrille May 2019, RRP $19.99 Paperback.