Oh man, that's an awful pun, sorry. I blame it on the yarn fumes. But seriously, like much of the rest of the fiber world I'm discovering how fun punch needle embroidery is and loving having yet another outlet for using glorious hand dyed yarns.
When it comes to trying a new craft or hobby I hear so often "I'm just scared I'll mess up" or "I just don't know where to start". First of all it's ok to be scared or nervous, just doing it anyway! The great thing about punch needle is that it's almost impossible to "screw up". If you don't like the way a section is looking just pull it out and do it again. I've redone sections a dozen times before I liked the look without losing the integrity of the backing fabric. As for not knowing where to start hopefully this post will help! This is going to be a pretty down and dirty post to hopefully provide you with the resources to try this addictive craft out for yourself!
First, what absolute basics do you need to try this out?
A. Backing fabric. This serves as the foundation for your piece. The easiest fabric to locate is called "monks cloth". This can easily be found at most big box fabric stores. Although it's worth noting, the monks cloth that you will get there will be too large of a weave for finer work and is really only good for worsted to bulky weight yarns. Otherwise, you'll struggle with your loops falling out. For finer weaves or for a nicer fabric in general you can grab some at these places:
• Amy Oxford
You can really use any "even weave" fabric for punching. Linen is probably my favorite, especially if you're going to leave any areas un-punched. My only issue with monks cloth is that is does fray very easily. I would suggest serging the edges if you have a serger OR wrapping the edges with masking tape.
B. A design to punch. You can draw something directly onto your fabric. I like to use a sharpie as you won't see any of your lines once your project is complete and it doesn't wear off as you work. There are a very small number of more "modern" design available out there but here are some of my favorites.
I've also drawn up a super little flower design that you can start with. You can download the pattern for free here.
To transfer a printed pattern to your fabric I love these. You can also just trace the design using a brightly lit window and some masking tape to hold everything in place!
C. A frame. For your first few projects a regular embroidery hoop or snap frame works just fine. As with embroidery you'll want your fabric to be as tight as a drum in the frame or you'll struggle with punching. It will tend to loosen up a bit as you work so you'll want to stop periodically and tighten things back up. You'll also want a frame that's just slightly bigger than your design. You don't want to have to move this around to reach parts of the design and the thickness of the yarn will prevent you from tightening the hoop over it.
If you get super into punching you'll want to upgrade to a gripper frame or something like it. You can purchase gripper frames here:
• Amy Oxford
You can also purchase pre-stretched frames which are super convenient! You can either remove the fabric when you're done or just hang it up and display it as is!
OR you can build your own frame using canvas stretcher bars and carpet tack strips. Check out a tutorial for that here.
D. A punch needle. The Amy Oxford punch needle is pretty much the gold standard. I like them because they're made in the U.S. by a small company, they're wood, and they're supper easy to thread, you don't need a separate threader. This also brings me to some super exciting news! I've been approved as retailer for Amy Oxford needles, so very soon I'll have them available in the shop as well as kits! Yay! In the meantime you can purchase needles directly through Amy Oxford. I would start with a #10 regular. That's what I use for all my worsted and bulky yarns.
E. YARN! You can use pretty much any yarn for punch needle. I personally love the texture of a single ply bulky but play around with weights and textures. You can hold several finer weight yarns together to get a marled effect or try something fuzzy! I love the subtle color shifts of hand dyed yarns but commercial yarns are beautiful too. You can also us variegated yarns for a super interesting effect. This is also a great way to use up scraps. You don't need a ton of yarn for punching unless your project is huge. Reminder: with a No. 10 needle you'll want to use DK - Bulky weight yarns.
Now, you have all the stuffs what do you do? Punching is really one of the easiest fiber arts I've ever tried, so really, don't be scared! A few of my favorite tutorials on YouTube are:
Now you've punched a thing... what you do with it!? Well, anything really. You can make wall hangings by just displaying your piece in the frame. You can make pillows, pockets for clothing, bags, stuffed animals, you name it! My first really big project I made a circle cushion! I would suggest sewing a line of running stitches around the outside edge of your project before sewing. I had some issues with loops falling out when I was turning my cushion right side out. You can also glue the back of your projects so they're sturdier and hold up to regular use.
For the flower pattern that's the free download I also added some simple lines of embroidery to fancy it up. It's not necessary but does add some detail. I used a tapestry needle and some dk weight yarn.
There are definitely more structured ways of filling in sections if you want to get more serious but I like just "going for it" and not really worrying so much about my stitches all going the same direction.
Hopefully this helps get you started! I'm excited to work on developing some kits for you and my own skills! Definitely let me know if you have any other questions that I didn't cover.