A Beginner's Guide to Punch Needle Embroidery
Have you wished to pick up a new creative skill—like crocheting, knitting, or weaving—but found that the techniques were at a level that was too advanced for you? If so, we suggest you give punch needle embroidery a try. The embroidery methods used here are simple and beginner-friendly. A project like this clutch only takes a couple of hours to finish, and the result is that you have a beautiful handmade piece that you won't find anywhere else.
For punch needle embroidery, you will need the right kind of tools and materials on hand. A cloth with a visible weave (such as monk's cloth or burlap) is ideal. For beginners with little to no experience, make use of burlap. It is not only easy to punch, but is also on the inexpensive side. Otherwise, opt for monk's or weaver's cloth that is made of cotton and is much more stretchable than burlap making it a little strenuous to punch. Monk's cloth—with a 6 to 7 count per inch—is perfect to hold the loops when used with yarn. For a studier backing, a rug warp is a better alternative to monk's cloth the former being thicker. They come in a variety of colors from the bright whites to pastels and darker colors.
When selecting your yarn, you must see that it is not slippery—like silk—as the loops would not hold; you'll also want to avoid anything knotty, as this will constrict smooth passage of the yarn through the hollow shaft of the needle. If you'd like to use embroidery floss, pair it with a respective punch rug needle of 1/16 inch with monk's cloth 12 to 14 counts per inch. To make an actual rug, its best to purchase 100 percent wool yarn so it can last longer. Whereas, decorative punch rug pieces may also be created with a blend of acrylic and wool.
With everything on hand, follow along with our beginner-friendly project of a handmade clutch.
The basic tools and materials include a punch needle (such as The Oxford Company's Oxford Punch Needle), yarn in the color of your choice (thicker fibers work best), an embroidery hoop (such as the Frank A. Edmunds Company Round Quilt Hoop) or thumbtacks gripper frame, monk's cloth or burlap (such as LOVOUS 100% Natural Linen Needlework Fabric), embroidery scissors, and a pencil for tracing.
Tracing a Design
There are a number of ways to transfer your design onto cloth. For a simple design, pick up a pencil and freehand draw your design directly on the cloth, making sure to have an eraser by your side for any mistakes. For a more elaborate and intricate designs, you can make use of a linoleum block to carve your design, paint the block with a brayer, and stamp your design over your cloth. Or you can always go for your trusty iron-transfers. Depending on the textures, you may also have to trace your design onto the back of your cloth.
To trace a design for our clutch, we placed the inner section of the embroidery hoop and traced it onto monk's cloth; next, we drew a straight line splitting the circle almost in half and drew a freehand design to the bigger section of the half-circle.
How to Thread the Needle
Usually, a threader is packaged along with the punch rug needle found in the craft stores. Insert the threader through the beveled opening until it comes out the bottom. Take an inch or two of yarn and put it through the threader, and pull the threader back up through the top of the needle; then, release the yarn. Insert the threader through the eye of the needle and repeat the previous steps until you have the yarn at the back of the needle's eye. From here on, you can begin to punch.
Feed the threader through the mouth of the needle. Insert the yarn through the threader and then pull back the threader until the yarn is exposed; repeat this for the eye of the needle. Following the tracing, poke the needle through the tiny hole of the cloth while holding the needle like a pen in angle. And push it all the way to the end of the needle and then gently pull it back while keeping it close to the surface and poke and pull back again to create another stitch. One can carry one stitching the outline and then fill the inside. Keep the yarn loose for it to feed through and fill in the holes.
There are two sides to every stitch. The side facing you while punching is called the flat stitch and on the opposite side, you will find the loops (it's size depending on the length of the needle). The final texture will depend on which side you want. This punch rug piece summarizes the stitches that we will cover. The textures shown are flat stitch, loops. big loops, shaggy, and fringe.
The flat stitch is the one that you see when you are punching. The needle doesn't have to be short or long as the loops created at the back is not part of the design. Punch the needle all the way down, pull the needle back and drag it across the surface (if you pull it far from the cloth you undo the loop created at the back that holds the stitch) and punch again following the trace. Punch in equal counts for a consistent and clean look. To change the direction, simply rotate the needle towards the direction and continue punch. The flat stitch is the wrong side of a punch rug.
When punching a flat stitch, the by-product are loops on the other side. The size of the loops can vary depending on the height of the needle. The shorter the needle, the smaller the loops are created. By using a long needle, you can punch to create big loops. The loops really shine when paired with the backstitch. Big loops when slightly snipped from the top will result in a shaggy look similar to pom-poms. The more the rows of loops snipped the thicker the shag will be. In order to create a fringe, an exaggerated loop out of the flat stitch must be created by placing your finger at the tip of the yarn constricting the unraveling of the loops and begin to pull further away from the hoop. Then, punch and push the needle against the cloth, creating a loop behind. Repeat this until you have covered the area. Next, cut the loops in half and trim them nicely, thus creating a fringe.
Cut the Thread
Cut off the end and thread another color through the needle for the next one. Carry on hooking until you have filled the entire design. (Remember, this is the back of the design and can be unkempt.) Flipping it to the other side will reveal the beautiful loops that we need for this project. Snip off the excess thread close to the surface with a pair of sharp embroidery scissors and cut out the rug allowing a 2-inch seam all around.
Cut Excess Fabric
Place your rug piece over the two fabric lining and the canvas cloth for the back of the clutch. Trace them out and cut around it so that they are all the same size.
For this handmade clutch, one zipper is sewn on the rug side and the other is sewn on the canvas cloth in a straight stitch. Place the front and the back pieces (the good sides facing each other) and sew across the curve. You may then further stitch the insides for a more refined look. Next, flip it inside out and you have a beautiful clutch. Attach a pom-pom or tassel to the zipper to give it extra flair.
Tailored to You
The usage of your item will decide what kind of textures you prefer. For a rug, you must make sure that the backing is flat and the loops of different sizes are facing outwards. Whereas for a decorative piece to hang on your wall, you can really experiment and really not worry about the consistent texture of the backing.