How To Needle Punch.
Needle Punch is a needle craft that is fun and relaxing. The needle punch tool, punches the thread through the fabric resulting in loops of thread on the front and smooth stitches on the back. It is like painting using thread! Either side, the loops or the smooth, can be the design which to work. Needle Punching is forgiving because stitches can be pulled out and stitched again. And Needle Punching requires no counting!
Weaver’s cloth or Monk’s cloth (HandmadeJules)
A hoop, my favorites are Morgan embroidery Hoops which come in a variety of sizes. Morgan Embroidery Hoop 17 inch, Morgan Embroidery Hoop 14 inch, Morgan Embroidery Hoop 10 inch, Morgan Embroidery Hoop 9 inch, Morgan Embroidery Hoop 7 in.
A needle punch tool, I prefer the Ultra Needle Punch Tool to work with smaller patterns.
Fabric marker, pen or pencil
The best fabric to use for needle punching is weaver’s cloth. This is a tightly woven cotton polyester blend fabric. Weaver’s cloth can be tricky to find in stores so I have it available here for purchase (Link). I have tried other cotton fabrics with a tight weave and have not had great success. The fabric needs to “bounce back” or tighten around the punched thread. Some fabrics with a tight weave will leave a hole after the thread is punched through or the fabric doesn’t hold the punched thread tightly enough resulting in the loops pulling out. There is no harm in trying different fabrics by punching a small area before you invest too much time into the project.
Choose the fabric to use and cut it to the desired size. I like to cut my fabric generously, leaving 4 or more inches of fabric around the needle punch design. Extra fabric can be trimmed off but more fabric is very difficult to add to the finished project.
Some patterns come already printed on the fabric, others need to be traced onto the fabric. Learn more about tracing patterns on Handmade Jules here. (Link) To trace the pattern on to the fabric, you can use a finepoint washable fabric marker, a pen, pencil or permanent marker. The washable marker tends to fade after a few days so I prefer using a light pencil. If a pen or permanent marker is used, be sure to needle punch over the whole pattern to cover it.
Use a light table or window to trace the pattern onto the fabric. First tape the pattern down so it does not move or shift. Place your fabric over the top of the pattern, make sure it is smooth and wrinkle free. Next tape the fabric down so it does not move or shift. Trace the pattern.
To hoop the patterned fabric, loosen the screw of the hoop. Then lay the inner ring down on a table. Next place the fabric on top of the inner ring, with the pattern centered. Place the outer ring on top of fabric. Then press down on the outer ring until it goes over the inner ring, sandwiching the fabric between the two hoops. Last, tighten the screw while making sure the fabric is tight as a drum.
Invest in quality
Some hoops are slippery and the fabric slides around. This makes working with them very frustrating because the fabric has to be tightened constantly. It is worth it to invest in a quality hoop. My favorite is the Morgan Embroidery Hoop listed above. These hoops do not slip and stay very tight. I would rather pay a few dollars more saving time and sanity, than buy a cheaper brand causing me frustration.
If you already have a hoop that slips, cover the inner ring completely with 1 inch or smaller fabric strips around the hoop. The Spruce Crafts site has a great post on how to wrap a hoop. Or wrap scotch tape with the non sticky side towards the ring. The sticky clear tape will help hold the fabric.
Using a frame
Make or purchase a wooden frame, just the frame without a backing or glass. Then stretch the fabric over the frame and staple the fabric to the frame. Using a staple gun works best. The finished project can be left on the frame or the staples can be removed and the frame can be used again. Liz from elizabethhurley.etsy.com shows how to create your own decorative wall hangings by stretching designer fabrics onto wood frames. elizabethhurley.etsy.com . Her video is great to show how to wrap the fabric on a frame. Then just used the frame to needle punch or embroider.
Punch Needle Direction
Look closely at your punch needle. It is cut on an angle with one side open. This open side is the front. The other side is pointed and has a hole in it. This is the back.
When punching, you must lead with the front side or punch with the front side heading in the direction you are punching. The direction you work doesn’t matter as long as the needle is facing correctly. The frontside aiming the direction you are working. In other words, think of it as having the headlights facing forward! Work in whatever direction feels comfortable. I like to work away from my body.
Separating the thread can be a pain and tangled thread is a bummer. There are 6 strands in a length of embroidery thread.
Cut the thread to the length you desire. When just learning, keep the length shorter, around 18 inches so it doesn’t get knotted or tangled.
3 ways to separate
There are a few ways to separate the thread into strands that you will use.
The first way is to separate the strands by pulling down the amount you want to use, let’s say 3. Pull these three strands apart from the six, at one end of the strand with the tips of your fingers. Now hold the three strands in your left hand and pull the remaining strands down towards the bottom end with your right hand. These “pulled down” strands will bunch up, just pull them straight again. Go slowly so if they do tangle it will be easy to straighten out.
Another way is to separate the thread is by using your mouth to hold the third section of thread. For example, let’s use 2 strands. Separate the two strands at one end of the thread. Then put the 2 strands between your lips to hang on to it. Put the 4 strands in your left hand and pull slightly apart from the two strands in your lips. Grab the rest of the thread, the part that is still 6 strands, with your right hand. Gently pull the sections apart. The strands in your right hand, which are still 6 strands together will try to spin or unwind. If this happens release the 6 strands and let them untwist. Then grasp them again and continue to separate the strands. When apart, the 2 strand length will remain in your lips.
Run the tip of the end through your lips, wetting it slightly. This is the end to work with while threading through the wire loop.
Finally, to separate another way is to use both hands on either piece of the strand, then pull apart gently. The thread can become knotted and tangled as the end with six strands will spin or bunch up. Pull slowly apart and be gentle.
To avoid a tangle, cut the thread length shorter. One way will become a favorite and the more you do it the easier it will get.
Ultra Punch Needle
I work with smaller patterns so I use the Ultra Punch Needle to punch. It works great and is easy to use! Find the sample of the 12 length of stitches, using all 3 needles of the Ultra Punch here. (Link) Purchase the Ultra Needle Punch here. This tool comes with 3 needles, great instructions with photos in the packaging along with two wire threaders.
There are other “multi size in one” needles out there but I haven’t found any that I can recommend.
There are other needles that come in many different sizes to use on larger size punching, from pillows to rugs. I enjoy punching the smaller patterns with embroidery thread so that is what I feel comfortable in recommending. Here are some links to other sites that work with the larger needle punch and different threads which I enjoy reading.
Thread Ultra Punch Needle
Most needle punches come with directions and so does the Ultra Needle Punch. To illustrate the ease of threading, this is how I thread my Ultra Needle Punch.
To thread your needle, put the long wire loop in the needle opening so it comes out the open hollow blue end. Next put the embroidery thread through the wire loop. Pull the wire loop out through the needle end, pulling the thread along with the loop. From the back of the needle, the flat side, put the wire loop through the small hole. The wire loop should now be on the side of the open angle. Next take the thread coming out of the needle end and put it through the wire loop. Then pull the wire loop back through the small hole, bringing the thread with it.
The completed threading
The thread should be running down the tool from the open hollow end, through the open end in the needle, then through the small hole in the end of the needle. The end of the thread should be running out of the flat side of the needle.
Starting A Thread
To start a needle punch thread, hold the tool in a vertical position, or perpendicular to the fabric. There should be about an inch of thread laying on top of the fabric. I like to have this thread off to the left of my needle but it can lay anywhere just as long as you can see where you are going to punch. The feeder thread, the thread coming out of the hollow end of the tool, should be behind or over the hand you are punching with. Make sure this thread has no tension on it, in other words that it is free to feed into the tool without getting pulled back. I like to lay this thread to the side of my hand on top of the fabric where I can see that it is free to feed into the tool.
Push the needle all the way down into the fabric every punch to get consistent loops. Lift the needle tip up until it appears on the top of the fabric. Move the tip a short distance then push the needle down through the fabric again. Be sure to hold the needle in the correct direction with the angled side facing front. Lift the needle tip so it just skims the top of the fabric to produce smooth consistent stitches.
Remember you are working from the back of the project and the front is facing down or away from you. Sometimes in needle punching, the smooth back side stitches are used on the front to produce a different texture in the pattern.
As you punch along a few stitches, leave the punch down in fabric and trim the beginning tail of the thread so it doesn’t get it the way. I like to trim at about a ¼ inch length, but it can be trimmed to an ⅛ of an inch. Be careful not to pull on this tail as it will remove your stitches. When I am completed with the project, I use Fray Check to lock down my stitches, ensuring they do not pull out.
If you are not pleased with your stitches or a mistake is made, just pull the tail of the thread and pull out the stitches you want to replace. Then restitch this area. If it is just the last few stitches that were just stitched that are not acceptable, pull up on the needle punch tool and pull out the last few stitches. To restitch these last few punches, put the tip of the needle down on top of fabric and pull the feeder thread taut from the hollow end. This will tighten the thread to where it was before you pulled the stitches. There should not be any extra thread between the needle and the fabric. Now just re-punch the stitches and continue with the pattern.
Ending a Thread or Changing Colors
When the feeder thread runs out, take the tip of the needle punch and use it to pull out the last few stitches leaving about ¼ inch tail of thread laying on top of fabric. Another way to end a thread is when the feeder thread reaches the top of the hollow tube, punch a few more stitches then pull the needle punch tool away from the project. As you gently pull the tool away, hold the thread down with your fingertip. The thread will feed through the needle punch tool but your finger will hold the stitch in place. Then cut the thread, again leaving a ¼ inch tail. You may wish to put a small dab of fabric glue or Fray Check on each thread end to secure it in place.
Do not carry the thread from one area to the next as it can pull out stitches. Complete an area, then cut the thread and start again in the next place.
There are two ways to fill in a pattern. The first would be to fill in the large areas and then fill the small or narrow areas last. You will be able to see the small areas from the back of the pattern. Another way is to fill in the small areas first then fill the large areas last. This way the small details are complete when you fill in around them. Look at the pattern to decide which areas will work best to fill first. If completing the small areas first, make sure to trim your threads closer to the fabric so the tails don’t block your view of the pattern.
You will work from the printed side of the project. So if the desired look is the looped side, the punching is done from the back of the project. Begin by punching the outline area just inside or on top of the printed line. If you want the smooth side to be the finished project, the traced pattern is on this side, therefore needle punch just outside the traced lines so the lines will not be seen.
Filling in areas
Continue by filling in the area, following the direction of the outline or by punching rows randomly. Some shapes or the size of the area to be filled will determine the pattern of the fill. For areas which are thin or narrow, you may want to punch 2 rows to ensure the area is visible within the finished piece. You can always go back and punch another row to add thread to make it more visible.
- When a direction change is required, keep the needle position down and rotate the fabric rather than the needle.
- Don’t overcrowd your stitches. It is easy to go back and fill stitches in later if needed.
- Work inside the printed lines for each area, to achieve a nice clean edge between colors.
- If your stitches keep pulling out as you work, check to make sure there is no tension on the feeder thread.
- If you need to pull out stitches and re-punch an area, the thread may be too kinked to use. Start with a new piece of thread.
- When you first begin, the area may look sparse or droopy. Don’t worry, as you fill the pattern in, it will become fuller. The loops hold each other up.
Use mild dishwashing liquid to gently hand wash your stitching. Dry flat. Do not wring or twist to squeeze excess water out. Place between two towels and gently press straight down.
To press your fabric, lay it with the front side up. With medium heat, press around the stitches so you don’t flatten them.
My goal is to help others learn new things without getting frustrated. Join me in my DIY craft projects adventures with simple, complete instructions, and read more about me here.
I love to DIY, make things by hand and be creative. My goal is to help others learn new things without getting frustrated. Join me in my DIY adventures with simple, complete instructions, and read More about me here.