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Embroidery is a fun and fulfilling craft, great for quiet times of reflection or to keep your hands busy while watching TV. Holding those tiny needles, though, can be a pain.
My hands have been painful since I was a teen, so sometimes I just can’t do traditional embroidery. To keep busy even when my hands hurt, I like to do punch pen embroidery!
Punch pen embroidery creates a different kind of look (the finished product looks a bit like a plush rug or carpet), but that makes them even more unique and interesting. This is a very old craft, too, and it’s seeing a revival in recent years.
About embroidery punch pens
So what is punch pen embroidery? It’s a form of embroidery that involves punching thread, yarn or ribbon through a fabric and creating a loop pattern. That looping pattern makes the pattern look like a plush rug that you’d just like to snuggle up on.
There are some claims about where punch pen embroidery originates from: Some thing ancient Egyptians started it with hollow bird bones, while others think it originated in Russia, Germany or England.
Embroidery Punch Needle Supplies
What do you need to get started with punch needle embroidery? Only a few affordable supplies!
- An embroidery hoop. Make sure you get one that has a tightening mechanism on it. You want your fabric to stay put while you’re doing punch embroidery.
- A punch pen. I sell one on my Etsy shop, but these can be found on Amazon and in stores like Michael’s.
- Thread. I like to use embroidery floss, but I use regular sewing thread sometimes too!
- A pattern. You can make your own pattern and draw it directly onto the fabric, or you can buy and print a pattern. You can trace the pattern onto fabric with a light box or a sunny window.
- Fabric. You’re supposed to use weaver’s cloth, but all you really need is a fabric with a tight and slightly stretchy weave. You’ll have to experiment to see if the loop will stay put in whatever fabric you use.
- Small scissors to cut the thread.
How to use embroidery punch pens
Before I get into the written instructions, here are 2 videos that will help you a lot!
Pick a design
You can really go wild here. While it’s best to start with a small design for your first few attempts, you can get pretty elaborate.
You can either purchase and print a design, or make your own drawn directly onto the fabric. Either way, you’ll want to get your fabric ready. Cut the fabric so that there’s 4 inches of border around the pattern. This is the fabric that the hoop will hold onto.
Then you can use a fabric pen to draw your pattern into the center of the fabric.
Choose your embroidery hoop
A hoop that has a locking mechanism is a must. You want that fabric in there super tight.
Center the fabric over the inner embroidery hoop (that’s the smaller one). You want the locking mechanism facing up.
Then you press the larger hoop over the top. Make sure the pattern is on very tight. You want it to feel and sound like a drum.
Thread your punch needle
Most punch needles come with a handy dandy threader with a huge eye. You can put your thread through that to easily thread the pen’s needle. There will be a tiny loop at the bottom of the threader, which is what holds the thread without it slipping.
A punch needle has a hollow shaft where the thread is, and a depth gauge.
Slide the thread through the eye of the needle and down into the hollow shaft. Pushing it through the other side, you have completed threading your needle!
Holding the needle as if it were a pen or pencil, you want the bevel side of the needle facing the direction you are punching.
It’s easiest if the thread rests over your finger, but make sure it can move freely or you’ll just unravel your art as you work.
You also want to work on the side that will be the back of your art.
Finish punching your pattern
Punch directly through the fabric, then pull the needle towards you. As you pull it out, the needle should always be touching the fabric.
Each time you push through, you want to push to the same depth so each loop is the same size. Move the needle over a few stitches to make the next punch.
The needle separates the threads in your fabric, and when you pull it back that hole closes to keep the loop firmly in the fabric. The thread isn’t locked, though, so be kind of delicate with it.
It’s easiest to complete the outline if your pattern before filling in the rest. Then you can finish by stitching the background elements, if you have any.
Finish your craft
Complete your craft by pulling the needle out of the fabric, leabing 1/2 inch of thread. Remove the embroidery hoop, and voila! You have a beautiful punch pen embroidery that will make a great gift.
Questions about punch needle embroidery
Do you need a specific kind of fabric for needle punching?
Nope! While it is recommended to use weaver’s cloth for beginners, if you’re willing to experiment you can use any fabric. Just make sure you’re using a hoop and have the correct tension.
What thread do I use for punch needle embroidery?
Embroidery floss is a great way to start, since there are so many different colors and you can choose how many threads you want to use.
How many strands of thread you use depends on your design. Starting with three is a good way to experiment with the thickness you prefer. Some people use all 6 strands.
What should I do if my loops keep unraveling?
You might be pulling your needle too far out of the fabric! Remember, your thread isn’t being locked into place like it is with traditional embroidery.
Can I machine wash my needle punch project?
Probably not. Again, nothing is locking your thread into place, so your project is going to be delicate. Hand washing is best if you must wash it.
If you need to machine wash, definitely use a delicate cycle.
Which is the good side?
Some people like the back of their projects more, so this is really up for your interpretation. Traditionally, though, the back side is the side without loops.
Do I knot the thread? If not, how do I keep it from unraveling?
You don’t have to use knots. Technically, the stitches should be close enough to prevent your art from unraveling too easily.
Why should I take up needle punch embroidery?
Lots of reasons!
- It’s cheap
- It doesn’t take up a lot of space
- The learning curve is small
- The finished pieces are unique and interesting gifts
- It’s easy to do punch pen embroidery while spending time with family or watching TV
- It’s a unique craft that you don’t see very often
What have you made with your embroidery punch pen?
Using a punch pen is a lot of fun and can make so many cute crafts. Everyone that receives one will be blown away by the unique rug-like look and they’ll be interested in how you did it!
So if you want an affordable craft, this is the perfect one to pick up.
I hope I answered some of your questions about punch pen embroidery and encouraged you to pick it up! If you do want to start with this craft project, I sell an embroidery punch pen on Etsy.
I also sell other sewing and embroidery supplies on Etsy.
Lastly, if you want more craft how-tos and updates, subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed via Feedly or another feed reader!