A few years ago, I went to my first New York Sheep & Wool festival (I’m thinking in 2008 or 2009?). As a first time visitor, I bought a LOT of yarn, but I also picked up this little punch needle pattern from The Paisley Studio. As you can see from the link, they still vend at NYSW, but I’m not sure if they still do punch needle supplies. Their etsy shop only shows rug hooking supplies.
People who know me from the knitting world may not realize that for a long time, I was an avid rug hooker. I would source wool clothes from Salvation Army, felt and dye them at home and use my wool cutter to turn the wool into strips for hooking. I was initially drawn to punch needle because it is similar to rug hooking but with yarn the weight of embroidery floss. I bought this little Halloween themed design, the yarn to go with it, and a Cameo punch needle (the blue thing in the above photo that looks like a pen). I also bought a cute little see-through pouch to store the supplies in. I had everything I needed to make this little project….
Flash forward 7-8 years. I came across the little pouch of supplies when I was unpacking my craft supplies after we moved. I put them in a prominent place in my craft room and promised I would give it a try. Today is that day!
I think the little pattern booklet was designed for people with some knowledge of this craft. It basically told me a few tips (change needle depth between outlining and filling in), but did not mention any specifics, like how deep I should set the punch needle tool? Fortunately, my Cameo punch needle came with a detailed instruction manual! After reading through the manual, I learned how to thread the punch needle, and that they recommended starting with it set on 4 or 5. I also learned that, unlike rug hooking, where you work on the right side of the project, with punch needle you are working on the wrong side. The little loops are beneath the fabric as you work, whereas with rug hooking, you draw the loops up.
I found the printed pattern confusing because the finished work on the pattern book is in the same orientation as the pattern drawn on my fabric, as you can see in the photo. I toyed with working the pattern from the opposite side of the fabric, but it wasn’t easy to see the design through the cloth, so I figured my best bet would be to work on the printed side. Fortunately there are no words printed on this so it really doesn’t matter.
Another issue with the pattern book is that the book recommends using the photo to see where to place the colors. I quickly realized the pattern on my fabric is not at all the same as the one on the brochure — the little dots in the background are completely different! So other than telling me that the skeleton is white, the pumpkin head orange, and the background is black, the picture doesn’t really help me. I decided to just place the colors where I liked them on the dots.
I’m not clear on how this little punch needle tool actually works, but you basically just punch it in to the depth you set it for, draw it back up until the tip is just above the fabric, move it over a bit and punch again. Very easy. Somehow, this makes the thread loop underneath the fabric. You have to be very careful not to accidentally pull the thread out and undo your loops!
The punch needle instructions tells you to make the punches in neat little lines. If you look at the above photo, the circle to the left of the pumpkin head was my first attempt, the circle to the right my second, and by the third one (bottom left) I was getting the hang of it.
I had to laugh at the instructions. They informed me that punch needle is “relaxing and fun!” It was not “relaxing and fun” for the first hour or so, but now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, it is fun and easy to do.
I will post further when I finish the project, but I can definitely see myself trying something a bit more ambitious the next time.