Punch Needling Abstract Art: A Modern Twist On A Not So Modern Craft — Apartment Therapy Tutorials

If you’re the kind of person who loves the look of embroidery, but “can’t even with the time it takes to tediously work every single stitch into a project, punch needle might just be for you. Lazy crafter? Punch needle. Can’t ever seem to color inside the lines? Punch needle. Enjoys crafting while sipping a bottle of wine? Pick up a punch needle.

Punch needle has been around for a very, very long time. Ancient Egyptians used hollowed bones from birds wings as needles for the craft, and it’s been carried through the ages to depict everything from floral scenes to stately portraits of pets. While we can appreciate any art form that captures the essence of a furry friend, we like punch needling for abstract designs – it’s a really fun way to create modern wall art in hardly any time at all.

What You Need

Punch Needle tool + threader
Weavers cloth
Quilting hoop or Embroidery hoop
Embroidery floss


Step 1. Stretch the cloth. Once you’ve transferred your design onto weavers cloth, stretch it on your embroidery hoop. I used an 18″ quilting hoop for my project and it worked well, but I did need to adjust it every once in a while. After you start punching, check to make sure the hoop is still holding the cloth tightly.

Step 2. Load the punch needle. To load your punch needle you need to insert the threader tool both vertically and horizontally into the needle.

First, insert the threader vertically through the top of the needle and send it all the way down and out the bottom of the tool. Pry open the thin wires of the threader and run the embroidery floss through.

Next, grab the white tab at the top of the threader and pull the needle back out through the top of the needle so the threader comes completely out of the punch needle tool. Doing so will bring the embroidery floss up and out the top part of the needle, which is step one in the two-part process of threading the punch needle.

Lastly, insert the tip of the threader horizontally through the second hole in the tip of the needle. Pull the floss further out through the first hole you previously threaded, and run it through the wires at the tip of the threader. Once more, pull the tab of the threader tool back out of the hole, and you will have completed the threading process.

Step 3. Punch away. Punch needle is a very forgiving craft. You can pretty much start anywhere on your design that you please. Start by punching your needle all the way down through the cloth and use your thumb to hold the tail in place as you punch your first row.

I found it was easiest to lay the needle at a roughly 35°-40° angle with the tip pointing away from me as I punched. The shorter the distance between punches, the tighter your loops will be.

The first row usually looks scraggly and may not be as straight of a line as you like, but don’t worry about it because you can always come back and fill it in. If you want a really tight line, try to tuck the needle up as close as you can to the line above it.

You can literally work in any direction that feels good for you–you don’t have to limit yourself to lines. If you’re working with lots of colors and doing a variegated effect, it might be best to work side to side, or in a zig zag motion, versus down, in one continuous line.

Once you’ve finished your design you can always go back in and fill in any areas that you may have previously missed.

As you punch, you’re actually working from the “back” of the cloth.

The “front” side of the cloth is where the embroidery floss loops, you’ll find it on the under side of your embroidery hoop.

As you work, go through and trim down big loops or starter tails. It’s a good idea to keep up with these so you don’t catch them on something and unravel your work.

That is all there is too it! Read on for other helpful hints.

Project Notes

  • Weavers cloth is best, but other fabrics will work. It’s always best to try out the fabric before committing to a new project.
  • If you don’t like an area you’ve punched, pull out the floss and start over again. It’s really easy to cover over previous mistake holes with your punch needle.
  • You’re actually working from the backside of the project, so if you feel like it’s looking a bit sparse just flip it over and you’ll see how nice and full it’s becoming.
  • Punch needle was originally a yarn craft. If you find a thin enough yarn and thick enough needle the finished product looks amazing, try it out!
  • When using the smaller needles you’ll have to separate your floss and only use 2-3 strands. If you don’t do this the needle won’t be able to feed the floss through and simply won’t function.
  • If you’re worried about the back of the project unraveling, you can do a few things. Hand washing the piece will tighten the fabric and pull the stitches in tighter. Otherwise, you can glue backing fabric to your project using this embroidery glue. If you’re trying punch needle on clothing, fusable interfacing can be ironed on to the back of the project to hold everything in place. Just be sure to hand wash the garment.
  • How long did it take me to punch out this project? An evening of binge watching the entire season of Atypical.

Have a really great DIY project or tutorial that you want to share with others? Let us know! We love checking out what you’re making these days, and learning from our readers. When you’re ready, click here to submit your project and photos.

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