Punch Needle – a New Adventure 🧶🪡😁

Ok, so as many creative explorations do, this all began for me the day I opened this issue of Uppercase magazine:

Oooooh. What IS that, I wondered? As a yarn fanatic born without the knitting gene, I couldn’t wait to find out. This niche is very closely related to rug hooking but is its own art form…a special tool punches yarn from the back of a canvas to create loops that (by magic, it seems) stay put. Unlike counted cross-stitch, this does not require tedious stitch-counting (though you do need to learn how large to make your stitches, which is incredibly easy with the right tools and instruction)…and you don’t need to make a whole rug, you can play with wall hangings.

I already have enough fabric and thread to keep my busy for a hundred years…but this stayed in the back of my mind and I began to follow Amy Oxford (who had been profiled in Uppercase) on social media. When she announced a new book, then had a special holiday promotion on needles, I was sunk 😏. Santa brought a #10 needle and monk cloth (the substrate) and I couldn’t wait to begin to play. https://amyoxford.com/products/oxford-punch-needles

While the delivery of the book was delayed as the first printing sold out, I took advantage of the fantastic how-to booklet that accompanies the needle. Needle punchers use special frames, but I thought I’d try with a quilt hoop I already had in the studio…and some junk yarn that came with a magazine.

So much fun from the first stitch! I played around just to get the feel of it, and of course made the rookie mistake of crowding…but, hey, the pincushion is still cute ;)…

The book arrived ❤️…wow, it is both a knockout coffee table book and the best how-to book I’ve ever read. During these pandemic times, we may not be able to travel to VT and take classes at Amy’s school, but this book is absolutely the next best thing. (Incidentally, by this point I had finally figured out that Amy is quite famous in the craft world…which made her replies to my Instagram messages all the more remarkable 😉). Shout-out also to Cotey Gallagher, the store manager at The Oxford Company, who has already answered more dumb questions from me than I can count 🤗.

So, by the time I’d finished the book, you can probably guess that I’d ordered the frame (spoiler alert, quilting frames don’t really work)…and just a tiny bit of yarn 😆 from Amy’s associate company, Seal Harbor Rug Company. https://sealharborrug.com/ Their hand-dyed rug yarns are simply irresistible, and their customer service is lovely. I wanted to try one of my quilt designs in needle punch so I took pictures of the yarns I though might replicate my Aurifil “neon” shades and Melina confirmed that they would.

In an extraordinarily short time (yay for post-Christmas sane package delivery), I was in business:

See that blue flannel cover? It protects your hands from the little spiky things that hold the monk cloth!
Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh 😍

Next, I marked my design…knowing I would have to SIMPLIFY to do this with rug yarn in a 12” piece…and remembering that I had to reverse the design. I took a screenshot shot of my magazine article and flipped it in Photos – very helpful

And I was off! Details and border first…seen here from the “right” side:

There is something incredibly therapeutic about punching yarn into your piece! Fun to see what the back looks like:

Another wonderful thing about needlepunching is how forgiving it is! The monk cloth is strong enough to withstand multiple rip-out/re-do rounds, as I did with Jackson (first a fat cat, now probably took skinny 😆) and the door (ripped out the medium blue, punched in a frame of dark blue then re-did the medium blue).

One word of advice – this all presupposes that you are working with the right tool and cloth. I had a few friends try inexpensive alternatives from Amazon and were simply frustrated…this is totally one of those you-get-what-you-pay-for situations.

Once I’d finished the sky…and tucked a few flowers into the grass…it was time to take the piece off the frame. There is a chapter in the book that takes you step-by-step to do the finishing properly…

…and quilters will find the last steps very familiar!

Next up, some of my Joy Quilt squares from last year, reimagined in yarn. And, hmm, probably some worsted weight yarn so that I can work a pet portrait in some detail (already have the smaller punch needle for that). And some super-cool batik strips punched into an art quilt…my next post! Do begin to follow Amy on Instagram or FB…and if you think this sounds really easy and really fun, it IS! 💃🏼