Punch Needle FAQs : Troubleshooting Problems

Punch needle embroidery is simple enough to learn in an afternoon, but takes many hours of practice to truly master.  If you are just starting out, read this guide all about Punch Needle Embroidery for Beginners.  It’s a complete guide with a rundown of all the punch needle supplies you’ll need to get started. 

After you experiment with the punch needle for a while, you may have some questions about the technique. If you need help troubleshooting problems with punch needle embroidery, read on for answers to frequently asked questions.

Beginning students come across a couple of common problems with their punch needle technique.  In the following article, I’ve tried to answer the most questions I receive most often.  You can also check out my Top 10 Tips for Punch Needle Embroidery for even more info.

Why won’t my loops stay in place?

Got punch needle problems? When I first started punch needle, I had trouble keeping my stitches from unraveling — so I understand the frustration. There are a couple reasons why your loops won’t stay in the fabric.

Most likely, your loops are coming out because you are pulling your needle tip too far away from the surface of your fabric in between stitches. If you pull your needle too far out of the fabric, the stitch comes out with it. To fix this, try to keep the tip of the needle in contact with the surface of the fabric as you pull out and move along your row of stitches. Remember that there is nothing actually holding your loops in place except the tension in the weave of the fabric and the friction of all the stitches packed together. So, if you pull out too far, the loop comes right out with the needle tool. 

The second reason why your stitches aren’t staying in could be that there is tension on your yarn.  You want to keep your yarn held loosely — it needs to be able to flow freely through your punch needle. If it is caught up on something, or you are accidentally resting your frame or elbow on the yarn, the tension will pull the loops out.

If that doesn’t fix the problem, double check that you are holding your punch needle tool so that it’s facing the direction of your stitches. Make sure that you are holding the punch needle like a pen and positioning it perpendicular to the fabric. The open/slanted edge of the needle faces in the direction you are moving across the fabric. Make sure the tail of your thread is trailing behind where you are punching.

Why are my loops uneven on the front-side of my piece?

If your stitches look uneven on the front side of your fabric, you may not be punching the needle all the way into the fabric.  To fix this, make sure to punch the needle down all the way down to the plastic/wooden handle on every stitch. This will ensure that your yarn loops are a uniform length.

Or, it could be that you are lifting the needle too high off the fabric in between stitches. So instead, make sure that after you have punched down through the fabric, you lift your needle slowly just to the surface of the fabric. Then, slide your needle over the surface of the fabric and punch your next stitch.

And thirdly, it could be that your fabric is too loose. Loose monk’s cloth can cause uneven loops. To fix this, tighten the fabric in the frame. Your monk’s cloth should be as tight as a drum!

Help! The backing fabric is showing through on the front side of my work.

If your backing fabric is showing through on the front side of your work, it means that you are punching too far apart for the size of the yarn that you are using.  Either your stitches or your rows of stitches are punched too far apart from each other. The appropriate space between rows and stitches depends on the thickness of the yarn you have chosen.  For most, 4-6 stitches per inch is appropriate.

If you need to fix empty holes, you can go back over a punched section and add more stitches.  This will add loops on the front by adding additional stitches on the back side.

I can’t find Monk’s Cloth.  Can I use Aida cloth for punch needle?

Monk’s cloth is my favorite foundation fabric — just make sure that you are using the tighter weave monk’s cloth with approximately 12 holes per inch.  If you can’t find monk’s cloth, you may be able to find primitive linen or primary rug backing.

Check out these awesome punch needle kits, which include the correct type of Monk’s cloth.

Aida cloth is most commonly used for cross-stitch embroidery.   It is available in different “counts”, which represent the number of cross stitches per inch the fabric will hold.  Theoretically, you could use it as a foundation for punch needle, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you can find Monk’s Cloth instead.  If you want to experiment with it, choose the higher count cloth, such as 18-count Aida, which may provide better results

I can’t find rug yarn.  What else can I use?

3-ply wool Rug yarn is most commonly use for punch needle.  But if you can’t find it, you can experiment with knitting yarn you can find at most craft and hobby stores.

Rug yarn is a similar weight to bulky-weight knitting yarn.  For the regular size Amy Oxford needle, for instance, you’ll want a yarn that is about 1/8” thick.  Look for yarn that is made of wool if you want a very durable finished project.  If your finished project will not see a lot of wear — if you are making a wall hanging, for example — feel free to use yarn with other fiber content.  You can use cotton yarn, acrylic, or other blends.  You can also double, triple, and quadruple finer yarns and use them together in the punch.  

20 thoughts on “Punch Needle FAQs : Troubleshooting Problems”

  1. My punch needle keeps going into the tube everytime I try to punch threw the cloth. I have tried to change it out with diffrent sizes but to no luck.

  2. Good morning from a cool Autumn day in South Africa.
    I want to make a carpet with mt punch needle but how do I secure the wool to not come loose at the ends where I cut the strings of?
    Looking forward to your reply.
    Have a great day.
    Sindy Smith

  3. Somehow the thread got stuck in my needle. I have tried to pull it out, but it must be bunched up in it. How can I get it out??

    • Hmm, is there a chance you have too much tension on the yarn? You want the yarn to flow very smoothly from the ball through the tool with minimal resistance.

  4. Hi Sarah
    I am using weavers cloth but the fabric almost rips when I start punching !! I am using DMC thread . Any help would be appreciated .

  5. I punched threads too close together and actually tore the foundation fabric. I removed the threads hoping to redo the area and discovered this. Is there any “fix” for this dilemma?

  6. I am so interested in this, but I really want to know if you can sew “normal” stitches with this, i.e satin stitch and what stops the work unravelling if it gets caught on something and how I can prevent it.

    • Yes, you certainly could sew normal stitches – sort of like a large-scale embroidery project.
      If you want to try the punch needle technique, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s the pressure and friction of the stitches against the fabric – and against each other – the hold the surround stitches in place.
      That said, if you do snap your work on something, there is the potential for it to pull some of the stitches out. (There’s less of a chance of that happening if you use 100% wool yarn.)


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