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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.  

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Alice Qiu

Sunday 4th of October 2020

Hi Sarah!

Is there any way to make sure my piece doesn't curl after I take it off the frame? I'm trying to make a rug, so I would like it to be flat as possible.

Thank you!

Hope Amen

Tuesday 29th of September 2020

Hello. I am working on my first piece. Using a snap frame, Oxford punch needle and worsted yarn. I completed the main part of the piece and took it off the snap frame to re adjust it and it is curling up. What did I do wrong?


Friday 2nd of October 2020

Yes, it can curl. Are you planning on making a pillow?

Judith Rohlfer

Sunday 20th of September 2020



Sunday 20th of September 2020

Hi Judith, I haven't tried it, but my feeling is no.


Thursday 10th of September 2020

Hi Sarah - I’m so inspired by your work! I dabble in lots of fiber arts (macrame, crochet, cross stitch) and am now trying my hand at punch needle. I have a kit bought from a great seller in my country (Australia) that includes monks cloth stapled to a frame, yarn and and #10 Oxford needle. I’ve been watching tutorials for weeks so felt ready today. All in all I was happy with my first attempts (I made all the beginner errors but I recognized them straight away and was able to rectify them). My only question is one I haven’t seen talked about anywhere and that is a few times I “punched through” a loop from a previous row, causing some of the yarn in that loop to split/stretch up (so it had and additional higher loop - if that makes sense?). I was able to trim those bits off easily enough but still...Do you hold your previous row out the way? Seems like a good idea, but I’m afraid I’ll stab myself! Is this a common problem, something you’ve encountered, or just a “me thing”?!


Saturday 12th of September 2020

Hi Anglea, That's a really good question. That scenario has happened to me only a couple of times -- but I know what you're talking about. If I have one loop that looks snagged, I usually just trim it. Maybe you could experiment with angling your punch needle tool away from the previous rows. (I know for me, holding the tool in my right hand, my needle tip has a tendency to point toward the left.)

Nova Warne

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Hi Sarah, a great big hello from Australia! I have doing punch needle for some time however due to some health problems have found it hard to get back into. BUT having said that I'm looking at a project which has a face on it and am wondering what you would recommend as far as stitch lengths to obtain a contour to the face; I'm thinking for example along the cheek line a slightly longer stitch than the rest of the face? And I'm curious as to what colour DMC cotton you would use for a project like this? Thanks for your help Sarah.


Saturday 12th of September 2020

Sure, what type of punch needle are you using?