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This easy punch needle pillow tutorial will show you how to turn your punch needle fiber art into a beautiful piece of home décor.
Keep reading to learn how to make a punch needle embroidery design, and how to sew the finished piece into a decorative throw pillow. Plus, I’ll show you a simple whip-stitch finishing technique that you can use to make your punch needle pillow look even more professional.
Have you jumped on the punch needle trend yet? Punch needle embroidery is a creative fiber art technique that’s fast, easy to learn, and so much fun!
With punch needle embroidery, the only limit is your imagination! You can create all sorts of textile objects like pillows, rugs, wall-hangings, and much more.
Once you learn how to punch needle, it’s hard to stop! If you have a stack of finished punch needle pieces piling up in your craft space, why not turn some of them into pretty throw pillows for your sofa?
Punch Needle Pillow Tutorial
In the following tutorial, we’ll talk a bit about how to do punch needle, but we’ll spend most of the time discussing how to sew a finished punch needle design into a pillow.
So, if you’re new to punch needle, you might want more information about doing punch needle itself. In that case, click here to read my How To Punch Needle Tutorial for beginners. It will walk you through everything you need to know to start punch needle. (Don’t forget to bookmark this page or save it on Pinterest, so you can come back once you’ve made your punch needle design!)
How to Make a Punch Needle Pillow
Here are the basic steps to make a punch needle pillow:
- Punch the pattern design.
- Clean up stray loops and steam the piece, if desired.
- Cut and hem fabric for the back of the pillow.
- Assemble and sew the pillow.
- Finish the edges of the pillow with a whip stitch edge.
Materials and Tools
You’ll need to gather a few more supplies so that you can sew a punch needle design into a pillow. For even more information about the best materials and punch needle tools, check out The Best Punch Needle Supplies.
Here is what you’ll need to make a punch needle pillow.
- a finished punch needle piece (leave at least 1.5″ of extra fabric on all sides)
- fabric for the back of the pillow
- pillow insert
- sewing pins or clips
- sewing machine with a straight or zipper foot
- matching thread
And then, to whip stitch the edges of the pillow, you’ll also need:
- blunt tapestry needle
- matching rug yarn
How to Finish a Punch Needle Pillow
Once you have a finished punch needle piece, it’s pretty simple to sew it into a pillow. All you need is the piece itself, half a yard of fabric, and a sewing machine.
Let’s go through each of the steps in more detail, with pictures.
Step 1: Complete the punch needle embroidery design.
The first thing to do is to complete a punch needle piece. Now, this is a whole project in itself! For tips about punch needle embroidery, you may be interested in these 10 Tips for Punch Needle Embroidery Beginners.
For an 18″ pillow, you’ll want to make a punch needle pattern design that’s 18″ square. Make sure to leave a generous amount of extra monk’s cloth on each edge to keep fraying in check while you work. (This will also be part of the seam allowance, in a later step.)
Here are the steps to make a punch needle design:
- Stretch the monk’s cloth tightly on the frame.
- Transfer the design to the monk’s cloth.
- Thread the punch needle tool with yarn.
- Punch the outlines of the design.
- Fill in the shapes.
- Snip yarn ends, and clean up stray loops
Best Yarn for Punch Needle Pillows
When you are making a functional piece like a pillow, I highly recommend using wool rug yarn. Rug wool is a little coarser than craft bulky weight wool, so it’s actually easier to punch. Rug wool is also sturdier than other fibers, ensuring your project will last for years to come. You can find a wide variety of affordable rug yarn on Etsy.
Like I mentioned before, if you need more detailed information about how to start a punch needle design, be sure to read my How to Punch Needle Guide. It’s full of detailed information about how to thread a punch needle tool, how to make stitches, and how to change yarn colors. If you are a beginner, that article is the best place to start.
Step 2. Clean up the design.
Once the design is complete, flip your work over so that the loop side (often called the “right side”) is facing up. Clip any remaining yarn tails. Trim the tails even with the height of the loops. Remove any stray pieces of yarn or fuzz.
At this point, you might notice that the outlines of your design aren’t as sharp as you’d like. Don’t worry, that’s very common. Sometimes, when you’re punching, the yarn loops can poke out beyond the outline of the design.
To fix this, all you need to do is nudge the yarn loops back into the right spot. Use a chopstick or other blunt object (like a wooden knitting needle) to rearrange any yarn loops that have moved out of place.
Optional Step: Steam the punch needle design.
Next, you can steam the punch needle piece to relax the loops and set the design.
One quick note: Only steam your punch needle work if you’ve used yarn and backing fabric that can handle the high temperature of the iron. For example, 100% wool rug yarn can absolutely be steamed. Take more care with 100% acrylic yarns so you don’t accidentally melt them.
To steam your work, place your piece on an ironing board with the looped side facing up. Cover your piece with a wet towel and gently press with a hot iron for about 10 seconds. (Make sure the towel is wet enough to create steam.) After you’ve steamed it, the punch needle piece should lay nice and flat.
Step 3: Prepare fabric for the back of the pillow.
Now that the design is prepped and ready, it’s time to sew the actual pillow. For punch needle pillows, I prefer to make envelope-style pillow back closures. Envelope-style pillow covers are removable, so you can take the pillow cover off to clean it or repair it.
To make an 18″ square pillow, you’ll need an 18″ square finished punch needle piece with at least 1″ of monk’s cloth on each side. This gives you a total size of 20″ by 20″.
Note: We’re using a 1″ seam allowance around the perimeter of the pillow because monk’s cloth frays so easily.
Cut the two back pieces.
You’ll also need two pieces of medium-heavy weight fabric in a coordinating color. The two back pieces should each measure 20″ by 13″. This measurement gives you enough material to create an overlap of 4″, plus an extra inch to create the hem on one of the short sides.
Measurements for other size pillows.
You can make an envelope pillowcase for any size pillow insert. To get measurements for the two pillow back pieces, follow the formula below.
If X equals the size of your square punch needle piece:
Height of the back pieces = X + 2″ (for the seam allowances)
Width of the back pieces = X/2 + 4″ (for the overlap, seam allowances, and hem)
For example, if you’re making a 14″ pillow, cut two back pieces that measure 16″ by 11″.
Or, if you are making a 12″ pillow, cut two back pieces that measure 14″ by 10″.
Hem the back pieces to create finished edges.
Before we can sew the whole pillow together, we need to hem the overlapping ends of the two back pieces.
First, take one of the back pieces, and fold one of the short sides in 1/2″. Press with an iron. Fold the end over 1/2″ again to encase the raw edge. Press with an iron. Use pins or clips to secure.
Next, sew a straight topstitch along the folded hem, sewing as close as possible to the edge of the fold. Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of the seam.
Repeat this process with the second back piece.
Step 4: Assemble and sew the pillow.
Finally, we can sew the pillow together!
First, lay out the fabric pieces in order. Place the punch needle piece right side up. Put the two back pieces, right sides down, on top of the punch needle piece. (The back piece that’s closest to the punch needle piece will be on the outside of the pillow once the pillow is turned right side out.)
Next, pin the pillow pieces together to secure them. You can also use fabric clips, if you prefer.
Sew along all four edges of the pillow with a 1″ seam allowance. Clip any extra threads. Trim the seam allowance, and trim the corners at a 45° angle to reduce bulk.
To further secure the monk’s cloth, you can make a second pass (a little further in to the seam allowance) with a zig zag stitch. If you have a serger, you can serge the edges. If you’re really worried about fraying, you can dab on a small amount of Fray-Check.
Tips for Punch Needle Pillows
Here are few sewing tips that will help you achieve a professional result:
- When you sew the final seam, you should be able to see the raised edge of the punch needle loops through the layers of fabric. Try to follow this edge with your presser foot. This will help you sew an even seam, without sewing into or over any of the loops of yarn.
- You won’t be able to sew exactly on the line where the loops end and the monk’s cloth begins — but that’s okay. You want to leave a small strip of exposed monk’s cloth to give space for the whip stitch edge that follows in the next step.
- Remember to backstitch at the beginning and end of your seams to secure the stitches.
- To turn the corners, put the needle in the down position. Lift the presser foot, and rotate the fabric with the needle in the down position. Lower the presser foot, and continue sewing.
Step 5: Finish the edges of the pillow with a whip stitch.
Now that everything is sewn together, you can flip the pillow right side out. You should be able to see a thin strip of exposed monk’s cloth between the punch needle section and the backing fabric — just as intended.
Whip stitch the edge.
The whip stitch edge is a polished way to finish a punch needle pillow. It almost looks like corded piping.
To make a whip stitch edge, thread a blunt tapestry needle with rug wool or bulky weight yarn. You can use the same color as your punch needle background or a contrasting color.
First, cut a 3′ length of yarn (about an arm’s length). This is the right length to work with at one time, so that the yarn doesn’t become too twisted or unmanageable.
Then, place the tail of the yarn on the edge of the pillow, with the tail pointing to the left. Working from back to front, insert the needle as close to the backing fabric as possible, and come up as close to the finished punch needle as possible. Pull the yarn snug.
Working from right to left, repeat this stitch down the edge of the pillow. Keep the spacing tight enough so you don’t see bits of monk’s cloth through the stitches.
The whip stitch edge does take a while to complete. But, once you get going, you can stitch while watching TV or listening to a podcast. The professional-looking end result is more than worth the effort!
And now you’re finished! All that’s left to do is put a pillow insert inside your beautiful punch needle pillow cover. Great job!
How to Care for a Punch Needle Pillow
Spot clean the pillow cover by hand with cold water and gentle soap I would not recommend machine washing your punch needle pieces!
Explore More Punch Needle
If you enjoy punch needle embroidery, you’ll also like:
- Rainbow Wall Hanging – Free Punch Needle Pattern
- 17 Modern Punch Needle Kits for Beginners
- Punch Needle FAQs : Troubleshooting Problems
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- finished punch needle design
- pillow back fabric
- matching yarn
- pillow insert
- sewing machine and thread
- pins or sewing clips
- Punch the pattern design using a punch needle tool and yarn. Leave at least 2″ of extra monk’s cloth on each edge.
- Clean up stray loops and steam the piece, if desired.
- Cut two fabric rectangles for the back of the pillow. Hem one short side on each of the two pieces.
- Assemble the punch needle piece and the two overlapping fabric pieces with right sides together. Sew around all four edges. Optionally, you can finish the seam allowance with an extra zig-zag stitch or with a serger.
- Clip the corners and turn the pillow right side out.
- Finish the edges of the pillow with a whip stitch. Use matching yarn and a tapestry needle, work from back to front, covering the exposed monk's cloth.
If you need more detailed information about how to start a punch needle design, be sure to read my How to Punch Needle Guide It’s full of detailed information about how to thread a punch needle tool, how to make stitches, and how to change yarn colors.
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Sarah Stearns has helped millions of makers find their next craft project with free patterns and step-by-step tutorials on her blog, sarahmaker.com. Read more.
With over a decade of experience in knitting and crochet, she has been featured in prominent publications like The New York Times, Scientific American, Good Housekeeping, Vox, Apartment Therapy, and Lifehacker.