A Beginner’s Guide to my Favourite Punch Needle Fabrics
It can be so overwhelming figuring out what supplies you need when starting out in the world of punch needle, but it’s also super exciting too!
I’ll let you in on a secret, finding the right punch needle fabric is one of the biggest factors for the success of your punch needle creations (especially as a beginner).
This is because the right punch needle fabric will make it much easier for you to punch along and get the hang of this amazing craft!
In fact, if you have the wrong fabric, you’ll probably find that your punch needle technique doesn’t even work, and your stitches keep popping out of the fabric. I know women who this has happened to and they’ve thrown in the towel before it even clicks, which is such a shame!
I want to make it easy for you to find the right punch needle fabric (also known as ‘Foundation Fabric’), by just giving you all the essential information that you need to know (versus the 'nice to know'). So that you can get started on the fun part, punching along to create something beautiful!
You can use all sorts of fabric for punch needle projects, and what you use will depend on the punch needle tool and the type of project you are wanting to create.
But no matter what project you’re working on, one thing generally stays the same! Punch needle fabrics need to be a non-stretchy, even-weave fabric, with a weave suitable for the size of your chosen punch needle.
So enough chatter, let’s dive into my top picks for beginner punch needle fabrics! I’ll explain how they work and why I love them so much, down below.
But first, let me explain a bit more about why it’s so important that you take care when choosing the right fabric for your punch needle projects.
Why does it matter what type of fabric I use?
Remember how I said earlier that the type of fabric will totally depend on the size of your punch needle tool?
Here's the key point for deciding which fabrics will suit your punch needle - the weave of the fabric needs to be loose enough so that as you push your punch needle tip down, the threads in the weave of the fabric part way to allow the tip of your punch needle through. As opposed to you making a hole in the fabric with your punch needle tip - which you really don’t want to do.
For example, if you’re using a ‘chunky’ size punch needle with a relatively wide tip, you need to team that up with a fabric that has quite an open or loose weave, so that you can punch down into the fabric between the threads.
Whereas if you’re using a finer-sized punch needle, the tip of the punch needle will be relatively slim - this means that it can more easily punch down into the fabric where the weave allows, without making big holes.
Because the weave has opened up to allow each stitch to punch through, it will then close up nicely around the stitch as you punch along. And voila, you’ll find that as you build up your design the tension holds it all beautifully in place.
If you get the combination of the punch needle, fabric, and yarn right, you’ll find that your stitches hold really well in the fabric, with very little effort.
On the flip side, if you have the wrong fabric, that doesn’t suit the size of your punch needle, you’ll find that things don’t really click.
If the fabric is a too loose weave, your stitches will just slip right out, because there’s no tension holding them in place. Or if the fabric is too tightly woven, you’ll find it really hard to push your punch needle down with each stitch, and it will be quite laborious and difficult to make any progress. And you'll probably makes holes in the fabric each time you punch down.
So now that you understand how the fabric needs to work in sync with the size of punch needle that you’re using, let’s look at my fave beginner options!
I primarily use Monk’s Cloth for my punch needle foundation fabric, and this fabric is an absolute dream to punch with! It is a sturdy, 100% cotton fabric with a nice loose weave, about 12 or 13 holes per inch.
This fabric is a great beginner fabric because it’s hard-wearing enough to allow you to punch down on it with some oomph, but the fabric is also woven loose enough to allow your needle to pass through, and hug your stitches as you punch along.
Another great thing about Monk’s Cloth is that it is so durable! You can easily remove your stitches and rearrange the weave back into place. This is great if you make a mistake and want to redo sections of your design. Amy Oxford (the inventor of the Oxford Punch needle) says that you can do this up to 7 times on one piece of cloth, which is pretty amazing!
These factors mean that Monk’s Cloth is perfect for newbies at punch needle, but also for confident makers. Plus, we sell it at our Clever Poppy store!
You can also punch on this fabric with the ABCD Adjustable punch needle too.
Are there any downsides?
You’ll only find Monk’s Cloth at specialist punch needle supply stores, so it’s trickier to get your hands on than other fabrics. And a lot of makers think you should cover it up with your design so that the cloth isn’t visible as part of your finished creation (especially when it has coloured guidelines). But hey, I love the look of it, so that’s not a factor for me!
How can you buy it?
Monk’s Cloth is actually quite tricky to source worldwide. It’s super unlikely you’ll find it at your local chain craft store. I recommend you only buy it from a specialist punch needle supply store (which is probably the only place you’ll find it anyway)! You’ll be able to buy it as pre-cut pieces or off the roll.
At the Clever Poppy Shop, we sell our fabric cut in square pieces with overlocked edges to help prevent fraying as you punch along. We sell the following square-sized monk’s cloth:
Another option is buying Monk's Cloth on a Pre-Stretched Frame. This is a great option for punch needle projects because the cloth is nice and tight on the frame, and you don’t need to mess about dressing it in a hoop or re-tightening it up as you punch away.
I also love how your design is ready to hang on the wall as soon as it’s done, looking fab in its ready-made frame!
Another punch needle fabric you can try is linen. This is a beautiful natural fabric, that looks wonderful with your punch needle creations! Linen looks especially lovely in projects where you’re planning to leave some of the fabric uncovered as part of the design.
There is no universal thread count for linen, so you will need to assess on a case by cases basis whether the linen has a weave that is open enough to accommodate your punch needle without making holes.
This is not such a biggie when you’re using a finer punch needle. But it is especially tricky to find the right linen when you’re using a ‘chunky’ size punch needle (like I recommend for beginners), because, in my experience, most linen at your local craft store is too tightly woven for these needles to successfully work for.
The exception is what is known as ‘Primitive Linen’ in the punch needle world. This type of linen is a standard weight that’s about 12 holes per inch (similar to Monk’s Cloth), so it’s great for ‘chunky’ or ‘medium’ sized punch needles.
We stock a fantastic linen blend to use for punch needle in the Clever Poppy Shop. This natural coloured, sturdy, linen & cotton blend has a reasonably open weave (about 20 holes per inch).
What punch needle does our Linen fabric work well with?
This means that the weave doesn’t open up and then hug your stitches in the same lovely way that Monk’s Cloth does. So you need to be a bit more careful with your stitching technique, to make sure it’s all holding well in place. It won't be as forgiving if you make a mistake and want to re-punch any sections of your design.
This is why I don’t recommend this material for beginners.
How can you buy it?
At the Clever Poppy Shop you can buy our open weave linen cut into squares with raw edges.
There are also other fabrics that are used for punch needle around the world. And one of the great things about building confidence with your punch needle skills is your ability to experiment with different tools and supplies! Here are some quick thoughts:
Hessian/ Jute/ Burlap: you can experiment with this material. Plus, it is more likely to be a more widely available and affordable option. However, it’s quite coarse and tricky to work with and isn’t all that durable over time.
Weavers Cloth: this is a blend of cotton and polyester, with a nice smooth even weave. It’s good for finer punch needles.
Rug Warp: this is another option that is a heavier weight than Monk’s Cloth.
Aida Cloth: You can experiment with this fabric, but I’ve heard mixed reviews. It’s definitely not to be confused with Monk’s Cloth.
If you’ve read this whole article and are still struggling with which material to go with, then I would suggest you make things simple for yourself and stick with Monk’s Cloth. This is the fabric I use for my punch needle creations, and it’s super beginner-friendly!
Then, once you feel confident using this fabric, you can start testing other fabrics such as linen.
As for stores to buy your supplies from, I sell my favourite supplies (tried and tested by me) in our store - the Clever Poppy Shop. We ship worldwide with DHL, which is so speedy and reliable!