How to Hold a Punch Needle Tool


Since I have now been asked this question twice, this would be a good place to start with my “advice” column for punch needle. Just so everyone remembers:  I didn’t invent this craft, and I am no expert.

I’ve seen dozens of videos and read numerous posts showing the user holding the punch needle tool straight up.  “Always punch away from the thread, and never turn the tool, but rather turn the hoop.”  I agree with half of this.

I punch sideways now, though I did start the learning process doing my level best to mimic the instructions exactly, coming in at a 90 degree angle.  But the more I punched, the lazier I got, and in the process realized that bringing the tool in at a 45 degree angle, almost exactly how you might hold a pencil, gave me an easier punch. Furthermore, I don’t have my lumen (that’s the hole in the needle where the thread comes out of the handle before it goes into the next hole) facing up, but rather I have it facing me. This means I am punching sideways, with the thread always on the other, away, side of the needle.  I can move this from left to right, and then come back from right to left, if I wanted.  I usually like to swirl my way around the pattern.  And while I have not done the math with the amount of thread I’m using by doing it this way, my stitches are smoother but there is definitely more thread in the back.

Also, I make an attempt to punch AWAY from an adjacent stitch so as not to catch it.  This normally works.  The greatest aggravation in punch needle is hooking an adjacent thread in such a way that you push it out of alignment and you wind up with a orphaned long loop.  You can feel this happening.  It’s a sinking feeling, and I used to have the tendency to ignore these until the end.  I have mentioned that I don’t like simply cutting them topside, and the reason for this will be made known in another post, but I have learned that if I stop immediately, turn the frame over and see the origin of the long loop, I can tell exactly where it is on the back and pull it back into correct position.  If there is a long loop, there is a short one next to it.  I fix them BOTH right then and there, and then continue to punch.

I have recently mastered FaceTime to speak with my surrogate son’s children in England. I love it.  But even more impressively, I am emboldened to try to make a video of my own and demonstrate my techniques for punch needle.  That’s on my list for 2018.

That lobster pattern above is available in my Etsy Shop.  Just click on the photo to see it.

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Punch Needle Focus

My byline for my weekly crafting column in The Stafford Sun during the ’90’s.

On December 3, 2010 I started this blog with “Whimseytopia:  Ready For Prime Time.”  That seems like eons ago, and yet it also feels like yesterday every time I pull up a fresh page upon which to leave my tidbits of unsolicited wisdom.

Much of the time I didn’t say what I actually wanted to.  I kept to my own good advice about keeping blogs politically neutral, and making every attempt not to offend anyone.  Often that made for a very dull post, and other times I think it was a savvy move during some of the more fractious moments of the past decade.

However, the one thing my readers could count on was that they could not count on what I was about to say.  There’s never been a rhyme or reason to my posts.  No continuity lasting more than a few months.  The reason for this is that my posts followed my crafting or my latest passion, and there’s never been any continuity to that either.

But now having put up my Etsy shop, and embarking on the gargantuan task of writing a punch needle book (did I mention that yet?), I’ve decided to stick with this punch needle genre, or at least try to, by promising a weekly tutorial on something I have learned about the craft that might help others.  I’m not a genius at this, but over the years I’ve punched my way out of enough punch needle predicaments, to have a few posts of wisdom to share.

So I’m about to cull some of 363 previous posts into something more manageable.  Unlike saving every copy of “Pastimes,” a weekly craft column I wrote in The Stafford Sun in Virginia for a couple of years in the 90’s, I won’t be saving hard copies of these Whimseytopia posts, but instead putting them to bed, which I’m assuming  is “draft” on WordPress.  That’s just in case I want to resurrect them someday.

I hope you’ll come back and benefit from my reviews, tips, solutions, and even some inventions I’ve accumulated over these many years.  They have helped me make my punch needle(ing) faster and more enjoyable.  I hope they will help you too.

Posted in A Day In My Life, Needlework, Punch Needle, Punch Needle Threader, Rug Hooking, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Punch Needle Prospects Revisited

Running Rabbit Recipe Box

On January 15, 2012 I wrote a post entitled Punch Needle Prospects. Moments ago, on the auspicious occasion of opening my new Etsy Shop Whimseytopia, I, inexplicably, went back and read what I’d written so long ago.  Really?

That I am still a “glutton for punishment” is obvious, but this should be a day of celebration for me.  For the first time in several months I have not run down the basement steps in my bare feet and pajamas to work like a freaking fool until light-headedness from starvation brought me back upstairs to eat, shower, and check my emails.  Then I’d head back down and work until I’d realize even the cats were asleep for their long night’s nap.  I looked in the mirror this morning and can swear I look 10 years older.  Definitely paler.  Basement life will do that to you.

I can barely hold a thought in my head other than those surrounding my patterns:  Are they good enough?  Will anyone buy them?  What if I’ve made an error – a glaring error – an error so glaring that anyone who finds it will think I’m …….stupid!  Then I turned on the morning news and breathed a sign of relief.

So, after reviewing my zeros on my stats page, and finding the majority of my products dead last in virtually every category they appear, I started thinking about how some people read the last page of a book before they start it.  I guess the rationale there is in case they die before they finish it, they will at least die knowing the ending.  So I am going to operate on the principle that there MUST be people who punch needle AND are those people who like to start things at the very end.  And there I’ll be….waiting for them.


Posted in A Day In My Life, Needlework, Punch Needle, Textile Art, Uncategorized, Whimseytopia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Punch Needle Project: 27 Days to Go

Whimseytopia traffic has dramatically increased since I published my announcement about my new Etsy site.  I’m surprised and thrilled that there’s interest in this art form and my patterns.

I have high hopes.

But the best part is that I am in my element designing these patterns.  While I’ve been punching for over five years, I have not had a way to share my work other than place it on WordPress.  Now I may, or may not, get the validation I so crave (and maybe a little cash!)   For me, building an Etsy site was like building the Lunar Lander.  I started this project thinking I was pretty tech savvy.  Surprise.  I’m not.  And learning the postal system and starting PayPal, opening a bank account, and dedicating a credit card for the site were all more time consuming and complex than I expected.  Tax forms and pricing, and the thought of the future math and filings are daunting.  Editing and uploading photos weren’t the most difficult tasks, but getting supplies, fabrics for stamping; ordering stamps for each pattern, shipping materials and labels didn’t quite fly off my to-do list.  It’s all been an enormous task, but I am on track for the February 1st launch. I’m posting three of the ten patterns here, just to give you an idea of where this is headed.  All my designs are original, and once my site is open, future patterns will be seasonal and monthly.

There are many just like me entering into a foray of selling needlework patterns on the Internet.  There are dozens and dozens just on Etsy alone.  But I hope the Whimseytopia name and the thousands of previous visits to my “textile art” pages will help me.  Only time will tell.

To my friends who thought I dropped off the face of the earth, this is why.  I’ve been reading you daily, if not commenting, and to many of you, know that you are the “Joneses” I’m trying to keep up with.

Happy New Year everyone.


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Happy Endings

On the heels of two very bad days of broken phones, lost credit cards, and a litany of other mishaps that I will spare you the details, life handed me a little miracle.

When I opened my back door this morning a cute but clearly exhausted dog was sitting on the step, looking like that RCA dog, only peering into my kitchen instead of a Victrola.  He wasn’t bouncing around, but rather waiting, like waiting for me to do something about his predicament.  Clearly he was lost and tired of trying to make his way back home.

This was not my first animal encounter in my little town, and frankly there could have been many more because I see a lot of loose dogs around here.  Being a city girl, free-range dogs are an unusual sight.  Here, well let’s just say that things are a big more laid back.

So I called animal control and here’s where the miracle happens.  Someone had JUST called about their missing dog; a dog who, last night, extricated himself from his collar and zapper and was off for his Jack London adventure.  But after a night on the town, he spent the last few hours in my screened porch reevaluating his decision and waiting for his family to arrive.

Reunions of lost dogs and their owners are definitely Hallmark moments.  Getting my phone service fixed would be another one.



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Christmas Jewelry Pendant Project

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Copper can be either rough and tumble, bright and flashy, or both at once.  That’s what I went for in this piece…both.

I chose as many metals as I had could find laying around. Most of the beads are recycled from old junk jewelry.  Stark contrast between the shiny and dull was my goal.  I took my inspiration and the instructions from Mary’s book Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet.  If you’re interested in this art form, you need this book!

Fun to make.  Fun to share.  Merry Christmas!


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Annealing Copper

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Click to Enlarge

The copper I use is 24 gauge, and it is not-quite-dead-yet soft.  Hobby Lobby sells metal in their model kit department.  With a coupon it is reasonable, and you can get nice rods, planks, and sheets in both copper and brass.  None of it, to my knowledge, is coated.  I’m still looking for bronze, but coloring metal with heat or paint and metal stain is an alternative to buying metals just for their appearance.

I use a Bernzomatic Self-Igniting Propane Torch.  With a little practice, the fear will dissipate and you’ll eventually get comfortable about leaving it in the house overnight.  Go for the clearly visible “V” in the flame for the hottest area, and you’ll be drawing beads on your wire in no time.  Annealing (heating) makes the metal softer and more pliable if you cool it quickly by dropping it in water after getting that glow.  It can be hardened by hammering and then annealed again. With copper, the more you go back and forth from soft to hard to soft, the redder it gets.  I haven’t gotten to the point where the metal snaps, but just the residue in my brain from high school science class tells me that there must be a point that the metal can’t take the strain.

I went for something lighter and brighter with this piece.  I soaked it in gel flux before annealing it after it was completed, and hardened it with a rubber hammer.  It’s super shiny and fun.

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Bee on Copper

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Click to Enlarge

There’s so much more to learn about this art form, and I am determined to explore as much of it as I can through the winter.  I’m sure I’ll be back in the garden come summer, but for now, staying indoors is not so bad.

Nail polish works great on metal, and now that there is no end to nail polish color, buying those small bottles is an inexpensive way to add to your color options.  The clear coat works well too.

However, the red in this piece is simply what happens when copper is heated to “glowing” and then immersed in water immediately.


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Owl Eye Jewelry

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Try saying that five times real fast.  Anyhow….

I wanted to try something different.  Mary wore a stunning piece to class one day that mesmerized me.  I’m sure it’s in one of her books.  She used a disc cutter to fashion the perfect place for an eye, and while I’m not sure whose eye it was, it was hard to look away.  I had a great photo of an owl and one of his eyes was much more open than the other and looked like the perfect fit for this piece.  It’s covered in mica, a mineral that comes in sheets and can be left alone or split for either a clear or darkened view. I hope I made this light enough because this owl eye is filled with owl attitude.

I also tried to change things up with a bit more bling and detail on the connections.  The back piece is embossed aluminum and the eye is glued to copper with the mica being held in place with eyelets.  The bar on top is wired with copper seed beads.  Those rod-looking connections are actually elongated handmade brass wire hoops.

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Medical, Magical, Mystical Copper

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If you Google copper you’ll find it has purported medical, magical, and mystical powers.  Wiki thinks so highly of copper I’m not sure if I believe all of it, even with the 130 references. Being a nurse, however, I am aware of the necessity of having the right minerals in your diet.  I once read about a condition wherein if your body is low on certain minerals, you’ll be inclined to eat dirt.  Eewe.

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Well, if copper really is that good for you, I should be in great shape because I’ve been handling it for almost three weeks straight. Aside from the trace amounts I am absorbing through my skin, and which will eventually make it into my bloodstream, tonight I got a big fat sliver of it in my finger.  Not comfortable, and it took awhile to get it out.

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