Tiny Rugs

You may remember that back in February 2021 I took a Zoom class at the Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, PA on the subject of punch needle embroidery.

I created this small rug:

…and I wrote a post that describes the process, the tools, and the class in some detail. I won’t repeat all that here; instead, take a look at the post for background info.

Since that time, my burst of enthusiasm for this new craft has steadied into a nice warm flame. I bought a small frame, some yarns, and the kind of cloth that is needed to form the base of the embroidery.

I’ve done a little experimenting. Some things did not turn out so well – I tried using doubled worsted weight knitting yarn and it made too dense a fabric (I need to invest in a different sized punch needle – which I feel sure I will do fairly soon).

I’ve been learning how to design for the punch needle experience. I need to remember to be less detailed, at least with my current sized needle and yarns.

And…I have learned that I need to remember that as I work, I am seeing the back of the project, which looks quite different from the front, and in fact, any design you make will be reversed, too, in the final product.

OK, let’s see some photos. In March, after the failed worsted weight yarn attempt (I threw it away half-done), I assembled my supplies:

  • bulky weight yarn
  • monk’s cloth of the proper density stretched on my new frame (which is 11″ x 11″)
  • paper to cut out shapes from (that is how we designed our image in the class)
  • punch needle

After shredding a lot of paper I came up with something and drew it on the fabric with a Sharpie pen. (You may wonder about the pool view on the computer screen – from my dining room I was also attending a swim meet in North Carolina, 400+ miles away, in which my cousin’s grandchildren were participating.)

Here is my yarn selection and my faithful patient punch needle ready to go.

Later I decided not to use the variegated yarn. Instead it got made into a knitted table mat and…this bunny for my granddaughter…

But I digress. Over the next couple of days I worked on the project. Here you see it in the frame. The “wrong” side is shown first; that is what I see as I work. The “right” side is next, and then a closeup view. You may notice that I eliminated part of the original design – things were getting too crowded in the fiber piece.

Some people prefer the top side as the final image. I like it as well and it gives a crisp look. But, unless I keep the image stretched in a frame like this, it can’t be finished – it’s pretty much impossible to stretch the waste edge cloth around to get a clean edge.

Here’s where I need to explain something. When you punch through the backing cloth, a length of yarn is carried through equal to the length of the needle. When you bring it back out, it forms a loop of half this length on the “right” side, the one you can’t see. The needle I have makes these nice fluffy loops. It’s pretty long. I can get needles in shorter lengths (= smaller loops) and a smaller size shaft (uses thinner yarns).

Later in my punch needle career I am sure I will add to my needle collection. Because, you know, you can mix and match yarns and loop lengths and get different looks.

But I am not there yet. I am currently working on consistency. In any craft, after gaining the initial skills, that is the first thing that has to be mastered.

All right, here is the finished “rug”. It’s about 9″ x 9″.

Sink your toes into that! Yes! And if you are a Barbie doll, maybe, all the way up to your ankles!

If you are wondering what the back looks like on these pieces, here is an example. I fold the waste cloth under the rug and hand-sew a fabric backing on it to cover the interior.

And for your info, I have given up on the cutting out paper designing method. I do better sketching something out on paper. My vacuum cleaner heaved a sigh of relief when I mentioned this – it had had a lot of work picking up all those tiny snips I kept producing.


Since that project, I have made two more pieces. They are both about 9″ x 9″.

With each one I have gained more skill and a better understanding of what I am doing.

I have just gotten some new yarn and I believe I will be starting on my next project very very soon…

24 thoughts on “Tiny Rugs

  1. galeriaredelius

    I have seen this technique popping up here and there, mostly in ads I believe, but now I understand it a bit more. It looks so easy to do, but there is more to it, I understand, to get consistency and to really master it. I have bookmarked this so that I can find this post again, and also read your other post more thoroughly. I’ll have no time anyway soon, but this looks so fun to do!
    My mother used to do Flemish weaving, this reminds me of her sitting weaving pictures within a frame, sometimes her own designs, sometimes a pattern she’d bought. This looks more like crochet movements, I think I’d prefer that to weaving.
    I think I have underestimated the chances of learning new things via zoom, so also that is a trigger I thank you for!
    Long story short: this post was a great start of my day! 🙂

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Wow, thank you, you have made my day! I would be happy to give you any info I can on punch needle (remembering that I am rank beginner, but, I also make every mistake in the book, so I cover all kinds of ground…) You could learn the technique in 5 minutes and it is so simple kids can do it. Then the challenge is to develop skill and consistency, as you say. But the craft is very forgiving, and it is not hard to undo mistakes (say you don’t like a certain section, you can just undo it, unlike say, knitting, where you have to destroy all your good work to get to the bad work). And as for Zoom, I am really happy I have done classes on it – there is no way I would have gone to Pittsburgh five hours away to take this class but on Zoom – whoosh, right here at home. And, as for punch needle, I can finish one of these rugs in say maybe three evenings, or a week if I just do a little here or there. It moves along pretty quickly.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      It is a lot of fun to make them. There is something soothing about the repetition and yet there is also the excitement of seeing the design develop and the colors come together. I always wanted to make rugs and now, maybe, a million years later, I am starting off to do that! And if not, a lot of Barbie dolls can have nice floor coverings, I guess!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. This craft is different from anything I have done before, though I have always wanted to make rugs, and I have admired various handmade rugs in various techniques. I just signed up for a power rug tufting class at Winterthur in May. Now we will see what develops from that!

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          In my punch needle class the teacher showed us the machine and the technique in a flyover kind of demo, and I think it would take getting used to but once you do, nice results occur. I’m mostly curious just to try it. It does sound very — intimidating!

  2. Chela's Colchas y Mas

    Thank you for your posts on punch needle embroidery. These rugs are fantastic! Thanks for sharing your process. I have been looking for something new to try. As always, you are such an inspiration.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. Punch needle as far as technique, you can learn it in five minutes. And the tools are pretty simple and not costly. I did embroidery in the past with needle and thread but my eyesight does not permit it anymore. This technique is perfect for me, and I am learning about using different needle sizes and their effects, to decide what I will try next. I also just signed up for a power rug tufting class at Winterthur in Delaware in May – my punch needle instructor showed this to us as part of her presentation. I could not pass up the chance to try it with the used of the machine and all supplies included for the class. I’m excited about this rug making thing and I have no idea why, but maybe it is because it is just fun! If you want any of my “wisdom” on punch needle supplies and so on let me know and I’ll be glad to pass on what I have learned.

      1. Chela's Colchas y Mas

        I would love fir you to share your wisdom! I’ve looked at some tutorials this morning, on just the basics. What type of fabric do you prefer? I was thinking of getting a beginners kit to just practice

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          I’ll send you an email if you like. I use monk’s cloth for the base as shown on this site https://amyoxford.com/. I also have an Oxford punch needle I think size ten. This site was recommended by our teacher as being the mother of the modern punch needle craft but I can’t speak to that. I do like the needle I have though (it came with supplies for the original class I took). I also bought a frame like this https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00013MV30/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1 which has worked fine. But I think, a beginner kit might be good just to see if you like it. If you do you can upgrade materials and tools.

        2. Chela's Colchas y Mas

          Thank you. I need to see if my hand can take the motion. I had to stop crocheting because my fingers were achy and I was waking up with numb hands. I think I will try the small kit, and then decide if I am going to venture further. If I do, I would definitely like to get pointers from you. Thanks for the offer.

  3. Angie K Walker

    lovely. i had a go at Pakistani punch needle embroidery at a local library workshop some time ago, and enjoyed it.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. That is interesting, I am wondering how Pakistani punch needle is different? Designs, I am sure, but the tools or techniques also? That is interesting. I’ve seen some classes offered on line for Pakistani embroidery (using a needle and thread). I am sure it was beautiful.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I’ve always wanted to make a rug and now it looks like I may be on the path to doing so. I am loving the feel of making something with fiber again.

  4. marissthequilter

    These are gorgeous. I can almost feel the soft texture by looking at the photographs, if you know what I mean. It also looks like needle punching could be highly addictive!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I have a long way to go in getting more consistency (when you see the rugs in person you can see where I could have chosen better ways to fill in spaces and so on) but I am feeling more confident even with these few projects. The actual technique of punch needle is very easy to learn and then it’s up to the maker to practice (like anything else!) You are right, though, it is addictive, the repetition of the movements is soothing, and mistakes are easy to fix. I am eager to try more rugs.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I’ll be making more than a few more, I think, until I feel more confident in my work. It’s kind of silly but I like them too, never mind I have pretty much no idea what to do with them, but they will find a role, I feel sure.

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