Foundation Cloth Options for Punch Needle

Punch needles are all the rage right now in the crafting world. It’s easy to see why too. Its addicting! From the lovely yarn colors to the endless possibilities with adjustable punch needles it really is a craft to sink your hands into.
Let’s get started with some basics… Its got a lot of names! Rug hooking, Punching, and Punch Needling, Punch Needle Embroidery. It is sorta all the same thing. Well, same final result. With rug hooking your tool is a rug hook. Basically a handle with a small hook on the end. You hook a yarn or wool strip up through a hole in the weave of a fabric. This forms a loop on top of your fabric also called your foundation cloth. With punch needling your tool is the punch needle and it punches a yarn into your foundation cloth and make a loop on the bottom or reverse side. You’re punching a loop into the fabric rather than pulling up a loop with a hook. Confusion is sinking in here yea?! Haha no worries I plan to explain more with photos and videos! Yay!
First off the basics are that you have to punch yarn through a hole in an open weave fabric. You’re creating loops on the reverse side. You’re creating a rug. Just like one you possibly have sitting on your floor under your feet now.

Lets start with the fabric options. You will have a few to choose from.
Pictured here is primary rug backing. This is 100% polyester. Its an even weave in warp and weft. So an even number of threads going vertical and horizontal. Meaning you’re going to get an even number of holes in both directions like a perfect waffle. Yum waffles!
It won’t shrink in the wash! Edges need to be surged or straight stitched before washing though or it will unravel.
This is the fabric I now use most of the time. I use it with my punch needles and even my tufting gun. More on the tufting gun later. 

Next we have monks cloth. Pictured below is easily available in most Joanns Fabric stores and even on Amazon with a little digging. This monks cloth is sold by the yard at Joanns. This is $14.99 a yard. 100% Cotton. It WILL SHRINK if you wash it. Wash before you start a project like a pillow. If you’re making anything that will need washed at a later date then wash it first. Surge or stitch the ends first. **This monks cloth is made for Swedish Weaving. It really is NOT made for punching. The fibers are small and can or will rip with repeated punching.

There is another version of this swedish weaving monks cloth made by DMC. AGAIN its not really for punching. It really has too loose of a weave and is really only ideal if you’re only using really chunky yarns. It comes in a package with 2.5 yards and runs about $29. Again 100% cotton, it will shrink. Surge or stitch the ends before washing. These two monks cloths really are not the best for punching. They might or will cause more headache than they are worth. The cost seems appealing but once you try it next to monks cloth made for punching you will easily see the difference and want to make the switch.

Pictured above is good ol’ burlap. Yep that fabric that was on every wedding centerpiece for a few years there. Its cheap. It works.
The down side to burlap is it is horribly scratchy. It breaks sometimes with the needle. If it breaks too much in an area there is no going back from it. You will lose your project.
Stitch or surge the ends.
Burlap will also not last as long as say a 100% polyester or a cotton. Ive been told and read that it will actually begin to break down after about 15 years. So maybe use it just for practice or a project you have no intentions of handing down in the family some day.
Burlap is easy to find and cheap… but its so scratchy your hands might not thank you later.

Lastly lets go back to monks cloth again. Before I mentioned monks cloth options that are made for Swedish weaving. Well there is a magical monks cloth made just for punch needle and rug hooking! It’s a bit tighter weave than the cross stitch ones mentioned above. It also has a thicker cotton warp and weft threads so there is less chances of it getting ripped while punching. You can even pull a project out and redo it without worries of it ripping. This fabric is available in my Mini Masterpieces shop and online from other online retailers. Just make sure to examine it closely and it should only be labeled for punching or rug hooking. As of right now I don’t believe it is sold in any large retail fabric stores. This monks cloth like other open weave fabrics will unravel so stitch or surge the edges. I even recommend using a stop fray glue as well if you don’t have a sewing machine. Again this monks cloth is 100% cotton, sold by the yard, made for punching. Worth every cent.

When it comes down to punching with yarn in larger punch needles really the monks cloth and primary rug backing fabrics are the best options.
Now if you have a small punch needle you’re using with embroidery floss then you need to use weavers cloth. Weavers cloth is a polyester and cotton blend. The polyester adds strength to withstand the repeated punching from the needle. The weave is very tight as well to help hold in the small threads of floss.

Another fabric that is just 100% cotton (pictured above) it is also a good bet especially for the Lavor needle. The Lavor needle has three needle tips and the largest one is just too big for the weavers cloth. It is however perfect for this cotton cloth shown to the left. This cotton will rip however so you want to avoid punching and prepunching in one spot too much.

Both weavers cloth (pictured above) and cotton are sold in half yard or yard increments. Weavers cloth can be bleached white or a natural beige color. Cotton cloth comes in a natural beige color. These fabrics last a long time when being used with these small needles and you can get quite a few projects out of a half or full yard. They are also a tighter weave fabric and will not fray as badly as the fabrics used for larger punch needles. I personally cut mine with pinking sheers and hardly have any fraying at all.
I hope this all makes some bit of sense! I have more info and descriptions on my website so please read them and feel free to ask me questions as well. Happy Punching!