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Do I have to work on a frame?

I strongly recommend it. If your rug backing is stretched nice and tight it is SO much easier to punch. Your needle will zip right through the backing! I’ve tried punching without a frame and found it very difficult. One exception to this is Oriental style punch needle rug hooking. With this technique, you punch in every hole of a monk’s cloth rug backing and going “frameless” seems to work well. For more information on this technique, visit American Heirloom.

Can I use an embroidery hoop instead of a frame?

You definitely can, but it isn’t the best way to go. I find that an embroidery hoop doesn’t keep my work tight enough. Punching the needle in and out loosens up the backing and I have to keep constantly tightening my work. Morgan makes a nice embroidery hoop that they call the Morgan No-Slip Hoop. It is readily available online, in craft shops and at sewing stores.

What kind of a frame would you recommend?

As mentioned above, for punch needle rug hooking your rug backing needs to be stretched REALLY TIGHT! There are two types of frames that will achieve this goal that are the most popular with rug punchers:

  • Frames with carpet tack strips
  • Frames with gripper strips



Do you prefer carpet tack or gripper strip frames?

My personal favorite kind of frame now definitely has gripper strips! Why? It's MUCH easier and faster to get my backing tight on a gripper frame than a carpet tack frame. Also, my hands don't get sore when I'm tightening my backing. My students who have tried both all agree - gripper frames are really fabulous. If you have arthritis, carpal tunnel, or don't have much strength in your hands the gripper frames are a better choice.

My rug is bigger than my gripper strip frame.  Can I move it on the frame?

Moving your rug is not recommended if you’re using fine yarns, fine strips of fabric, or textured fancy, designer, or novelty type yarns. Fine and fancy fibers will snag on the grippers when you try to move your rug. Sturdier fibers such as rug yarn, #6, #7, or #8 cut strips of wool will not snag. (#6 cut strips are 6/32" wide, #7 cut are 7/32" wide, and #8 cut are 1/4" wide.) So… If you use sturdy rug yarn (such as Violet Jane), other heavy-duty yarn, or wider cut fabric strips you can move your rug beautifully with confidence! Move it carefully and your rug will peel right off the grippers unharmed.

If you're NOT going to move your rug on a gripper frame you can go wild and use any fine or fancy fibers you choose!

Are there different kinds of gripper strips?

Yes, here at the Oxford Company we use gripper strips that are designed especially for working on monk's cloth and linen. There are also gripper strips that are meant for burlap. These don't work well for punching.

Are the grippers sharp?

Not at all compared to carpet tack strips. They can be a little prickly so I cover my frame with a Frame Cover. You can also cover the grippers with an old towel or other fabric.

Do you like carpet tack frames?

Yes! I used nothing but carpet tack frames for over 25 years and got along fine! I still use them regularly. If I have rugs with delicate fibers that I need to move, I always use a carpet tack frame (for how to do this see below). Carpet tack frames are more affordable so that's a plus. The tacks are very sharp and you can scratch yourself but this isn't a problem if you're careful. You cover them up with protective padding while you work so they are not a problem when you are punching.

How do you cover the carpet tack with padding?

After I stretch my backing onto the frame, I cover the carpet tacks with rolled up fabric, old towels, foam core, or other padding. Another padding I like to use is the heavy felt padding that’s normally used as rug under-padding by carpet installers. This is also available from stores that sell wall-to-wall carpeting. I cut this into 1 ½” strips. I can often get this stuff for free as installers often have scraps left over from their projects that are too small for them to use.

What size frame would you recommend?

If you're just getting started I suggest doing a small project first to make sure you like punching. A chair pad or wall hanging is a good place to start. Our 16" x 16" Oxford Carpet Tack Lap Frame is a good choice and so is our 18” x 18” Oxford Gripper Strip Lap Frame. I put the bottom of the lap frame in my lap and rest the top of it against a table when I work. People often tell us, "But I don't have a table where I want to work. I want to hook in front of TV in my living room." Not a problem! You can rest your lap frame over the top of a chair or on a small folding table.

I have played around with different size lap frames. The biggest size I like to use is 21” x 30” (interior dimensions). I find that anything larger than this is too awkward to hold in my lap. We have these available with carpet tack and gripper strips on our Suppliespage. Children and petite adults might want to choose a smaller frame than this.

For rugs, I use larger frames on legs or stands. I made one myself that I really like called a "card table frame." This is a simple idea – all I did was take a large rectangular frame and screw card table legs to the bottom of it! You can buy an old card table at a yard sale and remove the legs. Card table legs can also be found online. My card table frame is 30" X 40" (interior dimensions). I like this frame because I can make a good sized rug without moving it at all. Remember: when making yourself a frame, don't make it so wide that you can't reach the middle! 30" is my limit - I can't reach more than 15" comfortably across the frame.

Can I make myself an affordable frame?

You bet! This hobby doesn't have to be expensive! Carpet tack is your most affordable option. I like to make frames out of wooden canvas stretcher bars (available from art supply stores and craft shops). I attach carpet tack strips to the frame (tack strips are available from stores that sell wall-to-wall carpeting). These strips are narrow bars with angled tacks sticking out of them. I stretch my monk’s cloth over these tacks. (They are SHARP so use caution!) My book, Punch Needle Rug Hooking, has directions for making your own simple lap frame with carpet tack strips.

I’m working on a frame with carpet tack strips. Can I move my rug on the frame?

Yes! But beware! When you move your rug, don’t put the part that you’ve already punched on top of the nasty carpet tack! It will pull out your loops! Eek! Here’s a step-by–step guide for moving your rug:

  • Step 1: Plan ahead so you move your piece as few times as possible. This usually means starting on one end of the rug, or in a corner – not in the middle!
  • Step 2: Hook the first section of your rug.
  • Step 3: When done, take this off the frame.
  • Step 4: Figure out what area you want to punch next.
  • Step 5: Lay your rug gently on top of the frame in this area.
  • Step 6: Anywhere that you have carpet tack touching punched loops is not good! Cover the carpet tack in these areas with felt, foam core, or rolled up fabric. (This means that some of your carpet tack will be covered, but some will not.)
  • Step 7: Stretch your rug gently on the frame. Don’t make it tight yet.
  • Step 8: You can’t stretch where your carpet tack is covered with padding. Argh! Now what?
  • Step 9: In these areas use 1 ½” common nails to nail your rug to the wooden frame. Obviously, don’t just hammer with reckless abandon! CAREFULLY place the tip of the nail between the loops, push down gently, and then hammer!

Caution: When moving your rug, make sure that you line it up so it stays the right shape! In other words, be careful that your circle doesn’t become an oval, and that your rectangular rug doesn’t wind up having a bend in the middle! Just eyeball your rug each time you move it to make sure it keeps its shape. Also, stagger your ends where you have to move the rug so it isn’t obvious where you stopped and restarted.

How to move your rug is hard to describe in words. For a complete step-by-step description complete with photographs, please see my book, Punch Needle Rug Hooking.

A small inexpensive handmade lap frame made with canvas stretcher bars and carpet tack. The felt padding is for covering the nails to protect your hands. Interior dimensions: 16” x 16” This close-up shows the carpet tack strip nailed to the inside edge of the frame.

Yarn and Strips:

What weight yarns should I use?

In my regular point Oxford Punch Needles:

I use 3-ply 100% wool rug yarn. This is a similar weight to bulky knitting yarn and is approximately 1/8” thick. I like rug yarn because it’s more durable than knitting yarn. It’s made from a coarser and stronger fleece than knitting yarn and is spun tighter as well. I always use wool in my rugs for high-traffic areas. After all my hard work, I want my rug to last. Wool wears so well! Really, there’s nothing like wool… For low-traffic areas and wall hangings I use all kinds of things. Cotton, jersey, linen, mohair, alpaca, angora, blends and synthetics, are all terrific. If I like the looks of it, I’ll try it! For example, cotton chenille makes gorgeous bath mats. Don’t be afraid to experiment. There are some really cool “novelty yarns” out now and many of them are really affordable as well. I will often double, triple, and quadruple finer yarns and use them together in the punch. Basically, you can use any yarns that are up to 1/8” thick. Stay away from yarns that have thick lumps in them because these lumps won’t go through the punch. Similarly, designer yarns that are very shaggy and hairy won’t work. Some slippery yarns, such as silk, will fall right out of the punch. If a slippery yarn doesn’t work on its own, try combining it with something else. Experiment! Have fun! Try different yarns and combinations to see what you like!

In my fine point Oxford Punch Needles:

I use worsted weight yarn, sock weight, baby weight, tapestry yarn, and needlepoint yarn. Again, avoid yarn with lumps, hairy yarns, and yarns that are very slippery. Embroidery floss doesn’t work!

How much yarn will I need?

For rugs, using a #8, #9, or #10 Regular Oxford Punch Needle: It takes approximately 2/3 of a pound of yarn per square foot.

To figure out yarn amounts you can also use “the hand method.” To do this, simply place your hand on your rug and draw a generous imaginary circle around your hand (this is based on a large man’s hand so make the circle approximately 9” in diameter.) This circle is the equivalent of one 4 oz. skein of 3-ply rug yarn. You can measure your whole rug in this manner and estimate smaller areas by estimating whether they are a quarter of a hand, a half a hand, etc. The hand method is designed to give you a bit more than you will need so you won’t run out. With practice you will become comfortable with this method. It may sound unscientific, but it really works.

For the #14 Fine Oxford Punch Needle (the “Mini”): It takes 1.3 yards to cover a square inch.

I did a little test when I invented the “Mini.” I took one ounce of Violet Jane worsted weight rug yarn and measured it. It was 40 yards long. I hooked a square, starting in the middle and spiraled my way outwards until I ran out of yarn. This one ounce of yarn made a 5 1/2" square.

Here’s the formula for using worsted weight yarn in the mini: 
It took one ounce of worsted weight yard to make this 5 1/2 inch square It took one ounce of worsted weight yarn to make this 5 1/2 inch square using "The Mini" 1 oz. worsted weight yarn = 40 yards This makes a 5.5 inch square 5.5inch X 5.5inch = 30.25 square inches 40 yards ÷ 30.25 square inches = 1.3 yards per square inch

Are you using different types of yarn or different punch needle sizes? Weigh one ounce of yarn and make yourself a test square like I did. Use the same formula shown above and you will know exactly how much yarn you will need. You might want to add 10% extra yarn, just so you don’t run out!

Can I use strips of fabric and yarn in the same piece?

Yes! It works wonderfully!

Foundation Cloth (or Backing?)

What size monk’s cloth should I use?

I use monk’s cloth that has 12-14 holes per inch. Caution: they make a monk’s cloth with 6-7 holes per inch. Avoid this! Your loops will fall out - leading to the tearing out of hair and gnashing of teeth.

Do I have to use monk’s cloth? Can I use linen or burlap?

With the regular point Oxford Punch Needle you can use monk’s cloth and rug linen. Rug linen has the same thread count as monk’s cloth (12-14 holes per inch), but it’s stiff, and not as easy to use as monk’s cloth. It also tends to be more slippery, and you have to be much more careful while punching. However, this is just my opinion. Some people prefer linen to monk’s cloth. Unbleached rug linen is great for "looks" if you aren’t punching the entire piece, and want to leave some backing showing.

The fine point Oxford Punch Needle works well with monk’s cloth, rug warp, and rug linen. When I’m working on monk’s cloth, I like to wash it and dry it first to shrink the holes. I find that this helps the loops to stay in. It isn’t essential, but if you try it, you’ll notice the difference. I have tested several other different linens and have liked working with 20 and 27 count Belgian linens. You can also punch directly onto wool fabric. I use a lightweight wool, such as flannel (the same kind they make wool flannel shirts out of…) This is nice to do because you only have to punch the motif, and the wool backing itself can become your “background.”

Avoid burlap like the plague. The sharp punch needle will break the burlap threads. I’ve seen it happen, and it’s not pretty! Also, burlap is made from jute, and will get brittle with age and fall apart.

It took one ounce of worsted weight yarn to make this 5  1/2 inch square using "The Mini"