I’m not quite sure where the last three years have gone, they’ve flown by, but at the same time it’s hard to remember a time when Whole Punching didn’t exist. I’ve never done a yearly round up of what I’ve been up to, goals that have been reached etc, so this is a going to be a bit of a long one…
Punch needle for relaxation
Whole Punching was born back in May 2018. I’d been punching since the autumn of 2017 and as soon as I’d started I was totally obsessed. I had been looking for a new craft to try and relax and punch needle most definitely filled that hole. At the time when I started punching I was experiencing a period of severe anxiety and panic attacks. I found it very difficult to concentrate on simple tasks as my mind was always elsewhere and either frantically whirring or in a heavy fog. For me, the slow, rhythmic punching required just the right level of concentration to focus my mind.
Sharing the punch needle love
It then became a virtuous circle; I started to feel a little calmer and so engaged in activities more, which then in turn helped to make me feel a bit better. I’d tried lots of different things before punch needle; meditation, running, yoga, therapy and medication. I know that on some level all of these were helping, but it felt like punch needle was the one that really made the difference.
When I started to explore punch needle I couldn’t find much information or materials online. What I did find seemed to be very traditional and mainly in North America. I felt like I’d discovered this secret craft that no one knew about it; (they did, I just hadn’t found them yet). I wanted everyone to know about it, I felt that the happiness and relaxation that it had brought me needed to be shared.
Sara packing punch needle kits in her home studio
Whole Punching Etsy shop
In May 2018 my Etsy shop was born with one listing, the original wooden handled adjustable punch needle. I made the wire threaders myself with jewellery beading wire and a little button on one end. Sometimes a little polishing and filing was also required! If I remember correctly, no one else was selling them on Etsy at that point so the business was really successful, even with a limited offering.
Next came the kits! Two different designs, monks cloth pre-stretched onto wooden canvas frames, designs drawn on and wool weighed; they were very time intensive but popular. I soon outgrew our smaller second bedroom where I had been working; we switched rooms and the master bedroom became my office.
Oxford Certified Punch Needle Instructor
Fastforward to April 2019 and I’m leaving my full time job at the University of Bristol to concentrate solely on Whole Punching. Punch needle is starting to build momentum outside of North America; more kits are appearing online, different materials are being manufactured and I’m being asked to teach workshops. I’m loving what I’m doing, but I’m completely self taught. I’ve taught myself the craft and I’m teaching myself how to grow and run a business. I decide that I want to learn the foundations of the craft in order to ensure that I have solid techniques and skills to then be able to teach others. I am accepted onto the Oxford Teacher Certification programme in the autumn term of 2019. I travel to Vermont and study under Amy Oxford and Heidi Whipple for their seven day intensive program with three other lovely students. It’s an amazing experience and fills me with the knowledge and confidence I need to go out and teach.
Oxford regular punch needle & chunky wool rug yarn
Weekend Makes: Punch Needle book
We all know what happened in 2020. Workshops are cancelled, the shift to online shopping is swift, manufacturers struggle to cope with the demand for supplies and cardboard becomes ‘beige gold’. Just before the pandemic hit, I agreed to write a punch needle book. It feels a little early in my career, but I’m never one to turn down an opportunity. Twenty five punch needle projects later and my book is born. Written in Spring 2020 and published in Autumn 2020, I’ve never tackled such a big project before but it’s a success! Alongside writing the book is my busiest year. As everyone stays indoors the craft world booms. It’s so lovely to see people exploring new crafts and creating new hobbies.
Weekend Makes: Punch Needle book
Wholesale punch needle kits
The rest of 2020 continues much in the same vein and is a bit of a blur. Early 2021 sees forays into wholesale with Whole Punching punch needle kits now available in Liberty. With it’s routes firmly in haberdashery it’s an absolute delight to be stocked in their gorgeous store. As the lockdown lifts and people return to bricks and mortar stores, you can expect to see Whole Punching popping up in more indie shops.
What did I miss?
Along the way there has also been a re-brand, my hodge podge branding got a delightful makeover from the team at Studio Cotton. I built a website and now also sell on Not on the High Street, which means you can now shop directly with me via three different platforms (including Etsy). I made projects for various different publications including Mollie Makes, Love Embroidery, Stitch Life and Koel Magazine. I went on live TV twice (!) to sell my wares on Hochanda TV. I have a newfound respect for TV presenters; presenting and speaking whilst being spoken to constantly in their ear, I don’t know how they do it. I took part in both physical and virtual markets, all of which were really enjoyable and so nice to engage with craft enthusiasts. I’ve grown my social media communities on Instagram and Facebook and created a fabulous group with other punch needle fans on Facebook called Modern Punch Needle. I’ve tried and tested no end of different materials, created kits and educational resources in order to ensure that the craft becomes more accessible and affordable.
Ahead of relocating from Bristol to the lovely Lake District in the Summer of 2021, ‘I’ has become a ‘we’ as the business moves from self-employment to a Limited Company. My partner Doug will be coming onboard to help run the business as it grows from strength to strength.
Of course, it’s not always plain sailing running your own business, but so far I think we’re doing pretty well. I’m excited to see what the next few years bring and where we can take Whole Punching.
If you’ve read this far you’re most likely:
1. Procrastinating; get back to work,
2. A dear friend or family member,
3. A loyal Whole Punching customer.
Whichever you are, thank you very much. It really means a lot to have such lovely people cheering me (us) on!