One of the core components needed for punch needle is a suitable frame or hoop on which to make your project. What project you are making will impact the frame or hoop that you should choose.
There are a few different things to bare in mind when choosing an appropriate frame or hoop; size, weight, price and what fabric it can be used with as different foundation fabrics can sometimes only be used with certain frames.
Below is a list of the most commonly available frames and hoops for use with punch needle along with their pros and cons.
Wooden embroidery hoops
Wooden embroidery hoops are one of the most affordable hoops you can use for punch needle. Made from wood or bamboo these come in a wide range of sizes. They are very affordable and can be picked up in most craft shops or easily purchased online.
The Elbesee brand are a UK manufacturer of embroidery hoops. They make embroidery hoops in sizes 4" - 12". The hoops are made from a close-grain beech with smooth radius edges and are wax polished.
If you want to use a wooden embroidery hoop for your punch needle project, I recommend securing the fabric in the hoop with glue before punching. Due to the pressure from the punch needle, the embroidery hoop by itself is not strong enough to maintain tension on the fabric. Once you start to punch the fabric will sag a little and lose tension. You'll find that you are constantly having to re-tighten the fabric. This is frustrating and will result in uneven loops.
Stretch the fabric into the hoop and then trim and glue in place. Then create your punch needle project in the hoop. Once finished your hoop will be ready to display on the wall.
Gluing fabric onto the inside edge of the embroidery hoop
Gripper hoops are reusable, lightweight and portable making them a great choice for small punch needle projects such as coasters. Variants of these can be found in HobbyCraft and other online craft stores.
The Morgan brand is an American manufacturer of no-slip hoops and quilt stands. They hold the patent for the unique tongue and groove design of the gripper hoops. The hoops are designed to be used for quilting, rug hooking, cross stitch and punch needle. The hoops are available in sizes 5" - 17".
The unique tongue and groove feature ensure that the fabric stays taut whilst punching. There is no need to re-tighten the fabric as you have to with the wooden hoops.
They are perfect for making a number of smaller punch needle projects. They are very lightweight and easy to transport. I use the 5" hoop the most and love to use it for making punch needle coasters and baubles along with other small projects.
Morgan 'no-slip' gripper hoops for punch needle
Canvas stretcher bar frames are wooden frames that are made up of four lengths of wood slotted together.
Stretcher bar frames are generally used for artist canvas' and therefore can be found at most art supply shops. They come in a varied range of sizes. In some places you can buy them by the individual piece meaning you can create rectangular frames too using lengths of differing sizes.
Stretcher bar frames are the most affordable frames. When attaching your fabric to the frame you will need to use drawing pins or a staple gun. An electric staple gun is ideal and won't require too much effort. It's important to try and ensure that you stretch your fabric evenly without distorting the design.
As they come in such a broad range of sizes they are suitable for a number of different projects.
If you to be able to reposition your project on the frame, consider attaching carpet tacks to each side. The tacks are a cheap way of making a frame which you can move your project on. Carpet tacks are sold in long lengths and can be found at most hardware shops.
Corner of a wooden canvas stretcher bar frame
Gripper strip frames are designed to be used for the crafts of punch needle and rug hooking. They are handmade, deep wooden frames with angled edges and gripper strips attached. Gripper strips are a rubber and material layered composite studded with metal teeth. A gripper strip looks like a long bendy ruler filled with thousands of staples. It's these grippy metal 'teeth' that secure your backing fabric firmly in place when using either a punch needle or rug hook.
Gripper strip frames are easy to use and very dynamic allowing you to make almost anything on them. They are available in a range of sizes, but I have chosen to stock the 35 cm and 45 cm. I find that these are the two sizes that will allow you to make the most projects.
If I am making a large project, I would rather work on a smaller frame and move my work rather than overstretch and use a large frame. Smaller frames are easier to manage and keep your fabric taut when punching. If you do want to make a project larger than your frame, Amy Oxford has an excellent video on YouTube which explains how to move your project on your frame safely. It’s best to only do this if you’re using a hardwearing yarn like rug yarn.
Gripper strip frames are composed of four lengths screwed together, which means they can be disassembled for travel or storage. The edges are angled which allows the teeth to open up, allowing for a more efficient grip on the fabric.
Gripper strip frames are a good choice for those who may not feel strong enough to stretch their fabric in other ways. The fabric grips to the teeth very easily allowing you to create the appropriate tension with minimal effort.
The teeth on the gripper strips are very sharp. It’s important to cover the strips once you’ve stretched your fabric to protect your arms and hands from injury.
Punch needle gripper strip frame
Before you start your next project think about what size piece you will be making, if you will need to be able to move it on the frame, if you will need to transport it and how much your budget is.
Depending on the size my most used frames and hoops are the 5" Morgan no slip hoop and the 45 cm punch needle gripper strip frame.