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Spotlight: Punch needle gripper frames

by Sara Moore - 18 September 2021

Corner of a punch needle gripper strip frame

Corner of a large punch needle gripper strip frame

Anewcomer to the Whole Punching range is the punch needle gripper strip frame. Superior to their carpet tack and canvas stretcher bar counterparts, the punch needle gripper strip frames make stretching your fabric and moving projects a breeze. Gripper strip frames are my go-to punch needle frame. Designed by me, they are available in two different sizes (small 25cm and large 50cm), made to order in our workshop in Cumbria by Doug. Each frame comes with a wool mix felt frame cover which will protect your hands from the thousands of sharp teeth. All covers are lovingly made by Wendy in Coventry. The frames are a labour of love, a team effort and worth every penny.

What is a punch needle gripper strip?

Gripper strips are a product specifically designed for the crafts of rug hooking and punch needle. The strips are made from 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.

Coiled punch needle gripper strip

Coiled punch needle gripper strip

What makes a punch needle gripper frame so effective?

When using a punch needle taut fabric is essential for allowing the needle to move smoothly through the fabric. The tighter the backing fabric is, the easier it will be to punch your project. If your backing fabric is slack it can make the technique tiring on your hands and wrists. Not only do the gripper strips  secure your fabric in place so that it doesn't budge at all when punching, they do so in a matter of minutes. If you've ever wrestled with stretching your fabric over a carpet tack frame you will be able to sympathise! Carpet tacks are an affordable alternative to a gripper strip frame, but it takes a lot longer to stretch your fabric, injuries can occur (!) and the fabric isn't always stretched evenly due to missing tacks.

When making a larger project like a punch needle rug, I find it easier to work on a smaller frame than the piece. E.g. if you are making a rug which is 60 x 120cm, you could use a frame which is 70 x 130cm but this would be quite a large, unwieldy frame. I prefer to use a 50cm frame and move my work on the frame. This means I can ensure my backing fabric remains taut and I'm not overstretching at all. 

Hands pulling a felt cover over the corner of a gripper strip frame

Attaching the frame cover once the fabric is stretched

Punch needle fabric to use with a gripper strip frame

There are different variants of gripper strips depending on what fabric you want to use. The strips that we supply are for use with loose even weave fabrics such as monks cloth, linen and rug warp. If you are using a tighter weave of fabric, (such as a cotton blend for punch needle embroidery,) you would be better to use a gripper hoop.

Morgn no slip gripper hoop separated into inner and outer rings

Morgan 'no-slip' gripper hoop

Protecting your hands whilst using a gripper strip frame

The metal teeth on a gripper strip frame are sharp. Once the backing fabric is stretched over it's still possible for the teeth to poke through and graze your skin. In order to protect your exposed skin whilst punching, all frames come as standard with a felt frame cover. It's elasticated and fits snuggly over your frame once the fabric is stretched over. As the corners can be particularly sharp, there are also four small inserts included for added protection on the corners.

Inserting corner protectors into frame

Inserting corner protectors into frame

Made to order punch needle frames

All punch needle gripper strip frames are made to order. Please allow 2-3 weeks for us to make your frame. You'll receive an update once it has shipped and you can get making.

Frames and hoops

Frames and hoops

Punch needle gripper strip frames made to order, canvas wooden stretcher bar frames and Morgan no-slip gripper hoops. A range of different frames and hoops for stretching your punch needle backing fabric.
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