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The Good, the Bad and the Rugly:
What to consider when making a punch needle rug

by Sara Moore - 14 April 2023

Punch needle rug

Punch needle New York metro inspired rug

You’ve been playing with punch needle for a while. You’ve made some hoop wall hangings, dabbled with coasters and maybe even upgraded your interior with some cushions, but have you tackled a larger project? Making a punch needle rug might seem daunting but if you’ve completed some smaller projects and feel confident to move onto something bigger it’s a great thing to try.

Having something more advanced that you can keep chipping away at here and there is great when you want a little crafting time, but don’t want to have to think about what to make. Quite often at the end of the day I want to relax with punch needle. However, after working all day I don’t always have the energy to plan and prepare a new project. I love having a big project on the go that I can keep on the backburner, picking it up and putting it down depending on the time I have.

We’re supposedly (hopefully!) moving into the warmer months here in the UK. Although that might seem like a strange unseasonal time to start working on a rug, I think it’s the perfect moment. Why? Because your first rug will most likely take you the longest, you’ll have to overcome some challenges and starting your first rug now will mean come the autumn time and the cooler months you’ll be ready to tackle your second and will enjoy the experience more.

When I look back at the first rug I made I can see flaws and things I would change, but it was a great learning experience and I’m still so proud of what I achieved.

Certified Oxford Punch Needle Rug Hooking Instructor

In the autumn of 2019 I travelled to Vermont to study at the Oxford Rug Hooking School and train to become a Certified Oxford Punch Needle Rug Hooking Instructor. Under the close scrutiny of Amy Oxford and Heidi Whipple, I honed my skills for an intensive week and left feeling confident in my teaching abilities, with an increased love for punch needle and a few new techniques under my belt.

Once I returned to the UK I had homework to complete. In order to complete my certification, I needed to make a punch needle rug.

I spent a lot of time planning my rug. For the Oxford certification it needed to include certain techniques and be of a particular size. It would be the first project I made where the finished size was larger than the frame I was working on.

My finished rug measured 60 cm x 90 cm. It was made using multiple sizes of Oxford punch needle, included different loop heights and incorporated various thicknesses of 100% wool rug yarn. All in all, I spent two weeks and 50 hours completing my rug over the festive season of 2019.

Rug for Oxford certification

Finished rug for Oxford Punch Needle Rug Hooking Certification

Considerations for making a punch needle rug

After making my first punch needle rug there were a few things I wanted to do differently with my second.

Although I liked the diversity of using different yarns in the first, I wanted the second to be more consistent, so I decided to use one brand and thickness of rug yarn.

I dedicated two weeks to making my certification rug and whilst I enjoyed the intensive time, I wanted to make my second rug over a longer period. This would give me time to step back and review progress as I went, allowing me to do other things and give me a bit of a break.

I made the first rug over the darker winter months. Although it was lovely to have such a cosy project to work on, it was difficult to punch lighter colours in the evenings putting strain on my eyes.

I enjoyed working with the geometric shapes of the first rug and monks cloth lends itself well to the straight lines in the pattern.

Close up of punch needle rug

Close up of punch needle certification rug

Designing my New York metro inspired rug

After my trip to Vermont I spent some time exploring in New York. I found the city incredibly beautiful and my phone was full of photos just waiting to be used for inspiration.

One of the things which caught my eye in New York were the bold patterns created by tiles on the metro. For my second punch needle rug I wanted to continue with the large, geometric style of my first rug and I used photos from the metro as a starting point for my new design.

When I was making my first rug, working on small sections helped make the whole project seem more achievable and changing up colours regularly kept things fresh. I wanted to take this approach again for my second rug, though had to strike the right balance between designing something with enough smaller sections to keep me interested whilst not feeling like I was constantly stopping and starting.

Making my second punch needle rug

For my second rug I chose all my favourite colours of 100% wool chunky rug yarn. The yarn works beautifully with the regular Oxford punch needles and cotton monks cloth. I choose a palette of seven colours, three warm, three cool and one neutral. This meant I had enough that no thread would be next to another of the same colour, and I noted on the monks cloth where each one would go.

I decided to use just one size of Oxford punch needle, a #9 regular, in order to ensure all the loop stitches were of the same length. I chose the #9 over a #10 regular as I wanted the rug to feel plush underfoot and the extra height of the #9 regular gives a slighter longer loop and thicker feel.

I made my second rug over the course of a month and it took 30 hours. I think it was quicker in part due to the lessons I’d learned from the first, more thorough planning and the fact that it was another year on and I had more experience with punching.

The rug is still in use in my house and is currently in my living room. It was next to the sink for a while – a high traffic area – and held up really well against splashes and a bit of dirt. It’s also been loved (in their own special way) by one dog and two cats. Apart from a couple of small darker marks on the white yarn it’s still looking in pretty good shape!

Punch needle rug with cat for show

Punch needle New York metro inspired rug, cat approved

Learn to make your own punch needle rug

I’ve been teaching punch needle workshops for five years. I teach two different types of workshops regularly; a punch needle hoop wall hanging workshop and an Introduction to Oxford Punch Needle workshop. Both workshops are aimed at complete beginners and those new to punch needle. No prior experience is necessary and students leave having learnt how to punch needle and feel confident to continue at home.

I absolutely love teaching and so far have not taught a workshop to follow on from the beginner level. I am pleased to have finally finished working on the planning for a punch needle rug making workshop. It will be a weekend long workshop, fairly intensive and a lot of fun.

I want this to be as inclusive as possible, so whilst it’s preferable that you have attended one of my previous workshops, if you have some experience with punch needle I’d encourage you to get in touch to discuss your attendance.

This will be a small class of six students, held in Bristol, over a full weekend in October. For full details of the booking please check out the listing. Bookings will go live in July 2023, but in the meantime if you have any questions at all, please get in touch with me:

Why attend a punch needle workshop?

If you’ve not attended many craft workshops you might be wondering why you should. I believe there are many benefits to attending a craft workshop that go beyond just learning a new skill. Check out the blog post here on 'Five reasons to attend an in-person punch needle workshop'.

Punch needle gripper strip frame with cover and monks cloth

Workshop: Make a punch needle rug in a weekend

I am excited to be bringing you the first, full weekend punch needle workshop where you will make your own mini punch needle rug.

You will be working on an abstract design, using a selection of 100% punch needle rug yarn to create your own punch needle rug. If you've been playing with punch needle and working on smaller projects, this is your opportunity to scale up and learn how to make your own rugs.