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The best investment you can make in this hobby is a good punch needle. I have tried a few but nothing has held a candle to the Ultra Punch.
It’s comfortable to hold, which comes in handy when you’re all wrapped up in a design and the last thing you need is cramps setting in.
The set comes with three needles that you can easily change to accommodate different thread weights. I prefer to punch with size 5 pearl cotton and I use the medium needle. The smaller needle is perfect for 3 stands of regular DMC floss and the large needle can be used for thicker thread or thin yarn.
My favorite thing about the Ultra Punch is being able to quickly change your loop length. I like to punch with extra long loops for accents like in my Fred the Alpaca design.
It also comes in handy when you want the design to stand away from the background a bit like in the Honey Bee Trio where the blue background was punched on 3 and the rest on 5
Hoops are necessary to keep the fabric tight. If the fabric is too loose the needle won’t push through the fibers correctly.
I like to use plastic embroidery hoops with a locking rim. They have a ridge on one side and it nestles into a groove on the other piece of the hoop.
They come in many sizes and I always use the smallest hoop possible. If I have a large design with a lot of small details sometimes I punch the details in a smaller hoop before rehooping in a larger hoop to finish it up.
Morgan hoops are a popular option but I’ve never used one myself. They also come in several size options, including a set where two hoops are held together by bars making a lap frame.
I recently purchased a Spinner Frame for larger designs. I haven’t been able to quite get the hang of it yet. I’m constantly spinning my hoops around as I punch and I haven’t found a good way to do that with the spinner frame without getting my thread caught up.
The gold standard for embroidery thread punch needle is weavers cloth. I was punching for years before I ever tried it out.
I was able to find a bolt at Joann’s labeled weavers cloth. At that time I also picked up about 7 other fabrics to test out. I did enjoy the weavers cloth, it punched smoothly, the fabric didn’t rip from the needle or stretch out of shape.
Another fabric I had luck with was Kona cotton broadcloth. I was expecting bad things, I thought the fabric would immediately rip but it worked out pretty well.
I used both fabrics for my Carrot Bouquet pattern, the medium orange carrot and the small coral carrot were punched on yellow Kona cotton and the rest on Joann’s weavers cloth.
The Kona cotton comes in tons and tons of colors which makes it great for 3D work where you don’t want the white seams standing out.
Felt isn’t necessary for punching but it does help with the finishing.
I purchased a package of mottled felt from Amazon to finish my carrots and I’ve used felt from Joann’s to back finished pieces before mounting them on wooden blocks.