Have you heard the buzz about The Oxford Rug Punch Needles?
Developed by rug hooking expert and teacher Amy Oxford, the Punch Needle is used to make a rug surface by creating a series of loops through a fabric backing. Unlike traditional rug hooking techniques that use a latching method or other tool to work from the "right" side of the rug, rugs created using The Oxford Punch Needle are created by punching loops with a continuous length of yarn or fabric through the "back" side of the rug. The tension of the loops in the fabric hold the fibre in place.
Here's a short video of our 6-year-old son punching from the back of the fabric backing and then turning the frame over to show the loops on the front.
Since you punch from the back, designs intended to be viewed from the "right" side have to be set up in reverse (like this map of Australia that our 8-year-old son is working on - it messes with the mind!)
The Oxford Punch Needles have been around for many years, but have only recently gained massive popularity due to postings on social media sites, particularly Instagram. Using the Oxford Punch Needle allows for the user to create a lovely textured piece relatively quickly and easily - if a mistake is made, it is easily corrected by pulling out the yarn/fibre and re-punching. It is, as Amy calls it, "Instant gratification with wool!"
And it's not just used to make rugs - you can use it to make wall hangings, cushion covers, carpet bags and more! For some **amazing** examples, check out the gallery on The Oxford Company's website.
The tool is very well made. It is made in America and the stainless steel needle is electro polished. The wood handles are made from maple and are handmade by a wood turner in Vermont. The tools are then assembled at The Oxford Company headquarters in Cornwall, Vermont. All of the Punch Needles come with a lifetime guarantee.
So how do you choose the right tool for the job?
The Oxford Punch Needles come in a variety of sizes and two different gauges.
First - let's start with the gauge. This is the size of the opening in the top of the Punch Needle.
The one on the left is the regular and the one right is the fine. The one you choose to use depends on the type of fibre you want to punch with.
The regular is suitable for heavy 3-ply rug yarn or 12-ply or bulkier yarn. You can also double or triple finer yarns (like 4-ply or 8-ply). Additionally, you can use novelty yarns or fabric strips that are 1/4 inch wide.
The fine is suitable for finer yarns 10-ply and finer, as well as narrow strips of fabric (approximately 3/32 inch).
Often, rug punching artists will use both regular and fine gauge tools in making their rugs.
Once you have decided what thickness of yarn/fibre you are using, you need to decide how tall you want your loops to be. If you are creating a design that will only be viewed from the "back" side, then the height of the loops don't matter. But if you are creating a object where the "front" side (the side with the loops) will be the "right" side, then the height of the loops matters.
Here is a list of the size Punch Needles and the size loop they each produce. The larger the number, the shorter the loop.
#8: 1/2 inch
#9: 3/8 inch
#10: 1/2 inch
#13 (also known as "The Mini with Heels"): 3/16 inch
#14 (also known as "The Mini"): 1/8 inch
The #8, #9 & #10 are available in both regular gauge and fine gauge. The #13 and #14 are only available in fine.
(The above photo is from The Oxford Company website)
More than one size Punch can be used on the same design to create texture and depth in an object.
The size of the loop is created by pushing the stainless steel needle tip all the way through the fabric back up to where the needle tip joins the handle.
So you choose your tool based on the weight/size of the yarn/fibre you are going to use plus the height of the loops that you want to achieve.
Still really excited but don't quite know where to start? It depends on what sort of projects you are planning to do...but...we recommend the #10 regular as a good place to start. Or you might want to pick a fine and a regular. Or you can purchase an entire set.
You can pre-order your Punch Needles from us here. They are set to ship in early December. We are also working on having kits available, as well as monks cloth and other suitable backings available for order. Other fabric backings include burlap, hessian, rustic linen, aida cloth - anything that you can punch through with the needle.
Please contact us if you have any questions. We are so excited to be the Australian stockist for this fun and useful fibre arts tool!