Combining the dexterity and accessibility of embroidery with the instant gratification of rug tufting, punch needling is a traditional fiber art that’s making a comeback. Using a handheld tool with a tapered needle—the punch needle—artists push yarn or thread through a backing, then back up, to form a continuous loop stitch. Although they essentially perform the same gesture, punch needles come in all shapes and sizes, with some offering the option of switching out the needle. When choosing the tool that works best for you, you should consider what kind of thread you intend to use most, as all needles have their limitations. Browse our picks, below.
1. Hilitand Punch Needle
A modern-looking punch needle, this pleasing blue tool makes it extremely easy to realize soft textile pieces, and we like that it can handle yarn of different weights. You can use it to quickly create different loop heights by simply twisting the end of its handle, which adjusts the needle to one of four lengths. At nearly 10 inches long, this needle also provides a satisfying support for your hand while remaining lightweight to reduce fatigue.
2. Ultra Punch Needle Set
If you prefer to punch with stranded cotton or finer yarns, choose this super popular needle option from Ultra Punch. Featuring a nonslip contour design, the tool resembles a pen and fits in your hand like one, too, with a slim needle firmly anchored to one end. You get three interchangeable tips made of stainless steel to accommodate different fiber sizes—from two-strand floss to midweight pearl cotton—and the needle length can be adjusted to one of six heights.
3. Boye Adjustable Length Punch Needle Embroidery Set
If you’re on a tight budget or aren’t ready to invest in higher-quality needles, consider this option from Boye, which can accommodate floss and fine yarn. It offers the flexibility of different needle options and lengths in a user-friendly design that requires placing a grip on your needle rather than inserting the needle into a shaft. This allows the needles to be color-coded for quick selection and also provides clear visibility for the height settings. While this tool will serve you well for basic projects, the plastic is likely to wear down with frequent use.
4. Lavor Punch Needle
This needle is quite miniature, making it a good pick for artists who prefer a tool that feels almost like an extension of the hand. Like the Ultra Punch needle, it is best used with embroidery floss or light worsted yarns and comes with three interchangeable needles for the appropriate medium. If you’re deciding between the two, note that the Ultra Punch needles are smaller and have sharper tips for finer threads, while Lavor’s are rounder and blunter. They are equally effective, but these will hurt less if you accidentally prick yourself.
5. Oxford Punch Needle
Widely considered the cream of the crop when it comes to traditional punch needle hooking, the Oxford Punch Needle is designed for long sessions of crafting so you can make objects as large as plush rugs without running into any trouble. It features an electropolished stainless steel needle and an elegantly contoured maple handle with a slit down its side, which makes the threading process incredibly fast and easy. While it’s not adjustable to allow for various pile heights, this needle can be used with fine as well as heavy, bulkier yarns, which many punch needles cannot accommodate.