By Sally Van Nuys | amherst-antiques-folkart.com
Rusty bells and safety pins are a staple for any prim crafter. Use rusty safety pins to attach rusty bells or aged tags to muslin gift bags, dolls, and ornies, or to attach an aged string to use as a hanger for holiday ornaments. There is no limit, but there are a lot of different tecniques, some dangerous and some inconsistent. Click here to download Rusty Techniques by Kim Grasso.
If you’ve wanted to learn miniature punch needle embroidery or traditional rug hooking but you’re just not sure where to begin or how to get information, we can help! This new article series will show you what you need to get started and teaches you the basics. As we move along in the series, you will learn more advanced techniques. Now, let’s start at the beginning. . .
Miniature punch needle embroidery is an old needle art that is worked through a fabric pattern, which is stretched in an embroidery hoop. A special needle with a hollow shaft holds the thread as the needle is punched through the fabric, creating a design on the reverse side of the working surface. Depending on the needle size, a single strand of thread or as many as six strands can pass through the miniature punch needle at one time.Materials
- Punch needle: There are several brands and sizes of needles. Choose a one-strand needle for very fine work with one or two strands of thread; a three-strand needle is the most popular size for medium sized (2″ – 4″) projects; and a six-strand needle can accommodate a strand of fine yarn, silk ribbon, or up to six strands of cotton floss.
- Thread: Any type of thread that will freely flow through the needle
- Threaders and depth gauges
- Embroidery snips or scissors
- Locking-lip embroidery hoop or gripper frame
- Pattern on Fabric (weaver’s cloth is preferred)
Lesson #1 – Threading a Miniature Punch Needle
The needle is a hollow shaft with a sharp, pointed end consisting of two different sides: one side is beveled and the eye of the needle lies within the bevel.
- Feed looped end of threader into hollow needle shaft from beveled end, pushing loop out the handle end.
- Pass threads through loop, then pull threader back down through handle from needle end, bringing threader and thread out the bevel side of needle tip.
- Pass threader completely through needle’s eye from beveled side to back side of needle.
- Remove thread from loop; ends of threads are now on back of needle. The bevel side is “leading” while punching-the bevel should face the direction in which you are punching.
Lesson #2 – Prepare a Pattern
- A commercial pattern is usually marked on the foundation fabric. To draw and transfer your own pattern, you can use any of these methods: Use an iron-on, fabric transfer pencil to trace a design, and then iron it on the fabric; use a light box or well-lit window to trace the paper pattern onto the fabric using a fine-tip, permanent marker; or, draw the pattern directly on foundation fabric with a fine-tip, permanent marker.
- Mark any numbers or letters backwards so that when you punch them, they read correctly on the front of your work. The pattern is marked on the back side of your work, so any mistakes made when transferring or drawing are not seen in the finished work.
- When drawing or transferring the pattern, align the straight, outside pattern lines with the grain of the fabric. Use a tightly woven fabric, such as weaver’s cloth; the threads and weave of the fabric hold the punched loops in place.
- If you wish to use foundation fabric with a looser weave, such as wool, mark your pattern on woven, fusible interfacing then iron that to the back-the weave of the interfacing is tight enough to hold the loops. Adjust the length of your punched loops to compensate for this extra layer of fabric by making your loop gauges a bit shorter, exposing more of the needle, until the loops stay in the fabric/interfacing.
- Select an embroidery hoop that encompasses the entire design. Stretch the pattern, design-side up, over the inner ring with the locking lip facing upward. Press the larger hoop over the pattern until the lip locks over the edge. (After you learn to punch, you might want to purchase a gripper frame for punch needle; these frames hold your work very taut without it sagging or retightening.)
- Gradually stretch the pattern tight in the hoop, working your way around and keeping the pattern straight as you tighten the nut. Stretch the pattern as tightly as possible for easiest punching and most even loop height. Restretch and retighten the pattern from time to time as you work if it sags.
Lesson #3 – Creating a Design
- Sit comfortably with pattern in your lap and all supplies nearby. Be sure you have adequate lighting. Separate threads into single strands about one or two yards long.
- Select or set depth gauge for pattern. You need to adjust length of gauge if loops don’t stay in foundation fabric. If loops pull out as you punch, try shortening gauge to make longer loops.
- Thread needle with required number of threads in color for outline of pattern. Leave about 1/2″ of thread pulled through needle eye to ensure that needle does not come unthreaded. Tip: Be sure that the thread falls loose at handle end of needle so it feeds freely. Keep thread on top of index finger. Any impedance to thread’s movement through needle will pull loops out of your work, or not allow loops to form as you punch.
- Hold hoop with your thumb at top. Note: Take care to keep your fingers away from tip of needle on underside of hoop as you punch; needles are very sharp and can injure your hands or fingers.
- Hold needle straight up and down, insert all the way through fabric until gauge hits, then bring needle up slowly, ensuring you don’t lift needle point off face of fabric. Slide needle tip over a couple of threads on foundation cloth to next insertion point and repeat punch technique. Keep your needle stitches close and even. When you complete a section, simply hold base of thread down against fabric with your fingertip and pull short tail off needle. Clip thread off close to foundation, leaving tail of thread on needle as your leader for punching the next area.
- Punch pattern outline first, then work from center outward. You are working from the back and creating loops on the front, so occasionally turn and check to see how your work looks. If there is a loop or a snag on the front side, just use small, sharp scissors to clip them even with the top of the other loops-cut ends will blend in.
- When you complete the design, remove it from hoop or frame. With steam iron, press fabric around punched design just up to edge of punched loops. If your piece does not lie flat, you probably punched it too tightly (stitches too close together or not enough space between rows). If this happens, lay a damp press cloth over back side and with a hot, dry iron barely touching the back, steam it slightly so it lies flat.
- There are several ways of finishing, depending upon what you intend to do with your finished work. The most popular is to frame the work for hanging. I prefer not to use glass in picture frame, as it can smash the loops. You may also finish your piece into a pin, a miniature rug, or appliquÈ it onto clothing; there are endless possibilities. Experiment and have fun!
LESSON #1 – CHOOSING TOOLS & SUPPLIESRug Hook: There are many brands and sizes of hooks, economy priced through higher priced. You can start with a less expensive hook, but always choose a hook that corresponds with the width of the wool strip you wish to use, and that fits your hand comfortably. Ball handle, pencil-style, and even ergonomic hooks are available. Rug hooks are gauged fine, medium, primitive, and coarse to guide you in choosing one that will work with the strip width you intend to use.
Foundation: Several rug hooking foundations are available, from inexpensive burlaps to higher-priced linens. Burlap is fine as a learning material, but as you begin to hook rugs that you really want to last for generations, use a better quality foundation, such as linen. Linen is stronger and less susceptible to rot from damp or dry conditions. Monk’s cloth is a cotton fabric that is a mid-priced foundation. Choose a different foundation for each of your first few projects and you’ll find the one that you prefer.
Frame or Hoop: Rug hooking frames vary widely in price, size, and capability. Some are stationary and others swivel and tilt. Frames can sit in your lap, stand on the floor, or be stabilized by your own weight (sit-on frames). Frames have gripper strips on all sides, which hold your pattern very tightly while you hook. Alternately, you can use a large, heavy-duty quilting hoop, which must be stabilized against a table edge during hooking. Frame choice is very personal; frame must fit your stature, arm length, and comfort. Try a frame before you purchase or know that you can return it if it doesn’t work for you.
Wool: There is much to learn about choosing the correct wool for rug hooking. Fabric stores do not usually carry what you need. You can recycle wool clothing if it is labeled 100% wool and is not worsted, twill, or gabardine. When you first begin rug hooking, choose a kit that includes the cut wool and a pattern. As you progress in rug hooking, you’ll learn the best wool to purchase. There are many online retailers and local shops that carry wool for rug hooking. For an overview of which wool to use and which not to use, visit www.amherst-antiques-folkart.com.
Strip Cutter: Strip cutters cut wool cloth into strips for hooking. Different size cutter heads fit into the strip cutter to produce wool in the strip width you need. Strips are measured in 32nds of an inch; when you see “strip cut #8,” that means the strip of wool is 8/32? wide and was cut using a #8 cutter head. The larger the number, the wider the cut strip. There are several manufacturers of strip cutters. Cutters vary in price, beginning at about $150 up to $500 or more.
Pattern: You can design your own pattern or purchase from many commercially-available patters and kits. To design your own, sketch your design on paper first at the size you want your finished rug. Trace design onto red dot tracing fabric (see this fabric under the hooks in the photo.) Cut a piece of foundation 6?- 8? larger, along both length and width, than your pattern; you need 3?- 4? on each side to attach to your frame. If you are using a hoop, allow about 16? additional foundation in both length and width. Mark the perimeter measurements on the foundation, keeping lines straight on grain. Position red dot tracing within the measurements, then use a permanent marker to slowly re-trace the pattern lines; the marks will bleed through the red dot tracing and onto foundation.
LESSON #2- CHOOSING A DESIGN, COLORS, AND WOOL
If you’ve wanted to learn traditional rug hooking but you’re just not sure where to begin or how to get information, we can help! This article series shows you what you need to get started and teaches you the basics. Before you begin to hook, you will do the design work and select colors-let’s talk about that.
Pattern Design: Design your own pattern or choose from many commercially available patterns and kits. To design your own, sketch design on paper, then trace design onto red dot tracing fabric. Cut a piece of foundation 6? – 8? larger, along both length and width, than your pattern; you need 3? – 4? on each side to attach to your frame. If you are using a quilting hoop, allow about 16? of additional foundation in both length and width. Use a permanent marker to mark perimeter measurements on the foundation, keeping lines straight on grain. Position red dot tracing within marked measurements, then slowly retrace pattern lines; marker will bleed through red dot tracing and onto foundation. Zigzag stitch or serge around foundation edges to prevent raveling as you hook.
Color Plan: Choose wool colors that complement one another. First decide if you will hook a dark or light background; the background color will help you choose the remaining colors for the design. Medium value colors against a medium value background will cause everything to visually merge and your design will be lost. Find the right contrast in the wools that will touch the background so your design stands out. Choose a focal color then repeat that color in at least three areas of the design. The focal color is usually the color used for the larger design area (not the background)-carrying it into other areas of the rug helps to ground the design and create cohesiveness.
Use a color wheel to select complementary, analogous, or triadic color schemes that include your focal color, then choose wools that fall into these color schemes. Incorporate shades (darker) and tints (lighter) of the colors you choose. Remember that textured wool (plaids, herringbones, stripes, tweeds) not only help bring in dimension and texture, but also add several colors to a design by using just one wool. The colors used in textured wools are designed to complement and work well together. You can take color cues from those wools, as well. (Find more information online for using a color wheel by searching “color wheel.”)
Wool: There is much to learn about choosing the correct wool for rug hooking. Fabric stores do not usually carry wool that is best for rug hooking, but there are many online retailers that carry wool specifically for it. You can recycle wool clothing if it is labeled 100% wool and is not worsted, twill, or gabardine.
To determine the total amount of wool you need to hook a rug, use this formula: Multiply length x width of your design to get total square inches. Multiply the result by the strip width you will use (e.g. #8, #9, etc). Divide that result by 2052 (number of square inches per yard). To determine the amount of each wool needed, cover the element to be hooked with 4 – 5 layers of that wool. For example, if you have a red flower in the design, cover that flower with 4 – 5 layers of the chosen red wool to ensure that you have enough wool to hook the flower.
LESSON #3 – HOOKING A RUG
This article series shows you what you need to get started rug hooking and teaches you the basics. If you’ve been following along, you have your pattern and color plan ready – now let’s hook. Here are the basic steps . . .
- Stretch pattern on hooking frame, design-side up. Pull each side really taut, keeping it straight on frame. Cut wool into strips of desired width.
- Sit in a comfy chair and place frame in your lap. With left hand, hold end of wool strip between thumb and forefinger beneath frame.
- Hold hook in palm of right hand, with barb facing downward.
- Insert hook into a hole in foundation, just inside pattern line. Push hook through at a slight angle; shaft of hook should gently rub your forefinger as it passes behind wool strip, between your finger and thumb. As it passes, it should “catch” the wool on the barb. Never loop wool over hook with your left hand; this will result in a lumpy and twisted rug back. If you can’t pick up strip with hook, the barb is probably not properly positioned; try again!
- With right hand, pull end of strip up about 1/2″ to start the strip. Leave this “tail” sticking up through top of foundation.
- Insert hook into next hole, catching wool strip again and pulling it up to form first loop next to “tail” end; pull loop about as high as strip is wide (1/4″ for #8 cut wool). Each loop holds previous loop in backing. To help prevent pulling out the loop you just hooked, slightly rotate hook and pull loop back toward previous loop.
- Working from right to left (or left to right if you are left-handed), skip over about two holes and pull up another loop; repeat for rest of loops from this strip. Pull even loops that just touch each other. Loops should not be crowded-this is called “packing” and it will cause your rug to be wavy or buckle and not lie flat when it’s done.
- To end a strip, pull ending “tail” up through backing to top. Tails left on back will cause rug to wear unevenly and pull out easily. Strips are never knotted; they hold one another in place. Start next strip in same hole with this tail, leaving a 1/2″ tail again.
- Repeat steps 5 – 8 to hook subsequent strips of wool. Periodically go back and trim pairs of “tail ends” even with top of pulled loops. These cut off pieces are referred to as “snippets.”
- When you reach the end of a row or section, begin the next row 2 – 3 holes over and continue hooking in the opposite direction or around a corner. Don’t end a strip at a corner-end it early if you don’t have enough wool left to hook around the corner, then begin a new strip. To keep the back from becoming lumpy, do not cross a row of hooking with another strip; cut the strip and start it again where you want to begin hooking.
- Continue hooking, following pattern lines and changing wool colors, as needed, until pattern is complete.
LESSON #4: BINDING/FINISHING
This article series has explained the basics of traditional rug hooking. After you’ve finished hooking a design, you will choose a binding method. In this issue, I will explain two of the most common binding methods; I encourage you to continue to read about and experiment with others.
- After you complete your hooking, remove it from frame and prepare for steam pressing. If you used fusible tape to prevent edge raveling, trim it off before ironing.
- Lay hooked piece facedown on ironing board (or on a sheet on the floor if it’s too large for your ironing board). Use a damp press cloth and a medium hot and dry iron to steam. Note: Do not press down on the iron or you will mat down the wool loops-set iron down, allow steam to penetrate the area 10 – 15 seconds, then lift and move iron to a new section.
- Turn rug over, and repeat process on the face of the rug, then allow rug to lay flat until completely dry.
- Iron excess foundation around hooked design to remove any deep wrinkles. Turn excess foundation to back and lightly press to hold, allowing about 1/4″ to show from the front of the rug. Trim excess foundation at the back to about 2″ all the way around. Cut small W-shaped notches from foundation corners to reduce bulk, as shown in Fig. 1.
Binding Edges with Twill Tape
- Twill tape used for binding is 1-1/4″ wide, and should match or harmonize with the color at edge of rug. All binding tape should be washed and preshrunk before you use it.
- Measure around the rug, then allow 4″ extra per yard for shrinkage. Lay binding tape over 1/4″ edge at front side and, using buttonhole thread that closely matches tape color, stitch as close to the last row of hooking as possible all the way around the rug (ease some fullness into the corners).
- Turn rug over and lightly press binding tape to back of rug. Trim excess foundation so tape completely covers it. Pin tape to hold in place, then stitch second edge of binding tape to back of rug with heavy-duty thread (see Fig. 2).
Whipping Edges with Yarn
- Measure length and width of rug, add measurements, then multiply by two. To determine how much yarn you’ll need, divide result by four to get number of 3-ply, 100% wool tapestry yarn lengths required. The standard length of tapestry yarn is about 5 feet, so one piece 5 feet long = 4″ – 6″ of whipped edge. Always have a few extra yards to accommodate personal style and to compensate for any mistakes.
- Roll excess foundation toward front of rug (you may place a length of cotton cording inside rolled foundation to create a harder, more even edge). Use sewing needle and buttonhole thread to baste edge in place. Cut enough rug binding tape to cover all edges, plus about 4″. Use a blunt #13 tapestry needle with a large eye, threaded with tapestry yarn.
On back of rug, align binding tape with outer edge of folded foundation; pin it in place or just hold it and adjust it as you go. You will have two layers of foundation to go through, so use holes in foundation as much as possible.
- Beginning on a straight edge at back of rug, about 1″ from a corner, insert needle through binding tape and through foundation until it comes out very close to outer row of hooking on front of rug (you may even come up between two loops or inside of a loop for a very close edge; see Fig. 3).
- Pull yarn through until you have about 2″ of tail end lying in fold of foundation-you will whip over this to secure the end. Bring needle end toward you, take it over the edge, and insert it into binding tape and foundation again, coming up in next foundation hole-by taking a stitch in every hole you will have a very neat edge with good coverage. Lay each pass of yarn right next to the last without overlapping to make binding dense enough to completely cover foundation, but not bulky. Pull yarn so it is secure, but not tight-pulling too tightly will cause edges to buckle. As you end one length of yarn, run end under whipping stitches about 1-1/2″, then clip off excess. Start next piece of yarn just as you did the first, and continue whipping until all edges are bound (see Fig. 3).
- As you approach a corner, ease folds into binding tape to make a neat corner. When you get to a corner, you will be stitching through more layers, so take several short stitches near the tip of corner; this will help hide backing better. Next take a few stitches on opposite side to frame in corner. Take a large stitch over corner and pull it to shape.
- Take stitches on one side, and then the other (see Fig. 4). If you gradually shorten stitches as you work toward the center, you will have a nice, mitered corner. Corners are tricky, but they are important for a neat finish. If it doesn’t work out the first time, carefully snip yarn, pull it out, and start over. If spots of foundation are showing because your whipping was not close enough, use a single ply of yarn to touch up areas that need more yarn.
Labeling Your Rugs
- Sew a nice label on the back of your rug that includes your name, the year you hooked it, and your city and state. If the rug was designed by someone other than yourself, include the designer’s name. Hooked rugs may become a family heirloom or perhaps even a collector’s item some day-I am certain that many of the rug hookers who simply hooked their rugs to warm the hearth would never have thought that folks would be paying thousands of dollars for their rugs 100 years from the time they made them.