Punching with yarn, as opposed to the classic thread, is becoming very popular. It’s got a delightful texture and weight to it. I have to say, I love doing it. I was very inspired by a book from a Canadian artist, Arounna Khounnoraj, called Punch Needle. She uses the “right” and “wrong” sides of punch needle to create beautifully textured pieces. I highly recommend it if you are learning to punch with yarn.
There are no instructions for this type of punching in Exploring Folk Art with Wool Appliqué and More. If we had had more time I would have loved to include this, but I highly recommend the book above if you are looking for instructions and techniques.
I am still learning, and did both of these pieces in Rebekah’s designs awhile ago. There’s lots of ways that you can interpret Rebekah’s designs into another medium, but here’s what I did. This blog post is not a “how to punch with yarn” post. I am just giving you insight into how to interpret Rebekah’s patterns in this medium with some tips along the way. Please note that this is something Rebekah allows with her patterns, as long as you are not photocopying them to share them with other people, or using her designs to create pieces that you sell. Even if you modify the design, Rebekah still maintains the copyright, and it is for personal, individual use only (as labeled on the patterns). Each designer has an individual preference, however, and so you should check with a designer before adjusting their designs.
Pillows From the Patch
We’ll start with the Pillows From the Patch design, from Rebekah’s second book, Seasons of Wool Appliqué Folk Art. Both pillows would make great punch projects, but I had some beautiful green yarns from Prairie Moon Primitives that I wanted to use. Using projects from Rebekah’s books are pretty easy to make into punch needle patterns for yarn, because I did this at full size, and simply traced the pattern from the book onto the rug hooking linen I used (you can also use monks cloth). This one I did in classic yarn punch style, punching from the back with the pile intended to be the front. I definitely had some trial and error with the squirrel—it’s important with the yarn to have good color contrast between shapes so that they are distinguishable. Sometimes you think a color will work, punch it, then realize it’s not as nice as you thought. I started with a dark brown, but it had no variegation and the squirrel ended up looking flat and blending in more than I liked. So I took it out and began again!
To finish it off, I turned the edges under and backed it with a piece of felt that I whip stitched on. Then I took the pumpkin leaf pattern from the Harvest Pumpkin Stitching Small and cut out some wool leaves at regular size and enlarged. These, along with some jute trim, became the vine which lets the pumpkin hang from an obliging stick. I stitched one end of the trim to the pumpkin, wrapped it around the stick the way I wanted it, then stitched the other end to the pumpkin. I stitched on the leaves at the very end so I could put them exactly where I liked. It turned out pretty fun, I thought. This pattern translated beautifully to punch needle with yarn.
This pattern, one of Rebekah’s individual ones featured in her pattern line, is punched so that the wrong side is showing. This one takes a few extra steps because of how the pattern is laid out. The way the pattern pieces are printed in the book and the way they are printed in individual patterns are different. We don’t have the ability to print things the way they do (without making the patterns really expensive), so we break down the patterns into the individual wool shapes you need. However, with a little creativity, you can basically recreate the full design.
If you have the pattern, you have all the elements of the design—you just have to put them together. I cut out paper pieces of all the pattern pieces I would need. So if there are two leaves that are the same, I cut out two paper leaves. I laid them all out on a piece of paper and used the background measurement to draw the outline of the space I needed to fill. I drew my outline and adjusted the layout to fit the shape. This is a good opportunity to play with the outside shape if you want. Then I traced the pieces in place in pencil (you’ll see the overlapping parts in places like the bird’s wing, and that’s ok). Then I went over the final lines in black marker, omitting the lines that overlap and only tracing the lines I wanted to be on the design. Then I was ready to trace it onto the monks cloth I used to punch this piece. It’s a little extra work, but it also allows you to play with the shape and design a little bit.
This piece I punched so that it would be displayed on the “wrong” side. I used longer stitches than one normally would for a piece that will be displayed on the “right” side to give a fun look. Again, color contrast is important to make the motifs visible, and I used a lot of outlining to help different parts stand out. Rebekah took this piece and turned it into a pillow that currently resides in her home!
Hopefully you will take an opportunity to try this out. Make sure to share what you create with us—we would love to see it!