DIY punch needle pillow tutorial

When I came across a punch needle pillow on Pinterest, I just had to make one myself. A pillow with texture?!?! Ooooohhh!

This was a fun project for me because it included you, my friends. I included my IG followers in helping make yarn color choices and the overall design for the pillow. And let me tell you, you have good taste!!

DIY punch needle pillow designs

(Shawna’s 2 cent wisdom: In the world of crafting, I feel there is an unspoken perfectionist standard. For years this hampered my creativeness, turned me off to trying new crafts/arts and made my creative process stressed and unsatisfying. After much work, I’ve learned to accept my faults, welcome mistakes and let my heart talk more than my head. By doing so, I have unconventional ways of doing things. I hate measuring, preparing and planning. I want to do. And this works for me. So throughout each post, I will try my best to give accurate instructions for those that thrive with precise directions. I will also add ‘Shawna’s 2 cents’ throughout the post for those like me who want to make it already. These tips will be less precise and involve less planning. Try one or both. Or neither and do it your way. Learn what makes your heart happy and lean into it.)

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which do provide financial securities for my business. Thank you for supporting my little shop!


  • Punch Needle tool (Adjustable tool or #10R Oxford Punch)
  • Monks Cloth – ½ – 1 yard depending on your pillow size
  • Stretcher bars or Artist Canvas – 2 inches larger than finished pillow size
  • Yarn (Wool recommended, but not necessary) – Weight of 5 Chunky preferred
  • Scissors
  • Flat Head Tacks or Staple gun
  • Permanent marker
  • Flat Head Screwdriver (needed if using staple gun)
  • Sewing machine
  • Sewing Pins
  • Regular and Zipper foot
  • ½ yard pillow back fabric (linen or double gauze are great options) 
  • Iron
  • Pillow insert
DIY punch needle pillow materials

1. Decide your pillow size.

Standard pillows found at Target are going to be 18”x18” or 16”x16”. Once you’ve determined your pillow size, find a working frame for your punch needle.

Frame options:- A large artist canvas 2-3 inches larger than your final pillow size (18” square pillow, buy a 20-21” canvas).- Stretcher bars- For a round pillow, a large embroidery hoop

2. Tack fabric to working frame.

A staple gun will work, however, will require labor in removing the staples when completed.

These flat head tacks worked wonderfully! Easy to insert and easy to remove.

Start by tacking the top and bottom and then right and left

The best way to get the tightest fit for your Monks Cloth, is to start in the middle of one side, pull fabric over frame and insert tack. Move to the opposite side, pull fabric taut (the tighter the better so don’t hesitate to pull hard), insert tack.

Move to the right-hand side, pull fabric tight and insert tack. Next the opposite side on the left, pull fabric tight, insert tack.

Insert tacks all the way around the frame working in between tacks

From here, work in the middle of each tack. Halfway between the edge and the tack, pull fabric tight, insert tack. Go to the opposite side of this point, pull fabric tight, tack. Go to the same point on the opposite side and continue along until you’ve made it all the way around and there is no more room for tacks.

3. Transfer design template to your Monks cloth.

If your frame is larger than your final pillow size, draw the square of your pillow on the Monks cloth.

Trace or draw your pillow design onto the Monks cloth including the pillow square if needed

My stretcher bars allowed for a 12”x12” pillow insert. I hand drew a 12”x12” square and my design lines on my Monks cloth using a permanent marker. If you have a top stitch portion on your pillow, you will want to draw lines for that portion on the front of your cloth.

4. Punch needle time! Thread punch needle tool.

Use threading wire to thread the needle. Insert wire through the top of the needle.

Insert the wire threader into the top of the punch needle tool
Insert threader into the top of the needle

Place 2 inches of yarn through threader loop end.

Insert 2 inches of yarn into the bottom of the threader

Pull back through the needle.

Pull yarn and threader back up through the punch needle

Then using your finger, push the yarn through the eye of the needle

Pull yarn through.

To adjust the punch needle for different loop lengths, you will use the notches in the needle. Simply twist the needle, pull or push to desired length and turn to lock in place.

To adjust loop lengths twist the needle and push or pull
The longer the needle on top, the longer the loop length.

5. Start punching!

If your design has small detailed areas (i.e. eyes of an animal), start with those areas first.

If your design is simple like the dreamy waves design here, you can start wherever you want. I started with the grey and worked my way up.

With the open slot of your needle pointing toward the direction you want to punch, insert the punch needle into the fabric until wooden handle touches foundation fabric. Pull the needle out making sure the tip of the needle stays close to the fabric. Move the punch needle over 3-4 holes, insert needle.

Be sure the open slot is pointing the direction you want to punch. And graze the tip of the needle across the fabric as you work.
Insert the punch needle until the handle touches the Monks cloth
Handle touches the fabric each time

Touch the handle to the fabric, graze the tip of the needle to the fabric as you work. If you do these two things, you should have even loops.

Gaps in your loops is perfectly normal. If your loops are too close together, the fabric and yarn will push together causing poofs. It’s not the end of the world if you get them. But to avoid them, resist the temptation to go less than 3 or 4 holes as you punch.

Punch needle yarn loops showing gaps as you work
Gaps in the loops

Continue until the edge of the square. Turn the frame in your hands as you get ready to go back along the next row. Keep needle in fabric as you turn the corner. Your next row should graze the first row.

To fill in the pattern, you can choose to do an outline and follow into the center or go row by row.

Filling in the pattern for punch needle pillow follow outline into the middle
Grey, pink and yellow are filled in by punching an outline and then following it into the center.
Line by line punch needle pattern
Tweed yarn is a top stitch done by punching line by line.

To finish each color: No knots needed! Punch the needle to the long loop side. Pull the yarn through the hollow needle so that a small loop sticks out.

Punch the needle to the long loop side and pull the loop out
Needle on long loop side, pull a loop out.

Cut the loop with scissors leaving a longer tail.

Trim a longer yarn tail
Cut the loop leaving a longer tail

Pull the punch needle back through to the front side.

Pull the punch needle to the other side of the fabric
Pulling the punch needle to back side.

Trim yarn tail so that it hides within the other loops.

Trim yarn tail to hide tail within the other loops
Trim yarn tail to hide within other loops

6. Repeat punch needle steps until all colors are completed.

Finished punch needle process of DIY pillow
Pillow is punched!

If you have loops that are too long:

Long loops can be trimmed so that yarn tails will be hidden by the other loops. The fabric holds the yarn in place so it won’t pull through. You can also adjust loop sizes by evening them out. A small loop can be pulled to shorten an adjacent longer loop.

If you have yarn colors mixing:

Use punch needle tool to separate and guide the yarn colors back to original pattern.

Bald spots:

Simply fill in the row where needed, with the correct color.

 7. Now to make the pillow!

Remove all the tacks from the frame.

Remove the tacks from the punch needle frame
Use a tack removal tool or flat head screwdriver to remove tacks
Punch needle pillow remove tacks from frame
All tacks removed from frame

8. Cut backing fabric to allow for pillow size.

Linen or double gauze fabrics are great options for backing fabric. I used a cotton fabric, similar to a quilting cotton fabric.

For backing fabric measurements, take your pillow size and add 2 inches for the width (if pillow is 18” square pillow, width is 20”). 2 inches to account for the bulking yarn punch needle portion.

There will be 2 different size lengths to account for the envelop style closure. For first length, take width value divided by 2 and add 1” (18” square pillow – width 20”, divide by 2 = 10” and add 1” = 11”). First backing piece is 20”x11”.

Second length is width divided by 2, add 5” for envelope overlap and 1” for seam allowance (18” square pillow would be 20”/2=10”+5”+1” = 16”). Second backing piece is 20”x16”.

(For a 12”x12” pillow, width is 14”, first length is 8” and second length is 13”. Backing fabric is 14”x8” and 14”x13”.)

Shawna’s 2 cents: If those measurements intimidated you like it did me, just start cutting your fabric and make it really big (a good 6 inches bigger on 2 sides). 

9. Prepare the envelope closing seam.

Fold the seam over ½” and iron. Fold again ½” and iron.

Iron seam of the envelop pillow backing
Iron seam

Sew hem with 1/8” seam allowance (Shawna’s 2 cents: sew close to your folded edge and try to make it straight).

Sew hem with 1/8” seam allowance
Sewing seam

10. Repeat with second backing piece.

11. Sew pillow pieces together.

Lay your punch needle piece out with pretty side up. Lay your backing fabric on top of punch needle piece pretty side down.

Lay fabric and punch needle piece pretty sides touching

The backing fabric will overlap about 5” so lay your first piece down (pretty side down) and then lay your second piece on top with a 5” overlap.

Lay envelop backing fabric with a 5 inch overlap
Backing fabric should have a 5 inch overlap

The pretty sides should be in the middle, pretty punch needle kissing pretty backing piece.

Switch your sewing machine foot to a zipper foot, this will make it easier to sew the punch needle portion.

Switch sewing machine to a zipper foot
Switch to zipper foot

Pin your fabrics together, leaving an inch of fabric on the outside pillow edges. If you have more than an inch of fabric on some sides, this is okay, you can trim the fabric after all edges are sewn.

Fin the punch needle fabric to the backing fabric
Pin fabrics together

Once pinned, it’s time to start sewing. I used my punch needle design to guide my sewing. Sew as close to the punched yarn as you can without trapping the yarn loops.

I got a few yarn loops when I sewed and it still turned out great so don’t stress about catching the loops.

Sew close to the punch needle loops
Sew close to the loop outline

When you get to a corner, ensure needle is in fabric, lift sewing foot, turn fabric so that you are guided to the next line, lower foot and continue sewing.

When all 4 sides are sewn, end stitch by backing over stitch a couple of times.

12. You’re so close now!! If you have excess fabric over an inch on each side, cut fabric all around.

Trim monks cloth and backing fabric leaving an inch all around
Trim fabric so that 1 inch of Monks cloth is left

I left a good inch all around so that my Monks cloth would have room to fray and not ruin the pillow.

If you want to ensure longevity, you can use a Serger or a zigzag stitch on your sewing machine to finish off the inside Monks cloth edge and prevent any future fraying.

Shawna’s 2 cents: It’s on the inside, little wear and by the time it frays, I’ll probably want a new pillow anyway. 😊 So no further stitching was done by me.

13. Turn the pillow cover inside out and insert your pillow insert!!

And admire the heck out of what you just created!!! The ultimate favorite part of any work of art.

How did you do? If you used this tutorial and made a pillow, please let me know. Send me an email at and please include pictures!! 😉

Happy Punching!



Finished DIY punch needle pillow