Artist Canvas Turned Into Punch Needle Frame

I’m excited to share this piece with you. My first piece is special to me. It showcased a release of an accumulation of years of perfectionism, indecision and stressed design. Releasing the very things that were holding me back has been exhilarating and inspirational.

So why was I able to do this? For one thing, I’m learning and growing as a person (old people really are wiser, lol). And second, I believe it was because of the ease of punch needle.

I allowed myself to create and trust my heart. I was able to release my perfectionism tendencies, work from the heart and enjoy creating. For years, I focused on the small details and stressed over each part, spending hours on something I didn’t necessarily love in the end.

Punch needle allows you to make mistakes in a safe space. From the start, it was easy for me to lean into the process and forget about being perfect. I could just work. I didn’t have to worry about figuring out machines or count squares or clean up a mess of paint. All the stresses of a craft that pained me in the past didn’t exist. I could pick it up and stop easily. No big mess to pick up, no big work area to find a place to hide so little fingers wouldn’t mess up my work.

This easiness of the craft inspired and allowed me to enjoy the process of creativity in a way I hadn’t yet seen. 

I hope by sharing my story, it might inspire you. Inspire you to let go of the need to be exact when creating art and let the inner artist live again.

And for those blessed with the ability to create art in such a way, I hope to provide another insight into another’s design process.

Tools needed to turn an artist canvas into a punch needle frame

Materials

  • Punch Needle tool (Adjustable tool or #10R Oxford Punch)
  • Monks Cloth –  ½ – 1 yard depending on your canvas frame size (I used 1/2 yard to fit my 12″x16″ artist canvas)
  • Artist Canvas – any size (My canvas is 12”x16”)
  • Yarn – Weight of 4 Medium or 5 Chunky preferred
  • Scissors
  • Staple Gun (or Flat Head Tacks)
  • Flat Head Screwdriver
  • Pliers or Wire Cutter Tool
  • Permanent marker (optional)

 

Making the frame

1. Take your artist canvas and remove the canvas material. Use a flat head screwdriver to pry the staples up and out.

I found if you put the corner of your screwdriver in first and jimmy it back and forth to work the staple up, then you can get the whole head of the screwdriver under the staple and it will come out easily.

For stubborn staples, a pliers or wire cutter tool works well to finish removing the staple. (My daughter placed her newest piece of art in my video area, please excuse the eyeball.)

Removing staples from canvas

After all the staples are removed, take off the canvas material. 

Punch needle frame Take off canvas from wood frame

2. Cut the Monks cloth at least 3 inches wider than your frame on each side. This is to account for the fraying of the material and to ensure you have enough fabric to be able to pull it tightly.

Cut the Monks cloth 3 inches wider than the artist canvas
Monks cloth 3 inches wider than artist wood frame on each side
3 inches on each side

3. Now it’s time to staple the Monks cloth onto the wooden frame. You will first staple in the middle of each side. The overall flow for this process will be top, bottom, right, left.  

To start, pull the Monks cloth over the frame in the middle of the top side. Staple. The fabric will be loose so you are simply inserting a staple to start. No pulling is needed. 

Now move to the middle of the bottom side. Pull the fabric up and over the frame, pulling the Monks cloth as tight as you can. Insert staple.

Right and left sides are next. To center the fabric, you will use both hands to pull the fabric tight. Then let go of one side but hold the right side in place and staple.

For the left side, pull fabric as tight as you can, insert staple. 

From here, you’ll go halfway in the middle of each staple, pull fabric tight, insert staple and move to the exact opposite side.

Continue until you’ve stapled the entire frame.

For corners, simply fold the fabric two or three times so that the fabric lays somewhat flat.

I stressed on corners for years but at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. As long as the frame lays nicely when hung, it doesn’t matter what it looks like. 

If you do not have a staple gun or don’t like the stapling process, you can use flat head tacks. The tacks lay flat allowing the frame to hang nicely and they are much easier to insert than staples.

Flat head tacks can be used in place of staples
Flat Head Tacks

The tacks are easier to remove than staples so they may come out over time, however, I think this would be hard to do. Unless you pry at them, they stay in the wood nicely. 

4. Once the fabric is stapled (woot woot!), trim the fabric close to the wooden frame.

You don’t want to trim the fabric super close to the staple because the fabric frays easily and could come undone after time. You do want to trim the fabric by the edge of the frame as this will be your working area.  

Trim Monks cloth foundation fabric close to staples

Some final tips for stapling. To ensure the fabric is tight all the way around, check for loose spots. 

And to ensure sound staples, put pressure on the staple gun at the tip where the staples come out. Instead of applying pressure at the lever and handle, put the pressure at the tip of the gun and the staples will insert into the frame more easily.

Before we begin punching, let’s talk about how close you get to the frame. This is personal preference. It’s hard to get the punch needle tool close to the edge of the frame, or at least not enjoyable working that close. 

I like to get close to the edge to leave as little open fabric as possible. If you can’t stand getting the punch needle close to the edge, draw a border line around your working area to ensure a straight edge. 

5. The design process!!  

I’d like to spend some time on my design process. It’s been several years in the making (again that old person deal…okay I’m not that old…but somedays it feels like it) and I find it useful to hear how others design and create. I hope that we can share each others design processes and grow closer as a community, so please share!! 

Okay so what works for me. I’ve found I work best by getting ideas from other people. I go to my trusty IG and Pinterest and fall into a rabbit hole of design inspiration.

This process has evolved for me over time, in that I can now rely more heavily on my heart and gut. I use the inspiration of the amazing artists in the world, but I’ve learned to fall less into the rabbit hole.

Also, I used to try to get my design (home design or art) to look exactly like the inspiration I found to speak to me the most. I’d search for hours trying to get just the right chair or wall art print or even pair of paints to match what I found.

Thankfully, I’ve learned to get a general idea of what I like and then choose something that fits my design style and the inspiration I’m looking for, but let go of needing it to be exactly a certain way.

My first punch needle design is a perfect compliment to this stage in my life. I found the most inspiration on IG. I followed #punchneedle and found some wonderful pieces by some amazing women. 

From here, I save the designs anything and everything that speaks to me. In any way, if I like any part of a piece, I save it to my Punch Needle IG collection. I let my mind wander and get pulled into the beautiful pieces.

After some time, I’ll feel the pull to ‘decide already’.

At this point, I’ll go back to my saved IG collection (or Pinterest board) and look at everything I saved. Usually one piece or one look will stick out to me. My heart almost always knows.

For this particular piece, it was a pillow done by @thejoyfulpunch with a lot of the same colors used in my design. The pillow design was abstract like. 

I decided I wanted the same colors and an abstract free hand type design. From here, I took to Hobby Lobby to find yarn to match.

I followed my inspiration look a little more exact than I typically do. Mostly because there are 5 different shades of purple and 10 different shades of pink and to get the particular look, it needed just the right shade of purple and pink.

$50 later, I had a bag full of the prettiest yarns. Side note: This is the first art/craft for me that has involved yarn and needless to say, I’m in love.

After testing punch needle on a small piece of fabric, I took to my frame. This is where I let my heart take over.

I let my heart pick the color I chose to work with first, cream with gold metallic (I’m really into pretty gold things right now). I also let my heart pick the design shape.

I kept with this method the entire piece. I let my heart pick the color and then as I worked a shape came into form.

It was a bigger piece so I chose to do one color each night. The rhythmic motion and punching sound wonderfully slowed my mind and helped me sleep at night.

Your turn to decide what design and colors you want! 

6. Time to Punch! 

Once you have your design laid out and your frame ready, it’s time to start punching. First, thread the punch needle tool. 

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

Insert threader into the top of the punch needle

Place 2 inches of yarn through threader loop end.  

Place 2 inches of yarn into the end of the punch needle threader

Pull threader and yarn back through the needle.

Punch needle threading pull threader through needle

Then push a loop of yarn through the eye of the punch needle. Pull yarn through.

Punch Needle push yarn through the eye of the needle

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

Punch needle adjustment twist and pull

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 with large areas to fill (similar to my piece), you can start wherever you want. I started with the cream and gold, which was the bottom right. I change up the display because the design allows it, so the final photo is shown with the cream in the top left, but it was bottom right when I was working.)

Insert needle until wooden handle touches canvas. Pull needle out and move over 3-4 holes.

Punch needle handle touches monks cloth foundation fabric each time
Wood Handle Touches Fabric

Open side of needle points toward the direction you are working.

Open side of punch needle points toward the direction you are punching
Open Side Points Toward Working Direction And Graze Tip of Needle as you Work

As you work, be sure to graze the tip of the needle along the fabric.

To ensure even loops, keep your needle point close to the fabric as you work and be sure to touch your wooden handle to the fabric each time.

Continue until the edge of the design block. 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. 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.

To finish each color: No knots needed! Punch the needle to the long loop side. Pull a small loop out.

Punch needle finishing a row pull yarn through to other side

Cut the loop with scissors. Pull needle back through to the front side. Trim yarn tail so that it hides within the other loops.

trim yarn tail so that it hides within the other punch needle loops

Repeat punch needle steps until all colors are completed.

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.

What I learned from the piece

One thing I love about punch needle is that even if you make mistakes, your piece of art will look beautiful. My first piece has all the signs of a beginner punch needler and I still love it.

I also love that I’ve grown and no longer do these things.

What I learned from my first piece:

  • If I put my stitches too close together and force more stitches to finish the area, the yarn will bunch up and look like a mountain peak.
Common errors when punch needle loops are too close together
Raised Area (aka ‘Mountain Peaks’)
punch needle mistakes bunched up yarn makes mountain peaks
  • I did not graze my rows together. I punched every hole (yes every hole, not ever 2 to 3 holes, every hole) and made large gaps between my rows. My piece still looks fine so don’t stress about the grazing row part (the rule applies to true rug hooking where you wanted to have a pretty rug on both sides). Especially, when starting out, just punch, grazing of rows can come later. What I learned from punching every hole and having wider gaps, is that I had to punch a lot more. Every hole is a lot of punching. 
Punch needle mistakes gaps in rows

Here is an overview of the back showing how far apart my rows are.

Punch needle mistakes rows do not graze each other
  • Thinking ahead just enough to know what kind of shape you want to form and drawing that shape with a sharpie will prevent crooked and uneven boundary lines. – I tried to use the Monks cloth to guide my shapes, but the Monks cloth was not straight because of all the pulling. This led to uneven border lines. 
punch needle mistakes uneven border lines
Uneven Border Line
  • If I put my stitches too close together AND my rows too close together, I get a very bushy full look. Too much yarn in one area. 
Punch needle mistakes too much yarn in one area makes a poof look
Poof look

What’s your design process?

Now it’s your turn!! What is your design process?

When thinking of my design process, I thought it would be really fun to have a podcast where I interviewed others to gain insight into their design process. Maybe someday…

In the meantime, fulfill my dreams but letting me know your design process. How do you decide what to create? Do you gain inspiration or just dive right in? Do you have to have a working model or design template? Or do you work best with your heart and gut?  

Let me know by leaving a comment below or emailing me at shawna@northshorecrafts.com or sending me a DM @northshorecrafts.  

Warmest,

Shawna