I love to punch hook, and one of my designs for 2013, Madame Odier, was done with this technique. When you punch hook, you are working on the back of the rug and everything will be in reverse on the right side. I find it to be a freeing technique, as you can’t see the finished side as you work, so you become more adventurous and daring.
I began this design after finishing Le Petit Chateau last winter. I tried to blog about some of my work on it without showing you too much of the design, piling wool here and there to cover it up! I did my best to hide it though it was very difficult. My concept for this rug was to create a vintage looking graphic geometric with some floral elements and interesting textures.
My design was too large to fit on a frame and still be taut and easy to reach all points, so I created a frame that is about half the size of the rug. The frame can be made with artists stretcher strips and nail carpet tack strips on the top side. After the rug is stretched taut, cover the sharp tack strips with a double thickness of wool, and tack in place with a few brads. I suspended my frame over 2 saw horses. I also like to place a large mirror on the floor to give me a view of the front of the rug as I work.
The strips for punch hooking need to be very long, otherwise you are constantly threading your hook. I use strips that are at least 60″ long, or the width of bolt wool.
Managing these long pieces of wool is important to get a handle on, as they can tangle. Some of the wool I drape over the sides of my work area, and the rest I put on this vintage drying rack.
I use a vintage tool called a speed tufting tool made by Rug Crafters. In the 60’s this company used to have stores in shopping malls, where you could buy all you need to make a rug with yarn. You can find the tool on eBay or in thrift stores for often under $10. It is also available new from the Rug Crafters company at Yarncrafters.com for quite a bit more than that. They also sell a frame for punch hooking.
I adjust the tool so that it will make loops that are the same height that I would normally hand hook them. The setting is one of the shortest it will make. By doing this, if I decide to hook (or rehook) part of the design with the traditional method, it will blend in with my punch hooking. The tufting tool is designed to be used with yarn, however I thought it would work with wool strips. I experimented and found that it worked great with a 7 cut or 8 cut strip. Even coat weight wool can be used, just keep in mind that you will need to cut the strips skinnier, perhaps a 5 or 6 cut, to make it thin enough to glide through the tool. And, yes, you can combine yarn and cut wool yardage. I prefer the look of cut strips, but have no qualms about tossing in yarn here and there. And once you get the hang of it, you can go faster than hand hooking. However what I really like about the technique is the look. It really looks vintage, with the loops going askew. If you don’t like this look, you may not like this method.
I use primitive linen for my backing. To hook with the tool, you walk it atop the foundation cloth, similar to the technique of punchneedle embroidery except that you will be using both hands. I sometimes have several tools that I thread with different colors.
When you finish with a color, have your flush cut scissors handy, and as you lift the tool slightly off the surface, snip the thread. Then take your scissors and with the tip push all the ends to the front.
After an area is hooked solid, turn the frame over and trim the ends flush with your loops. Sometimes loops get wedged beneath the surface, so use your scissor handle to brush the loops and bring them up to be cut.
There is a learning curve with the punch tool, as you learn to walk the tip along the fabric, and make enough loops per inch. The nice thing is that it is easy to pull out mistakes, and redo your hooking. Here I have completed the first half of the rug. I then carefully take the rug off, and re-center the other half on the frame. The edge of the design that is hooked will need to be carefully tacked to the frame with brads.
I am going for a splotchy patchy background, and this works well with the tufting tool. I can go back and forth with each color creating a brush-stroke of color, like painting.
The photos above and below are the right side. The roses are a blend of several pinks, camel and off white. You are the judge as to how much you want your colors to blend. The technique is an exercise in controlled chaos.
I often have to step back from my work to see things at the distance they will be viewed when finished. That would be 3+ feet. And then try looking at the rug from across the room. It is also helpful to take a picture of the work in progress and print it out to see it on a small scale. Ask yourself: are the splotches so distracting that they take away from the motifs and the overall composition? If so, take out the most un-blending colors and then step back and see how the updated rug looks. Repeat until you are happy with the finished design. At this point, you can rework or refine some of the design from the front if you so desire, putting it on your rug hooking frame and hooking it with the traditional method.
I loved the antique look, complete with a place or two that look as if they were “fixed” at a later time with mismatched wool. This method brings out my imagination, as I put these quirks into hooking it.
If you have found a speed tufting tool, you might want to give punch hooking a try. For the beginner, see how you like punch hooking before committing to a larger design and investing your time and money in a punch hooking frame. I recommend trying punch hooking on a small pillow-sized design that will easily fit on your traditional rug hooking frame without having to reposition it. Make sure to stretch your linen tightly on the teeth of your frame. As you punch, experiment with the spacing of loops and different cuts of wool. If you find handling the tool tricky, come back the next day and try again. Your brain and muscles sometimes need a day to figure it out. Take it slow. Have fun with this new toy. You may find that it is a nice break from hooking with the traditional method.
All designs are copyright 2013 Primitive Spirit.
Have a creative day ~ Karen
My other posts on punch hooking: