24 May BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO TUFTING
The world of possibility is absolutely endless when it comes to yarn crafts. Knitting and crocheting has been the major craft forms for decades, but over the last few years many other ways of creating with yarn has started to surface. The latest of this is tufting.
Tufting has taken the world by storm with influencers taking to platforms like Instagram and TikTok to show their amazing creations! Nowadays, quirky, hand-tufted rugs have become an overnight sensation on social media because of their unique, handcrafted designs. Upon further investigation, we realised that tufting is also starting to take flight in South Africa with many people locally giving it a try and loving it.
We decided to learn more ourselves and put together a guide for everything you need to get started with creating your own rugs, wall hanging, pillows and so much more. This article will cover all the basics you need to know before you go out and get all the things you need to start tufting.
When first starting out with the craft of tufting, one is usually faced with two initial choices. You will need to decide whether you would like to tuft manually with a punch needle or automatically with a tufting gun? There are a lot of factors such as intended use, price, availability, ease of use and speed of use which will impact your decision, all of which we will discuss in this article. Are you ready to learn about tufting? Let’s go! Be sure to go all the way through to the end to download a printable cheat-sheet as well.
PUNCH NEEDLE VS TUFTING GUN
What is your why
The first factor to consider is your why. Is it a personal hobby to give gifts to friends and family or is it going to become a source of income? If you would like to tuft as a hobby, we would suggest trying the needle punch tool as it costs significantly less than the tufting gun. However, if you would like to tuft as a source of income, the tufting gun would make the ideal investment as the speed of use is about 9 times faster than that of a manual needle punch.
Fun Fact – Needle punching a 50cm straight line takes about 1min and 30 seconds whereas tufting a 50cm with a tufting gun only takes 10 seconds!
The second factor to consider ties into the first, which is the cost of the tools. Though a tufting gun is the more expensive option between the two, it saves so much time in the making process that it makes it worth it in the long run. Especially if you are generating an income from your tufting. You would be able to create a lot more items in a shorter space of time. Furthermore, the cost of various punch needles also differs. It should also be mentioned that you get two types of needle punches. One for ticker yarns which are referred to as tufting punch needles and then needles for thinner yarns which are referred to as embroidery punch needles. The needle punch brands you can find locally include Oxford, SKC, Lavor and Ultra Punch.
Another factor that will influence your decision of whether to use a punch needle or tufting gun is the factor of availability. Currently tufting guns are scarcer than the needles in South Africa with only a few shops stocking them locally. If you are struggling to find them locally, there are some international purchasing routes you could take with platforms like Amazon. On the other hand, punch needles are not as scarce, and you should be able to find a couple of the needle punch brands mentioned at your local wool store. However, if your local store does not stock the needles, you can alternatively buy them online from the websites below.
SKC adjustable punch needles – https://fabric8.co.za/product/punch-needle-set/
Oxford punch needles – https://theyarntreesa.co.za/product/oxford-punch-needles/
Lavor Punch needles – https://estiecraftshop.com/product-category/punch-needle/
Both tools come with initial hurdles that need to be overcome, but once you get the hang of either of the two, you won’t be able to put your needle or gun down.
Another factor to be considered before purchasing either of the two tools is that a punch needle will give you a loop pile finish whereas a tufting gun will give you a cut pile finish. Ultimately, it comes down to which look you prefer.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO BEGIN
So, now you have your tufting tool, but you aren’t sure what to do with it. Well, there are a few other items you will need to get before you can start tufting. The other items required are briefly described below and we have added a needle punch/tufting checklist at the end of the article that you can use to make sure you get all the supplies you need. These items are explained below:
Depending on the size of the design you would like to tuft, your frame size may vary. If you would like to start out really small with minimal investment there are needle punch kits available which provide an embroidery type ring to hold your fabric, as well as fabric included in the kit. The other alternative and method we suggest would be to build your own frame out of wood. All you need are four pieces of wood (Important for opposite sides of the framer to be equal) some screws to stick the frame together and some nails to hit into the edged of your frame for you to be able to stretch and stick your fabric over the frame.
These aren’t necessary but they make the process a whole lot easier. Clamps are used to secure your frame down to the end of a table for when you want to tuft using a gun. You can buy any clamps, but we would recommend trying G clamps. If you are needle punching, putting the frame down flat and holding it securely should do the job.
- Primary fabric
Primary fabric or foundation fabric as some call it creates a bit of confusion as there are so many different types of fabric. Don’t worry, we are here to help guide you make the right choice when it comes to primary backing fabric. When it comes to machine tufting, the best primary fabric options are monks’ cloth, linen, and hessian/burlap.
When it comes to needle punch tufting, you have a bit more variety to choose from depending on your needle size. For larger needles your options for primary fabric are monks’ cloth, linen, and rug warp. For your smaller needles your options are weavers’ cloth and cotton fabric. NB the weave tightness should be appropriate for the thickness of your punch needle (which corresponds to your thread size).
*Be sure to check out our tufting and needle punch cheat sheet at the end of the article!
- Yarn, yarn and more yarn
Of course, you’re going to need yarn for tufting, but what yarn is best suited for the two types of tufting? When it comes to machine tufting and thicker punch needles, thicker yarns such as Aran and Chunky are better suited. You can even get away with using double knit. For finer punch needles one would want to use thinner yarns such as 4ply, but you should be able to get away with using double knit again. If you are using a tufting gun it would be best to grab two balls of each colour as you can thread and tuft with two ends through the needle at a time. Once you start you won’t be able to stop so make sure you get enough yarn😉
- Secondary backing fabric
This is a lot simpler to choose than your primary/foundation fabric. Your secondary backing fabric is just used to cover up the work on the back of the design. Any type of felt fabric will do the trick here and you could even use non-slip backings for floor rugs. You can also just stick your end product to a piece of wood if you would like to hang it up on a wall.
You will need to glue down the back of your rug once you’re finished to make sure that all the pieces of yarn stay intact and exactly where you want them to be. The glue is also used to stick down the edges of your primary fabric once you have cut your design as well as to stick the backing fabric to the main design. Any type of fabric adhesive works best, we would recommend using Alcolin Hi-Tack carpet and vinyl adhesive. They come in 500ml, 1L and 5L tubs. You can apply the glue with a scraper or brush. It usually takes 24 hours to dry with no fan and 12 hours if there is a fan.
Any scissors will do, but since you will be cutting a lot of primary and backing fabric as well as yarn, it may be worthwhile to invest in a decent pair of fabric scissors that won’t break or go blunt after only a few uses.
You will need a pair of clippers to shave down all the yarn fibers at the end to make your finished product all the same length or you could use it to give some depth and shape to your end product. You also use the clippers to shave the edges of your design to make sure the end product is as neat as the design you first started with. Normal hair electric clippers will do the job although proper carpet shearers will be the most efficient tool to use. Scissors can also be used, but the process will take a bit longer.
Once you have finished tufting your design, before you apply the glue, you will want to check your design and make sure all the yarn is in the right place. If there are colours of yarn that are in the wrong place you can simply pull them out. Your fingers can work just fine but to simplify the process, it is best to just get a dedicated pair of tweezers to make the process more accurate.
NEEDLE PUNCH/TUFTING CHECKLIST
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ELLE YARNS TUFTING AND NEEDLE PUNCH FABRIC CHEAT SHEET
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