Rug Hooking vs. Punch Needle: What’s the difference?

Newcomers may feel unsure about beginning their journey into yarn crafts, and it is always best to prepare before a new creative adventure. Yarn crafts provide a surprising variety of hobbies. So, it is important to understand the difference between rug hooking and punch needle. Our thorough research will explain everything and get you right to work.

There are two primary differences between rug hooking and punch needle artwork. These differences are clearly distinguishable by their respective tools and methods:

  • Rug hooking involves an actual hook used to pull loops of fabric up through a base.
  • Punch needle artwork is named after the tool it employs. A punch needle is a needle-tipped pen that punches loops of fabric down into the base.

True, these two methods are quite similar. However, like any creative hobby, using different techniques can result in very different experiences. The tools themselves boast a wide variety of choices, so they demand different methods or materials. The differences only expand from there, so keep reading to really get started! Don’t worry; it won’t keep you tied up.

Collage of a rug hook on a traditional hooked mat and a wool yarn with punch needle, Rug Hooking vs. Punch Needle: What's the difference?

What is Rug Hooking?

The process of rug hooking is described quite literally with the name itself. The artist must pull loops of fabric, one by one, through a base of certain materials to create a rug. The best material for the base is an open-weave fabric. This means that the material is woven in such a way that there are plenty of holes.

Therefore, linen and burlap are generally considered to be an ideal base. There is also a material called rug warp. Rug warp is clearly designed for creating rugs given the name. It is also constructed with a loose weave. However, it isn’t nearly as durable as linen. So, it is best to consider your goals before you begin with one material instead of another.

How Do You Use A Rug Hooking Tool?

The rug hook tool is surprisingly easy to use. It is also generally inexpensive.

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Those who are familiar with crochet should feel quite comfortable with the rug hooking process. The artist must hold their tool like a pen or pencil. The handle is usually wooden, and it is deliberately shaped to accommodate the rug hooking process.

While one hand holds the rug hooking tool, your other hand should hold a cut strip of fabric. Push your hook down through the base material, and use your other hand to loop the fabric around your hook. Next, use your tool to pull the loop back up through the base material. Repeat this process with the same strip of fabric. It’s ideal for pulling a loop up through every other hole in the base material. The base material is formally referred to as the “foundation fabric” or “backing fabric.”

Can You Use Yarn For Rug Hooking?

Wool cloth has served as the traditional fabric for rug hooking. This was chosen for its sheer durability, just like the base material. However, rug hooking has opened up to many new fabrics. Yarn is absolutely acceptable in rug hooking. Although some may reject yarn, this is purely a matter of personal preference.

Yarn actually has plenty of choices that can offer a surprising degree of durability. Also, yarn offers a variety of colorization. This can allow you to create more inventive, vibrant rugs. In fact, yarn is sometimes considered to be easier to work with. Beginners are encouraged to use yarn to build proper technical habits. Those who are more experienced can actually use thinner yarn to create finer details in their completed rug.

What is Punch Needle artwork?

The special punch needle tool is used to push loops down into the base material. As such, the process is actually completed by working from the back side of the foundation fabric. As you continue to punch loops into the foundation, this will increase tension in the weave. This strain is what will ultimately keep the loops in place.

It is best to use a tightly woven foundation fabric. This way, the loops you are punching do not fall out. After all, there are no knots in this particular craft. The size of the foundation fabric must accommodate the punch needle's size, which can widely vary.

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How Do You Use A Punch Needle Tool?

The punch needle tool is unique. First, a threader is used to run thread or yarn through the entire tool. Only then is the yarn fed through the eye of the metal tip. Ensure a small “tail” of yarn still hanging from the tip of the needle.

At this point, you can begin punching loops straight down into the foundation material. Always push the needle all the way down. Otherwise, your loops will end up looking very uneven when you flip your work around. When you lift your punch needle back up, move slowly. If you aren’t careful, you can pull out the loop altogether.

Don’t worry if you want to change directions. All you need to do is keep the punch needle down when you rotate the tool. Depending on the size of your project, you can even rotate the entire foundation itself.

What Fabric Is Best For Punch Needle?

You certainly don’t want your hard work to simply fall apart, so it’s best to use the proper foundation fabric. This will be determined by your tool's size and the kind of fabric you will be punching. Although this can widely vary, it is consistently best to use a tightly woven backing fabric.

Weaver’s cloth is popularly used for punch needle artwork. Weaver’s cloth mixes polyester with cotton, so it is appropriately lightweight. Weaver’s cloth is also easy to punch through, but it will still hold your loops in place.

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Can You Punch Needle A Rug?

It is certainly possible to make rugs with a punch needle. Although rug hooking has the word "rug" in the name, your methods are the only thing that will change. It is all a matter of the materials used and the size of your punch needle. There are indeed punch needles that will easily help you create a rug.

The Oxford Company is a massively popular resource for the craft. They also happen to produce one of the most well-known and respected punch needles. The Oxford Company agrees that a traditional rug can be replicated with a punch needle. You just need to use the right width for your wool strips, and a punch needle that is large enough.

The overall process of creating a genuine rug is quite different from a smaller piece of artwork. For example, after implementing the actual design, your work isn’t finished. You’ll need to steam either side of the completed rug. This should smooth out your stitches and help fluff them up.


The process of rug hooking and punch needle artwork do share some similarities. However, they actually require very different tools, methods, and materials. This might feel overwhelming for newcomers, but practice makes perfect. Now that you know how to get started, it’ll be surprisingly easy to learn as you go. And once you get the hang of it, you can let your creative side loose and have some fun!

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