For Rose Pearlman, weaving is basically in her DNA. “My mother’s been making rugs since I was young,” explains the artist, teacher, and author. “Even though I didn’t pick up a punch needle until I was in my late 20s, the process of creating rugs is something I witnessed my entire childhood.”
For the uninitiated, a punch needle is the key to unlocking a certain kind of textile art called rug hooking. With it, you “punch” yarn through a tightly secured cloth, creating loops of fiber and a textured finish. As the craft gains popularity, the materials are becoming cheaper; your creation may just be a solid alternative to buying something ready-made. (Once you have the basic tools, making a small rug will cost you around $60 or $70.) Plus you get bragging rights whenever guests compliment your funky color-blocked mat.
“Because the technique is so simple and repetitive, you are free to create without a lot of preplanning, measuring, or counting stitches. It’s much more about the design and color choice than mastering a skill,” Pearlman points out.
That said, it’s still daunting, especially when compared to other textile DIYs—so we asked for her insights. In her upcoming book, Modern Rug Hooking, Pearlman walks through various decor projects, and ahead of its December 3 launch, we got a sneak peek at one of her favorites: a colorful bath mat covered in abstract shapes.
- 23-by-29-inch wood frame or stretcher bars
- 25-by-31-inch piece foundation cloth
- 30 oz rug yarn (or fiber equivalent); here, Pearlman used a variety of yarn from Seal Harbor Rug Co.
Step 1: Prep the frame
Assemble the rectangular frame and stretch the foundation cloth tightly. More detailed instructions can be found on page 36 of Pearlman’s book, but here’s the gist: Place the frame in the middle of the cloth, stretch it taut over the four edges, and staple into place on the back of the frame.
Step 2: Sketch It Out
Draw the design you want on the foundation cloth lightly, using a pencil. You can closely follow Pearlman’s shapes, or freehand a style of your own.
Step 3: Start Punching
If you can’t wait for the book to come out (the full instructions are on page 44!), consider the above video (continued here) your intro to the technique. Begin by punching the outline of one shape with two rows of a tight six stitches per inch. Then fill in the center with a looser four stitches per inch. Switch colors and punch other shapes in the same manner. When you’re done, clean up the loops on the reverse side, and remove your work from the frame.
Step 4: Clean It Up
Steam the punched fabric with a hot iron and wet dishcloth to flatten: Cover the loop side of the rug with the wet towel while pressing it with the iron. Cut off any excess foundation cloth, leaving a two-inch border on all sides. Finally, hem the cloth to the stitch side of the rug to finish it off. Proudly display your new pièce de résistance in your bathroom.