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    Punch needling isa textile technique similar to rug hooking, but easier. A special punch needle creates loops of yarn in cloth, which are held in place by the tension of being so densely packed. Make up an abstract design as you go, and display the end result in an embroidery hoop, or sew into a cushion cover, tote bag, an oven mitt, or, on a larger scale, even a rug. The technique takes a little practice, but once you’ve got it down, you’ll be obsessed.

    What You’ll Need

    Plastic snap frame (8" x 8" or larger)*
    6" wood or plastic embroidery hoop (for display)*
    Oxford punch needle #10**
    Monk’s cloth (at least 10" x 10")**
    Yarn (in your chosen colors)
    Black pen 
    Optional: Paper for transferring a pre-planned design

    * Available at major crafting supplies stores

    ** Available on



    1. Assemble plastic frame. Center monk’s cloth (making sure the weave is straight) on top. Secure with clamps, one on each side. Tighten cloth by twisting clamps away from each other, two at a time. A taut surface is crucial! If the cloth goes slack while punching, twist clamps to retighten (A).


    2. Using the pen, lightly outline the inner circle of your embroidery hoop on the front of the cloth (B). (To plan a design, do this step on paper. Draw a simple design inside the circle. Cut the paper so it fits underneath the cloth. Hold the frame up to light and use black pen to lightly trace the design, circle included, on the front of the cloth.)

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    3. The hollow punch needle has one hole at the base of the slotted handle and another hole at the tip of the notched needle; the yarn flows through the handle to the end of the needle. To thread the punch needle, poke the tail of your yarn down into the needle’s hole, pulling a few inches of yarn through. Hold onto the tail with your non-dominant hand, and use your dominant hand to draw the strand of yarn down to the end of the handle along the slot. Pull on the tail until the yarn strand is forced down into the slotted handle (C), then pull on the yarn at the rear end of the handle until there’s just a short tail poking through the needle. 

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    4. Rules for punching: the slotted side of the handle should always be facing up, the needle should move forward in the direction you’re punching, and the yarn must be able to flow freely through the handle slot and out the end.

    5. Punch your design by section/color. Starting along the edge of the circle, push the needle down into the cloth all the way to the base of the handle. Always punch all the way down. Gently pull the needle back up until the tip is barely grazing the top of the cloth. (Lift too high, you’ll pull the stitch out.) Drag the tip of the needle across the cloth about 1/8" and punch your next stitch. Aim to punch 6 to 8 stitches per inch, but don’t worry about only punching the natural holes in the weave—just punch (D). 

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    6. Outline the section/color first, working toward the center. If your design has any hard angles, turn your needle while it’s punched down, so when you pull it up, it’s facing in the right direction.

    7. On the last stitch of your first section/color, leave the needle punched down then flip over the frame so you can see the needle tip poking through on the looped side. Cut the yarn on the underside of the hole to free the punch needle (E).

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    8. Repeat steps 3 through 7 to punch the rest of your design. After your entire design has been punched, use the tip of your needle to poke any loose yarn ends to the underside of the cloth (F). Flip the frame over and trim the yarn ends and any uneven or messy loops to the same height as the rest of the design (G).

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    9. Remove your punch needle piece from the frame, position it inside the embroidery hoop with the looped side facing front, and tighten into place (H). Cut the excess cloth and tuck or tape toward the back of the frame. Hang! 

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    By Amelia McDonell-Parry
    Photographed by Patricia Lopez Ramos
    This article originally appeared in the January/February 2019 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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  • Embroidery KatBorchart 6f037

    Add some magic to your favorite photos by getting a little knotty.

    The often feared but oh-so-fabulous French knot is easier to ace than you might imagine. It’s also the perfect embroidery stitch to transform your fabric-printed photos into wall-ready works of art. Have a yearbook photo that needs a makeover? A group portrait you want to add some extra joy to? Thoughtful placement of a few French knots can highlight trim on an outfit, punctuate the center of a flower, or fill the air with confetti. En masse, they can create new hairdos, fill borders and backgrounds, or even reimagine the family photo album with a little magical realism.


    Photo image on fabric
    Embroidery hoop
    6-strand embroidery floss in your chosen colors
    Embroidery needle


    1. Select a favorite personal photograph or public domain image that can be used without permissions or restrictions, like from The New York Public Library (, check the “public domain materials” box) or the British Library ( Crisp, clear, black-and-white photographs work best, and will provide an eye-popping contrast with colorful embroidery floss.

    2. There are two ways to transfer an image to fabric. Using an inkjet printer, you can print your image yourself onto paper-backed cotton fabric sheets (Jacquard Cotton Inkjet Fabric Sheets, $18.99 for a pack of 10,

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    For a higher-quality result, upload your image to a fabric print-on-demand service, like (I recommend choosing “linen cotton canvas”), and wait for your fabric-printed photo to arrive. It’s best to scale your imagery to no smaller than 4" x 6".

    3. Before you begin, consider your overall composition by printing a practice photo on paper and sketching the general placement of your stitches.

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    If you’re concerned about “ruining” your image, know this: you can practice on scrap fabric until you feel more confident and any rogue knots can be pulled out, allowing you to start again!

    4. Load your fabric into your embroidery hoop so the surface is smooth and taut. Cut a 12" to 16" length of embroidery floss, and split off three strands. Knot one end and thread the other through your embroidery needle leaving a 2" tail. Determine the location of your first French knot and push your threaded needle through the fabric, entering from the underside and pulling the floss through until the knot catches on the back.

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    5. Set your hooped fabric down on your work surface. Hold your needle in your dominant hand and then take the 2" to 3" of the floss closest to your knot, hold it taut with your non-dominant hand, and don’t let go. There’s no need to pull hard, you just want to create a straight line of the floss with gentle tension.

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    6. Bring the needle towards your body and hold it parallel to the fabric; wrap the taut part of the floss around the needle three times.

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    Position the tip of the needle right next to where the floss initially came up through the surface and then pierce the fabric again—but don’t push the needle all of the way through.

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    Now gently pull the floss with your non-dominant hand and watch the wrapped knot slide down the needle to the surface of the fabric.

    7. Next, slowly push the needle through the fabric, releasing the floss and lifting the hoop up off your work surface, allowing you to pull the floss all the way through.

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    The end result is a neat, three-dimensional knot that sits on the surface of your fabric.

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    8. Create as many French knots as you’d like with your length of floss, but leave yourself at least 3" at the end. After completing your final French knot, separate the strands on the underside of the fabric, knot together, and trim.

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    By Robert Mahar
    Visit for more embroidery and diy tutorials.

    Top photo by Kat Borchart
    Crafting photos by Robert Mahar

    This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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  • Screen Shot 2020 11 24 at 1.33.58 PM 19da9

    This doctor mom is making it her mission to educate children on anatomy in a hands-on and fun way. Known as The Breakfasteur, she has over 37 thousand followers on Instagram and almost 5 thousand subscribers on YouTube. In a collection of playdough molds, The Breakfasteur has constructed a series of child-friendly operations, ranging from an ovarian cystectomy, a nail matrix biopsy, a hernia repair, and more. Her most recent mold video, operating a cesarean delivery of a toy spiderman, has sparked controversy, some calling it disturbing, unnecessary, and traumatizing for young children.  

    The Breakfasteur, whose son was born via cesarean, hopes the video will normalize the operation that many women undergo. While some on the internet are appalled by her videos, saying that children shouldn't know about such things, many mothers have expressed gratitude for the video, saying it breaks the secrecy that often shrouds caesarian births while making it an approachable subject for children. The Breakfasteur's colorful and inventive displays of real-life operations shed light on the processes that our bodies live-through and heal from, a beautiful testament to our strength.

    Top photo: The Breakfasteur / Youtube

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