PUNCH NEEDLE EMBROIDERY
It’s not certain when the art of needle punching began – the Ancient Egyptians made needles out of bird bones, and practiced a crude form of needle punch stitching. This art was also practiced in Germany, England, and Russia from ancient times. In this form of embroidery, a punch needle, or a hollow metal tube with an eye (the needles come in varying sizes and thicknesses) is used to punch small loops into the fabric. The embroidery is worked from the back of the fabric in a series of tiny, neat, small running stitches. These loops, made on the reverse, leave a dense, rug like appearance. Once the loops are trimmed with a sharp pair of scissors, the pattern has a rich and plush appearance. Punch needle embroidery is used to make wall hangings, cushion covers, throw rugs, toys, and other ornaments.
The punch needle pictures you can see on this page were done by my mother, Mrs. Santha Kutty, who is a champion in needle punching. She saw, and learnt about this art for the first time when she was a ten year old schoolgirl, living in the town of Tellicherry in Kerala. A travelling vendor who roamed the countryside, showing interested people how to needle punch, sold my mother her first punch needle, and she was well and truly hooked! After she got married in the 1950’s, and went to the United States, her French landlady reintroduced her to needle punching with wool. My mother started out by making a woollen rug for her home, but began experimenting with different sizes of needles and threads available in the US, to bring greater depth and beauty into her work.
My mother never makes punch needle embroidery pictures from store bought kits, but looks for original designs that appeal to her, which she then transforms, with infinite skill and patience, into stunning needle portraits that look like paintings. The needle punch pictures of birds that you can see on this page were taken from an old calendar that had twelve beautiful, very realistic botanical bird prints. My mother copied and embroidered them all, and then gifted a pair of these unique, handmade works of art to each of her children and grandchildren. She also made a series of punch needle pictures of flowers – these lovely pictures still look fresh and attractive decades after they were crafted.